WordPress, Squarespace, Wix — there are great choices out there for what you might select as the platform to build your author website. So, how do you choose?
Each of these options has pros and cons, and the landscape of building websites changes constantly over time. It’s a critical decision to make, but please don’t lose sleep over it. If things change for you in the future you can always move if it will work better for you.
The average lifespan of a website is only 2 years, 7 months. While it’s reasonable to hope that your investment will last longer than that, at 5 years every website should look at an overhaul, because so much will have changed with expectations and technology in the meantime. This gives you a regular opportunity to make a different choice.
Here are a few things to consider when looking at which platform to use:
- Marketshare. WordPress has over 42% of the website market with 30+ million live websites using it as a platform. Nothing else even comes close. Next up is Wix with 10% and 7+ million live websites, and then SquareSpace with 4% and 2.7+ million live websites. Why is this important? Because the resources available for each platform are relative to their marketshare. These resources include helpful documentation in terms of web pages, blog posts, podcasts, and videos you might use to learn about them, but also folks you might hire to work on your site for you, from creation to maintenance. The larger the footprint of the platform, and the greater the longevity, the more resources there are for it. When a new platform is created, no matter how amazing, consider the availability of resources before putting all your eggs into that basket.
- Budget. Each platform has a cost, and you need to understand that cost to get a wholistic picture of your investment. You can look to calculate this on a monthly and annual basis, and you want to be sure to include not only the default cost, but anything you’ll need to add on to make it work best for you.
- Ease of use. This one is tricky because it’s subjective. If you have no experience working on websites, and aren’t familiar with working online other than managing your email and the occasional Zoom meeting, what you consider “easy” will be different than someone who can code in HTML5. Make sure to watch videos of how to get started with the platforms you’re considering and think to yourself, “could I do that?” Remember that some folks making these videos have an investment in a particular platform, or sell tutorials in addition to creating free content, so they will make it look easy no matter what. It’s also important to keep in mind that there can be a tradeoff between ease and flexibility. Sometimes the more easy something is to use, the fewer features you have available to you. If they aren’t features you need, no need to worry. But if you do need them, it might influence your choice to explore something a bit outside your existing comfort zone and seek help.There’s also maintenance to consider. Both Squarespace and Wix are all-inclusive platforms — meaning they take care of all backend maintenance for you. If there’s something that needs to be upgraded to make sure your website continues to work in all browsers and is protected from online threats, it happens automatically behind the scenes and you never have to think about it. WordPress requires you to manually take care of updates using a simple update interface, and while there are easy ways to be alerted when updates are available, you still need to manage them. The updates might be to WordPress itself, your theme, your plugins or some combination. Increasingly, some web hosts optionally automate these updates for you so you have one less thing to think about. Consider this feature of your web hosting platform if you choose to go with WordPress.One last ease-of-use detail is how difficult it might be to move your site from one platform to another. More often than not you’ll be recreating the content and design of your site when you do that, but you want it to be easy to utilize your domain name (and any email addresses associated with it) so that you can continue to use it, as well as any mailing list members you’ve accumulated.
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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.