To start a new website, I need to decide what content platform I am going to use. This is the second milestone in The Ostrich website project roadmap. This post is a project progress report, summarizing the completion of the milestone.
The outcome, as probably apparent if you’re reading this on my blog, is WordPress.
I experimented a little with SquareSpace, before deciding to return to WordPress. Read on to learn why.
Why content platform?
Short answer – why not? what’s the alternative?
What about sites that offer user content authoring? Why not just write my stuff on Quora-blogs? That’s the other end of the spectrum. It gives me very little flexibility and customization. It also means that I depend on the business model of that site to remain online, which is not something that can be guaranteed over time.
A self-hosted content platform seems like a good middle ground. After some setup and fiddling, the content can get the attention. My presence depends only on the hosting service provider. Even if the hosting service provider goes away, I can migrate to another one. I just need to find one that supports the content platform I’m using.
This last point actually adds another requirement. The content platform should be popular enough, so it is supported by many hosting service providers!
See also this Lifehacker article on blogging platforms.
SquareSpace Test Drive
I took SquareSpace for a test drive. In retrospect, it doesn’t meet the last requirement I just mentioned – it’s a closed service.
I wanted to try it out for a couple of reasons:
- It seemed to be a well-rounded platform. Clean, feature-packed, well-integrated.
- It has many well-designed templates included in the basic offering. Good selection. All mobile responsive and sharp.
- It’s affordable. Coupons are available often via some of the podcasts I follow.
- It has built-in commerce system. Maybe I can use it for donations and support.
- It offers import-from-existing-WordPress-site.
All-in-all, it had the potential to be a minimal-effort platform.
So I signed up for the free 2-weeks plan, and connected it to my ostricher.com domain.
The content import from the WordPress at itamaro.com worked fine, but looked like it’s going to need some serious touchup.
The post-links weren’t fixed – they still pointed to itamaro.com. Looking for a way to fix it (even manually), I found that the platform has no post-link semantics. I can link to the absolute path of another post, but if the permalink changes, the link will break. I submitted a feature request to SquareSpace.
I finally decided to not go with SquareSpace after checking out the commerce feature. It was available only for merchants from a limited list of countries, Israel not included.
What about a hosted WordPress.com account?
My original itamaro.com was powered by WordPress.com.
It’s WordPress. It’s free. It can be linked with my own domain (as I did). What’s not to like about it?
Well, WordPress.com has some important drawbacks, considering my requirements:
It seems possible to meet most of my requirements on WordPress.com. But many of them require paid upgrades (like custom design). The VIP program would probably include everything I need, but $5,000/month … o_O
So, it’s time to jump ship.
So, self-hosted WordPress you say?
Setting up my own WordPress installation via third party hosting service feels like the right tradeoff for me. Controlling my WordPress installation gives me the following benefits:
- I can use whatever theme I want to.
- I can install whatever plugins I want to (including writing my own).
- I can incorporate third party ad networks.
- I don’t have to let others display ads on my site.
The advantages don’t come for free though. Some of the costs:
- I need to get hosting, which also costs money.
- I need to fiddle with the WordPress installation more than I want to.
Considering my requirements, I chose to go with a self-hosted WordPress platform.
By self-hosted I don’t mean I run it from my basement. I use a third party hosting service provider.
I examined two alternatives – SquareSpace, and WordPress.com-hosted site. To a lesser extent, I considered various other options, like Tumblr and Blogger. I finally decided that my chosen alternative is a good balance for me.
Choosing a highly customizable platform like WordPress means that with enough effort, I can probably meet every single requirement I defined. Using WordPress plugins, I can modify and enhance the site behavior. Because of that, it is probably going to be a incremental process to meet the less trivial requirements. So I defer the analysis of met requirements to a future post, or maybe even several posts over time. For the low hanging fruits, take a look at my post on optimizing the staging site.
Is there something I didn’t address in the post? Maybe another option I completely ignore? Go ahead and leave a comment!