WordPress (meaning the free software from WordPress.org you can use to build your own self-hosted website, not the website builder service at WordPress.com) is a wonderful and versatile tool. It’s what I use to build and run all of my own websites. It allows people who don’t know how to code to build and customize beautiful websites with almost limitless functionality.
However, there is a learning curve, and if you’re someone who isn’t comfortable with learning a new technology, you might want to explore the option of instead building your website using a website builder such as Wix or Squarespace before deciding to go with WordPress.
My experience with learning to use WordPress
I always considered myself a fairly “techy” person. I’m a millennial, meaning I am part of the first generation of “digital natives” – people who grew up using computers in daily life. I have no problems with things like figuring out how to use a new cell phone or adjusting my Facebook privacy settings, and when I was a middle school teacher and our school bought Chromebooks for every student to use, other teachers sometimes came to me for help with figuring out how to to use them. I even built a Google website that automatically synched to my Google Calendars and Google Classroom where my students could find and submit their assignments. So I was not a complete tech newbie when I started using WordPress.
In spite of that, setting up my first website in WordPress and learning where to find and edit all the features, how to start having my blog posts show up in search engines, how to create and embed images optimized for social sharing, how to integrate with other softwares for marketing my website, etc., took me several months of working on my blog for hours each day in order to accomplish.
An alternative to WordPress
Wix.com, Weebly.com, and Squarespace.com, are examples of website builders which allow you to choose from pre-built website templates which you can easily customize by choosing your own colors and fonts, swapping out images, and adding your own text. (To make things even more confusing, the same company that created WordPress also offers a similar service at WordPress.com. Just to be clear, whenever I refer to WordPress, I mean the software offered at WordPress.org, not the web builder service offered at WordPress.com.)
With one of these you can have a great looking new website up and running through Wix.com, Squarespace.com, or a similar web builder in just a couple of hours (see my demonstration here). There are some drawbacks to using a website builder, which I discuss here in more depth, but in this article I’d like to present some scenarios in which using a website builder to create a new website might actually be the better option than using WordPress.
Will a “temporary” website help you reach your goals faster?
I was extremely fortunate to be in at position at the time where I was not having to work and was able to devote full time to blogging, but I recognize not everyone has the luxury of spending hours per day, uninterrupted, learning to use WordPress before they start making money from their website.
If you don’t have months or years to wait before you start making money online, a different path is to “begin with the end in mind” and start your online business by marketing a single product (for example, an online course or eBook), service, or offline business.
You might not even need a website of your own to start your online business. For example, if you’re an expert at something that could be taught online, you could start by creating an online course in Teachable, which includes a landing page (home page for your course–see an example here) with the option to add a blog.
Then, once you’re generating some income, you can invest time and/or money into building a more robust website with more capabilities for marketing.
On the other hand, if your plan is for your website itself to be your main source of income, and you hope to make money by attracting lots of site visitors, you might as well go ahead and spend the time it takes to learn WordPress, because it can take months or years to build enough of a website audience that you can start converting website traffic and influence to dollars. (To give you an idea, it took me 9 months of full time work before I made my first $30 selling Amazon affiliate products, and a full year before my website was earning more per month than I was spending on the software to run it.)
Are you blogging as a hobby or a business?
Maybe you’re not even planning on running your website as a business. Maybe you just want to blog as a sort of journal, or as a way for friends and family members to follow your travels. In that case, you’ll probably find that a website built with Wix or Squarespace more than meets your needs.
I would caution you, though, against thinking, “I’d love to make money by blogging, but I don’t know how, so I’ll just start my blog as a hobby and see if I can find a way to make money from it later.” An income-producing blog has to be treated as a business from the very beginning. Blogging as a hobby is fine, but it’s a LOT easier to make money with a blog built for that purpose than to figure out how to somehow “monetize” a hobby blog (it’s certainly not as simple as just putting ads on your website!).
If you have plans or dreams of one day blogging as a business, I would encourage you to go ahead and learn to use WordPress for your blog. Even if your current blog is never more than a hobby, you will learn a valuable skill that you could one day put to use building a money-making website. And if you want to learn to make money with a blog, I can certainly help you do that!
Which is the best choice for you?
I believe a website built with WordPress is the best option for people who….
- Are willing to invest effort into building a website that over time can become a profitable business
- Enjoy learning technology and want a website with greater flexibility
- Don’t want to pay a monthly fee for a website they don’t own (kind of like renting vs. buying)
- Are good at Googling and/or willing to hire a web developer for help with problems they may run into
I believe a website built with a service like Wix is a good option for people who…
- Want to build a personal blog that they don’t intend to try to make money from
- Already have an offline business that they need a website to promote
- Want to start earning income online sooner rather than later, and already have a product or service to sell
Want to have your cake and eat it too?
In this article I’ve been emphasizing the learning curve with WordPress because I want to save people from feeling like WordPress is harder to use than they expected and giving up altogether on the idea of having a blog or online business. But the experience setting up a new blog with WordPress doesn’t have to be difficult. What makes it difficult is when you click “install” expecting to pop out a beautiful website, and then you realize you’re going to have to customize it yourself and have no clue where to start.
There are a couple more options I want to make people aware of, though….
Option #1: Buy a theme with well documented setup instructions and highly rated customer service. The WordPress theme I used for this website, which I purchased from a theme shop called Bluchic.com, came with detailed setup instructions including video tutorials to help me get it set up exactly like the demo and learn to customize it.
Option #2: Buy a theme that includes website setup. Some theme shops, such as this one, will completely set up your website for you, then hand it off for you to manage. I don’t have personal experience with a company like this, so I can’t attest to the quality, but I want to make people aware that it is an option.
Option #3: Use WordPress.com instead. The WordPress company offers a service similar to Squarespace or Wix where you’re able to choose from a variety of professional-looking templates to build a website with minimal technical skill. They have a free tier for people who are just getting started, but their Pro plan gives you access to all the same features and customization options that are available to you if you build your own self-hosted website. Choosing this option would let you set up a free or cheap website to start with, then later upgrade to the Pro plan to add more features to your website. You could also pay someone else to set up these more complicated features for you yet still have an easy-to-manage website dashboard.
The next step
If you’re ready to get started building your website….