What is the best platform to build an author website?
Like with many things in life, there’s no straightforward answer to this question. It’s a bit like asking, “why kind of car is best?” — the answer depends on what you want out of a car. Happily there are really only three platforms to seriously consider for your author website in my opinion, Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress. In this article we’ll talk about how to choose the best fit for you and your author website.
You might ask: why those three? They hold the biggest market share, which means they have the most resources, the most staying power, and the most help should you need it. This isn’t to say you won’t have a great experience choosing something else, even a relatively new platform or one tied to your publisher, but I always look at how sustainable my investment will be in the longer term. I want a website that I can control, that won’t disappear all of a sudden if the platform has issues, and that has plenty of resources to grow with me as my website grows. If you choose a relative new platform, or one that is connected to the release of a particular book, what will happen if the platform doesn’t succeed in the longer term or you publish your next book?
So, if you’re choosing from the “Big Three,” let’s discuss them in slightly more detail to help you determine which one is right for your author website project. The considerations here are as much about your patience, time, and skills as they are about the end result. Being realistic with yourself about what you’re capable of with the time you have will help you on the right path. And keeping things simple no matter the platform you choose will make it not only easier to build, but also to maintain over time. I’ve written about that here and here. At the end of the day, although they use different pricing models, your costs will be similar no matter the platform you choose, so that is no longer much of a consideration.
Here’s how I’d think about which platform — Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress — is right for my author website:
If you feel relatively confident in your design skills, and are happy to use a page builder that gives you lots of flexibility but you don’t want to get into the technical weeds, you can create something really unique using Wix. Wix uses an unstructured page editor which allows you to move page elements anywhere you want down to a pixel level of detail. That is good if you like to have lots of control, but not so good if you don’t have a solid footing in basic design principles. Consider also that you’re designing responsively, meaning the layout will adjust, and ideally optimize itself, depending on the size of the device on which it is being viewed — so as you design you need to think about that too. Wix offers lots of templates to get you started on the right foot, but the quality is all over the map so you must choose wisely. They have about 10% of the total live website market share so there are plenty of resources to help if you need it, including my favorite help resource: YouTube.
If you want to work in a framework that almost guarantees a beautiful end result with a relatively easy user interface, Squarespace is for you. While you won’t have as much control over the layout of your pages as with Wix, the limitations are there so that you are guided by good design principles. Their templates are high quality, so it’s difficult to make a bad choice. And while Wix offers more features, Squarespace offers better ones. And if you decide to get into the template to edit code yourself, Squarespace gives you that option. One downside is that there’s definitely a look to a Squarespace website. By that I mean that when you see a website built with Squarespace, once you know what you’re looking for it’s easy to identify. This isn’t a bad thing as their websites are beautiful, but if having something unique is important to you it might not be a good fit. Squarespace has about 4% of the total live website market share so it’s the smallest percentage use of the three options, but people who use it really love it, so there are still lots of great resources available to help.
If you like to have a combination of flexibility and good design, and feel confident in your skills online in general, WordPress is for you. Unlike both Wix and Squarespace which you use through their respective websites, WordPress is software that gets installed on a website hosting plan with a service provider that you are responsible for. Most good service providers offer a really simple one-click installation (or it comes installed out-of-the-box) so it’s easy to get started, and they have automated updates so you don’t have to think about it often, but it is a consideration. It also has a reputation for a steep learning curve, but in my experience it’s no more difficult than Wix or Squarespace, just different and with more options. Choosing WordPress means that you haven’t put all your eggs in one basket with one company, as there are many hosting providers that host WordPress well. That means you can take a backup, download it to your computer, then move your website somewhere else whenever you want, which isn’t true of either Wix or Squarespace. WordPress’ flexibility comes from a combination of the power of the platform itself, and also the theme that you choose. Your theme can offer you an enhanced page building experience, and often gives you page templates designed for specific use cases that you can use to get started. You don’t need to use all of the features WordPress offers, but it is the platform most likely to easily grow with you over time without having to switch to a new platform to get what you want. With the largest market share (as mentioned above) there are also the largest number of resources out there to help.
It’s also worthwhile to take stock of what author websites that you admire are using. There are great tools out there to let you know how a website was built (eg: builtwith.com) so if you find yourself gravitating towards one platform over another again and again, it tips the scales in their direction.
Whether you plan to build your author website yourself, or are hiring someone to help, you’ll likely be logging into the admin pages of your author website to do updates at some point, so choosing the platform that best fits your skill set is wise. You might take a look at some YouTube tutorials on each of the platforms to see what seems the best option for you. Keep in mind that sales or help content produced by the platform (or theme) itself is geared towards gaining customers, so they’re likely to make things look really easy. Consider looking for content produced by a neutral third party for a more even playing field.
As it turns out, there are lots of considerations when it comes to building your author website, so I created a guide all about it: The Author Website Planning Kit. If you’ve been thinking about creating a new author website for a while, but aren’t sure where to start, what platform to use, what key decisions you’ll face, and how to get the best end result, this planning kit is for you. It dives into much more detail on this topic, and lots more.
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If you’re interested in diving into more details about this topic (and many others!), check out my Author Website Planning Kit which details out everything you need to know to build your own author website.
This document consolidates, updates, and fleshes out my most popular and helpful articles written for authors and writers into a single, affordable resource. If you’ve been thinking about it for a while, but aren’t sure where to start, what platform to use, and what key decisions you’ll face, this planning kit is for you.
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