Contemplating blogging platforms

I have a history of skipping back and forth between blogging platforms. It often takes years and almost always when I’ve found that I’m not writing as much as I had hoped. The “fix” for that problem always seems to be to switch platforms. The last couple of switches were between WordPress.com and Squarespace with a short dalliance attempting to move to Hugo. I started to feel that need again recently.

Once again I thought that it might be time to switch to Squarespace, so I started up one of their 14-day trials. Squarespace hasn’t changed all that much in years, and that isn’t a good thing. Yes, they still have beautifully designed templates. Yes, they still make it easy to modify those templates and enable you to make your website your own. They also allow unlimited bandwidth and disk space.

But for someone like me, who likes to write in Markdown, and occasionally likes to post code snippets, they’re not that great of an option. There are other problems with the offering:

  • The blog maintenance page still is a bit of a nightmare in that there are essentially no bulk change tools there.
  • There still is no centralized media browser.
  • Markdown syntax support in their Markdown block is still very minimal.
  • Their code syntax highlighting is non-existent.
  • They now require a Business account if you want to be able to inject custom CSS and/or JavaScript into your pages. This dovetails with the previous point because if you want nice code syntax highlighting you’ve got to be able to inject CSS and JavaScript for something like prism.js.

$18 a month for a yearly Business subscription for a personal website is a lot to ask. They give a generous 20% off coupon for the first year which knocks that price down but that means I’m paying for functionality I don’t need, like all the e-commerce features, just to get decent syntax highlighting.

Custom CSS and JavaScript used to be a part of the Personal plan. That would have made it more tempting for me to either ignore or work around the other problems in the list above.

WordPress.com has really been improving over the years, especially with the introduction of the Gutenberg block editor that came along with the release of WordPress 5.0 back in 2018. This has given the user the ability to customize their WordPress site almost as much as what Squarespace offers and the list of block types has consistently grown over the years to make things even more customizable.

For those who don’t like blocks the classic editor is still available. The classic editor is a necessity for anyone who writes in a tool like Ulysses or iA Writer and uses the post-to-WordPress functionality available in those tools. But WordPress goes a lot further with their offerings.

  • The Markdown block offers an expanded set of features via Markdown Extra including fenced code blocks that do syntax highlighting.
  • The Syntax Highlighting Code block offers highlighting for 30 languages.

WordPress has also expanded the Premium plan by allowing unlimited use of premium themes and much more advanced customization using CSS which weren’t included when I originally signed up for the plan 2 years ago.

The one place I would ding WordPress.com is the amount of disk space that is included as part of the premium plan. 13 GB is a paltry amount these days and to get more you need to move to the Business plan which goes from $8 a month up to $25. You get a lot more features but forcing someone to do that upgrade for more disk space is ridiculous. They should either give more space as part of the Premium plan or at least allow someone to pay for extra space by itself.

In the end, I couldn’t justify the costs of making the switch and decided to stick with WordPress.com for the next year. Even with the disk space issue it’s not worth the effort required in moving back to Squarespace. Importing of my content from WordPress isn’t straightforward because of the hand-holding required. I would have to set up URL redirects because WordPress and Squarespace handle blogs differently. It isn’t worth the effort to scratch an itch that doesn’t need scratching. The solution to this is to write more.

Photo courtesy of camilo jimenez on Unsplash

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