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Beginners Guide to Web Design: How to Know if WordPress is Right for You

WordPress is awesome and I love it. I (Kelly) pretty much use it exclusively and I got to the end of this post and realized it sounded way more negative about WordPress than I intended, so I want to say right at the beginning, that WordPress is a super strong platform and all of my criticisms are specific to certain use cases, and not necessarily criticisms of WordPress in general. I still highly recommend it for those unafraid of wielding its arcane magic.

But the reasons I hear for why everyone should use it are usually not great reasons for everyone. They’re great reasons for some people with specific issues that they’re trying to address.

The biggest justification that people give for using WordPress is the customization. You can do anything with it because it’s so easy to get at the code. And it’s absolutely true. It’s one of the most customizable platforms out there. But most people don’t know how to code. And the most customizable something is, the more options it has, and the more options it has, the more complicated it is (generally).

If someone is building their very first website, or is a tech-savvy but otherwise very busy professional, they may not have the time or the inclination to learn all they need to know to take advantage of all possible customizations.

Some people just want something that looks good, without caring exactly what it looks like. Squarespace is a great platform in this case. And Showit allows for pixel perfect design without any knowledge of code (although you can’t really get at the code at all in Showit so there are tradeoffs).

The next biggest justification that I hear is that on a platform like Squarespace or Showit or Wix you don’t “own” your content because it is hosted by Squarespace or Showit or Wix. This doesn’t make sense. Unless your website is hosted on a server in your basement, someone else is hosting your content.

If you have WordPress site, you have to host it somewhere, like GoDaddy. So what does it matter whether Squarespace or GoDaddy hosts your site? I don’t think it matters.

There’s also the issue of getting blacklisted because your website shares an IP address with some spam king. Bluehost is developing a reputation for legitimate websites getting blacklisted because of some other website on the same server doing unsavory things. Getting blacklisted leads to downtime, and downtime is bad.

Paying for a whole server all to yourself is also pretty expensive.

From what I’ve heard, companies like Squarespace and Showit and Wix don’t have this problem.

One of the other concerns voiced is that if Squarespace goes out of business you’ll lose everything. Besides the fact that I would bet all the moniez that if Squarespace went out of business, they would go to the ends of the earth to make sure that everyone got their content off the servers before they shut them down, the same risk exists for every hosting company ever.

Like I said, if your content isn’t on the server in your basement, you don’t control it. And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that content on a single server in your basement is way, way, way less safe then content stored on a giant company’s very redundant system, whoever that company may be.

Related to the worry that a company like Squarespace or Showit or Wix will go out of business is the argument that WordPress can’t go out of business because it is just a platform. It software that you install on a server and it just works. This is good. But it’s not a silver bullet to kill the werewolf that is relying on other people.

For one thing, WordPress is a constantly evolving piece of work that needs to be updated regularly. If you follow computer programmer focused news (which, why would you because it’s super boring) you would know that it’s kind of a running joke how many security problems WordPress has. The platform is continually being updated to address these problems, but security work is never done.

I should stop right here and say that if you have a site with a bunch of words on it and a contact form and all you do is post blog posts, there’s really a limit to how much damage hackers can do. If you’re not storing customer or client information or taking credit cards, you probably don’t have to spend that much time worrying about security (heresy! I know…)

BUT! If you’re on a hosted platform like Squarespace or Showit or Wix, they’re going to take care of security for you. That doesn’t mean they’ll be perfect, but they do have an enormous vested interest (the continuing profitability of their business) that relies on people on their platform not getting hacked.

Furthermore, any decent sized website on WordPress will use a lot of plugins. And who makes plugins? Anyone who wants to! If you felt uncomfortable with the lack of control from Squarespace hosting your website, will you really feel more comfortable when something like your contact form was created by a single guy in Romania who is not getting paid to maintain it?

That’s not to say there aren’t a zillion great plugins produced by consummate professionals (indeed that’s the only kind we use), but you have to be able to find them and evaluate them and that’s something that takes time and a bit of expertise. Yet another hidden cost of WordPress.

And a plugin being maintained today doesn’t mean it will be maintained tomorrow, especially if the plugin is free and the people maintaining it are doing it out of the goodness of their hearts.

The average WordPress website has a handful of plugins at the very least, all of which need to be updated regularly, and those updates sometimes break things and require a bit of troubleshooting.

This might sound like a horror story, and I don’t mean it that way. Like I said earlier, WordPress is awesome and I love it, but relying on a bunch of third parties who may not even be getting paid to maintain vital components of your website is probably not more secure than relying on a single company who only gets paid if everything on your website works pretty much all the time.

WordPress wouldn’t be as popular as it is if it wasn’t a great platform. All things considered it’s super simple for those with some programming knowledge, it’s super powerful and customizable, and it’s free! You only have to pay for the host. But it requires that you pay attention to it. And with great power comes great responsibility. You have the power to actually break things. Things that Squarespace would not allow you to break. Things that even if you did manage to break them on Squarespace, support would help you fix. And things that happen automatically on Squarespace that you have to do yourself on WordPress. Still, it’s worth it for millions and millions of people.

But if all you need is a site with words and pictures that looks beautiful and doesn’t break, then platforms such as Showit 5 or Squarespace will give you everything you need.

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