for bloggers / starting a blog

After receiving several emails inquiring about blogging platforms, I thought I would create a post for bloggers discussing the subject. While I highly suggest hiring a designer to create your own custom design, I realize that isn’t always in everyone’s budget from the get go, so I’m writing this from the perspective of template usage. The first thing you will need to do is decide which service you’d like to use for publishing. While there are many out there, the two that I always recommend are SquareSpace and WordPress ( self-hosted ). Their ease of use and support are what make them winners in my book, but I’ll dive more into them both below.

While I personally use WordPress, let’s start with SquareSpace ( SS ). Because if I hadn’t already paid for 2 years of hosting, I think I would switch over to SS sooner than later. You see, the thing that has always captured my attention with SS is their beautiful user interface. It’s much easier on the eyes and as a designer, I’ve definitely taken notice. Plus, they have several meticulously well designed templates that you can choose from and customize ( drag + drop style ), all of which do not require any HTML/CSS knowledge. A definite plus for beginners! Ultimately, you would receive a free domain name, an easily editable template, and a very secure website. It’s an all inclusive package that will leave you worry free.

Even thought SS seems all bright + shiny, WordPress ( WP ) should definitely be considered equally for the simple fact that it’s been around the block. It’s mature and has way more users + helpful resources for you to use. But if you’re thinking about going this route, I would 100% suggest self-hosting your WP blogging platform ( for customizing purposes ) with your own host. I personally use BlueHost and have loved their customer service, but WP Engine is another option that has built in security and support for your own piece of mind. The downside of self-hosting WP, though, is that it’s a little more involved to get yourself up and running. Unlike SS, you can’t simply click on a theme you want and have it published instantly. You will have to search for free or premium themes ( from websites like here or here ) and have them installed on your hosting account. The good news is that there are so many more templates available for you to choose from. Literally thousands with no end in sight. SS leaves you under 50, for now.

Like most things, SS and WP come with their own pros and cons, but the choice comes down to you. If you need something more out of the box and easy to use, I would tell you to choose SquareSpace. If you have a little bit of HTML/CSS knowledge or know somebody who does ( and are even willing to pay for it ), WordPress would be a great contender and leave you with potentially more customization choices in the end. So many decisions, I know. But hopefully this gives those of you considering blogging a good base to start from!

  1. Melanie says:

    I’m with SS and looooove it! I DID run into a few issues with switching over from Blogger (Disqus and my domain), but they are available 24/7 to help and 90% of the time they’re really, really fast. You can’t beat their pricing. and they even offer you a discount up front. You also usually have 2-3 options within each theme (for header/nav bar/social icon placing), so that also helps sites that use the same theme to look a little different from each other.

    If I could marry a CMS, it’d be SS for sure.

  2. Quyen says:

    I am on SS and I love it too! It is very easy to use and it turns out to be cheaper than WP when you factor in everything. It is newer so there are a few bugs here and there, but the customer service is great. Soon, I will upgrade to a professional theme and more programming access…
    http://liveitinerantly.com

  3. Laura says:

    I’m a SS girl through & through! The deciding factor for me was the built-in store feature. I haven’t published mine yet but I’m definitely finding that having an online store linked with my blog has never been easier!

  4. Marie Warne says:

    Hi Breanna,
    I recently switched platforms from WordPress to Squarespace and I’m over the moon. One thing that really stands out about Squarespace is the customer service. If you open a ticket with them (which I’ve done on several occasions), they get back to you with answers within an hour and they’re always so friendly and helpful. Designing my own site with Squarepace was a lot easier for me as I am not a graphic designer yet I was able to do it all on my own. A sense of accomplishment, for sure.
    Best,
    Marie

  5. alicia says:

    Interesting! I’ve only ever used WordPress and it’s what I use for all my clients. I’ve never felt the need to look into SS but it does sound like a great recommendation for the super beginners out there, I’ll keep it in mind!
    As a graphic designer I am always wanting to change things and have them look my way. Templates can be so restricting, I wonder how flexible the SS platform would be.

    • breanna says:

      I know that with SS, you’re able to customize. But if you want FULL customization with them, you have to have a developer account. With that, you can essentially do whatever you want, which is great! BUT, that gets rid of the ease of use for HTML/CSS beginners and counts them out of that. But with wordpress, to get a very unique look, you also need to hire out or have a running knowledge of HTML/CSS, so they are similar there! :)

  6. Rebecca says:

    I’m using SS too, even though I have a bit of coding knowledge it was just easiest ;) I sometimes wish I could get right in the code without having to upgrade, for now I’m just leaving it be. It’s fun to see your changes instantly and I’ve set a few people up on it who have little layout knowledge and even they could use it. Still, I’ve been meaning to tackle WP and just introduce myself to it. I see all the great options but something about it can just intimidate me.

  7. Nesha says:

    I’m totally the same- if I could do it over, I’d probably choose SS over WP, simply because of the beautiful interface and templates. I don’t regret choosing WP though- using WP every day for my own blog means that I’m reeeeeeally comfortable with using it when it comes to installing blog designs for my clients!

  8. Katrina says:

    We used SS for our business website (not just as a blogging platform) and we think it’s fantastic! The only negative (which may have changed) is that it has limited shopping cart opportunities outside of the US (I believe they are beta testing for the UK at the moment). I’ m sure this functionality will open up further soon though (and hopefully to us in Australia!)

  9. Great post! Since I started blogging in 2011, I tried WordPress, Blogger and Squarespace. WordPress for me is harder to use and you it’s kind of confusing as a beginner, in the other hand, Blogger and Squarespace are much easier to use (however, they offer less resources and plugins thatn WordPress does).
    I’m a SS girl :) and yes, as a designer I saw SS the perfect match for me, all templates are so beautiful and professional!

  10. Courtne says:

    Thank you for this post! I have been off and on blogging on blogger and have been so frustrated with it. I’m looking at Square Space and love it.

  11. Michelle says:

    I agree that SS has awesome templates, but I keep running into the issue of social media integration – it’s awful. Firstly, Pinterest just can’t read SS sites. I’ve argued with the SS support people about it, but they basically said that that’s how it is. In this day and age, sites like Pinterest are so important for many types of sites and blogs. I also don’t generally like the limited social media sharing options, which only appear at the bottom of a post in a little button that you have to click to see your options. Anyone else have these problems? It’s a bit of a deal breaker for me. I’ve had great experiences with WordPress, but I know how to code so I understand that it’s not great for a beginner.

    • kaylee says:

      oo, that’s so interesting (and sad). thanks for the heads up on that – Pinterest IS important!

    • Kayd says:

      Michelle – can you expand on the problem? I’ve had no trouble pinning from my site and my clients sites. Are you just talking about a ‘pin’ button that is over the image when you hover? Just a side note that I recently learned – if you have a “Pin This” button on top of your images you are granting anyone to use your images.

    • Michelle says:

      Hi Kayd – Sure. It’s interesting that you’ve had no problems. Basically, if I take a url from a blog post on my client’s SS site, and try to “add from a website” on Pinterest, it pulls up anything attached to the main site url that’s been pinned. So if this specific blog post hasn’t been pinned, it doesn’t pull up the photos from it – and if 2,000 photos from that site have been pinned, it pulls up all of them, even though I added a more specific url. Also – I know you can add a thumbnail image to a post, so if you pin that page it should work – but I often have posts with multiple photos that I’d like to be able to pin, and pinterest can only find that thumbnail.

      I thought for sure I was just doing something wrong, but in talking to SS they basically said it just doesn’t work. For instance:

      One response from SS:

      “We are aware of the non-post-specific URL exchange with Pinterest and are continuing to evaluate solutions to improve that particular experience.
      This is due to the way Pinterest crawls our site for data, and accommodating their algorithm without upsetting current site structure is priority in that scenario.”

      Isn’t that weird?? I wonder why the SS people gave me that response if it works for some people. Hm.

      (Kayd, love your site, btw!)

    • Michelle says:

      They also responded with this:

      “Happy to help. Are you using the Add From a Website option? I ask because with this option Pinterest will only bring up Pins already on the site that have been posted by your website. What this means is instead of creating a new Pin, Pinterest will search for any Pins on the site that have been posted by your website. To create a new Pin on Pinterest you can try using the Upload a Pin option.”

  12. Anna says:

    I haven’t tried SS because I’m way too comfortable with WordPress. I agree that it takes some time to learn the ropes in coding a layout that is specific for your wants and needs. It’s just the geek in me but I love figuring out stuff “under the hood.” :D I took a look at SS and it does seem beautiful. Can’t say I’m going to throw out the window the possibility of using SS for a website, though.

  13. Shannon says:

    Hi guys! I’m a new blogger currently in the trenches of creating a new blog and I have to say I found Word Press a bit complex, which has it’s plusses, but for the average user I think Blogger and SS are the way to go.

    Let’s not forget about the soft skills required to start a new blog :). Check out my latest post, “Is There Anybody Out There”???

    http://brasshoney.blogspot.com/

  14. juliet says:

    Ohh, I can’t decide! They both seem awesome! I love the ease and design of SS, but kinda want to push myself with WP. And it would be a challenge since my HTML knowledge is pretty limited.

    Also, do I need to subscribe to a font site?

    • breanna says:

      It’s tough! But in the end, WP does have more customization. For web font usage, it depends on WHERE you’re using it. Some platforms have built-in features while others allow you to host. If that’s the case, google web fonts and typekit are great. Again, it all depends on the platform. :)

  15. Noor says:

    I really love WordPress but mainly because I am really comfortable with it. I have been designing SS this year and it is gorgeous and super easy to do. I honestly can not even believe people still use Blogger though.

  16. Zoe Rooney says:

    It’s interesting to hear so many people say they love SS. I’ve just moved a couple sites of long-time users OFF SS at their request because they’ve become frustrated with the limitations of SS6 (not as customizable unless you’re going to start completely from scratch with the developer version, as last I checked you can’t modify existing themes in that version so it’s all or nothing). They’ve also found it to be somewhat buggy, which I’ve seen noted in a lot of reviews and forum posts.

    My experience with their support has been mixed, and in the end they told a very big client of mine that has been on their platform for years that they’re just not interested in making things more customizable and so that pushed her away from it. Too bad, really, as I agree that they have some nice ideas with their interface (although I hated flipping back and forth between views to preview/ edit/ change styling).

    So to me SS seems like a good option if (a) you want one of their existing templates with only minor modifications, or (b) you’re willing to a from-the-ground-up custom build with their developer version.

    • breanna says:

      As always, thank you for your insight Zoe! I agree that SS is best when you’re a beginner in need of a beautiful template OR if you can build from scratch in the developer version. Sometimes I wonder when SS will hit an awkward wall, though. They don’t have a ton of themes and I can already tell when I see a SS website ( for the most part ) … the unique factor is a big thing, and I think creatives who currently appreciate their beautiful interface will soon want to stand out, not just have “another beautiful template.”

  17. Amelia says:

    I’m currently using wordpress.com for my blog but am exploring getting my own domain and this article was so helpful in helping me understand the options out there. I hadn’t heard of SS up until recently but the aesthetics look amazing! Now I have more options to consider and think about before switching to either SS or self-hosted WordPress.

    Just wondering if you know whether SS is able to import posts from wordpress.com (or any other site)? Also, what tips do you have for learning HTML? I’m trying to get into that!

    • breanna says:

      Amelia,
      Yes – SS can import posts from WordPress very easily. I tested it out once and everything went smoothly, although I don’t know if there are ever any bugs!

      For learning HTML, I don’t really have any tips other than to use the internet and any other resources you can get. I taught myself over ten years ago, but haven’t been coding for the past year or so, making me a little behind the times with where you should be looking. :/ I believe Zoe Rooney ( she commented right above you ) has some great resources on her website for where to learn!

    • Zoe Rooney says:

      One quick tip for making it easier to port your content between platforms (in any direction) is to ensure that you use clean image names. Ideally that means you’re using all lowercase characters, no special characters, and hyphens instead of spaces. The majority of the problems I see in content transfers relate to transferring images and other media, with the second most common issue being the transfer of messy code generated by post/ page editors.

  18. […] • Thinking about starting a blog but not sure which platform is right for you? Breanna Rose covers the basics. […]

  19. Angie says:

    I migrated from WP to SS about a month ago just because of the simplicity. It isn’t that I don’t know how to code but I had to carve out some time in my life for other things besides manage my business. I was looking for an all in one option, store, blog, content. I was finding my WP site was getting too slow with all of that content and I felt limited in what I could do. When SS added the store option (which I am not utilizing yet) I was sold. So far I have been very happy with it and feel like it was the right decision for me.

  20. John Chacon says:

    I also use SS and it was the best decision I made. The simplicity of setting up my site was a huge bonus for me. The ability to simply drag my photos and upload was a key feature. Also, I knew I wanted to start blogging and SS makes it very easy and almost encourages me to blog more. I have been looking at different blogs lately just to get a glimpse on what people share and what kind of styles I prefer. I am a freelance photographer, and SS makes it easy to share my photo adventures without having to spend a ton of time coding my post. I want to quickly share my photos and SS lets me do so.

  21. juliet says:

    i did it! went with wp and bluehost. now to figure out how to design it… this could take a while!

  22. Naomi says:

    I wonder if there’s a paid consulting service for setting up in Squarespace from another platform. WordPress is out of my league (technically, financially) but after reading this post I’ve been browsing Squarespace and wondering if I should finally move from my blogger blog to a real site.

    My issue is that I can’t wrap my head around how to do it. Technically, I mean. Should I move my entire blog or just link to it from Squarespace? My domain is already registered through Google Apps so what does that mean? Can I transfer some content from blogger but not all? I have no idea about those things and all I imagine is that I start and end up with two broken webpages. I know Squarespace gives step-by-step instructions for setting up once you know what you’re doing, but I don’t know what I’m doing. *sigh* Sort of feel like throwing money at someone qualified instead.

  23. Joy says:

    I just found your blog so I’m not certain if you’ve done a post about this already or not, but what advice would you give people who didn’t have this information when they started out? I wasn’t sure which direction to go in when I first started blogging so I picked blogger. Recently, I’ve been getting more involved in the blogging world and I’m not sure where to go from here. Should I try to switch, would that mean I would lose all my content, how would I even do that, would it cost too much money for me right now, or is it better to stay where I am for now? All questions I’ve been going over in my mind. Thanks!

  24. britt says:

    i switched from wordpress to squarespace fairly recently and love it sooooo much. easy to use. everything is right there and set up and ready to go. love it and highly recommend to all.

  25. Michele says:

    Helpful! Breanna you mentioned 50 templates on SquSpace but I only see like 10…am I missing something?

  26. Liv says:

    SS is amazing! They don’t advertise it well enough but they have a 50% student discount for select schools. Got the most basic plan for only $60. Can’t beat that!

  27. I just made the switch from a self-hosted WordPress site to Squarespace and love it so far! They’ve made a lot of improvements for blogging in the past few years.

  28. Arushi says:

    True I agree have a website on word press and square space. I believe square space is better.

  29. Janna says:

    Hey guys! So I made a switch from WP to SS earlier in March because I just loved their templates and ability to customise the site so much. However since I have switched my blog has basically lost all of its SEO rankings, which as you can imagine really sucks. I then started researching more into blogging via squarespace and found their SEO is really not quite as good as they claim, or maybe it is my site structure or what. But so far they had been very unhelpful with it, so I am even thinking of switching my blog back to WP as also I found blogging easier via WP apps than via squarespace anyway.
    Anyways, perhaps SS is best for their sites designs and customer services, but not so good if you want to discoverable via google. I might keep the SS site for my personal photography and design portfolio, but switch back to WS for blogging …. Argh! If only I knew this before the switch

    Jb
    http://www.velondonista.com

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