Why I Moved to WordPress

The past week has been a busy and tumultuous one. I, like Harry Marks, have moved away from Squarespace.

Over the years I’ve used various free blogging platforms such as Blogger, Typepad, Tumblr, Posterous, and WordPress.com. In October of 2010, I switched to Squarespace after hearing much hype about how great the platform was, that it would make your website impervious to being suddenly taken down by a massive spike of traffic. For the first couple of years, I was quite happy with their product and service, however that ended with the introduction of their v5 CMS.

In many ways v6 is a nice upgrade in terms of the ease of use and clean modern design. During the early beta period, I did however notice a lack of feature parity with v5. There were many features I came to depend on, such as: Smartpants support, RSS subscriber stats, and having great control over my RSS feeds and what I could do with them. Sadly Smartypants support, control over your RSS feed, and subscriber stats were removed from v6. Why? I honestly can’t think of a single valid reason, other than perhaps the project managers and developers underestimated the amount of time it would take to build these features into a re-written CMS. Whatever the reason may be, it’s been over a year since I transitioned my site to the new platform, and after countless emails with support, I haven’t seen feature partity yet.

My new home is a self-hosted WordPress installation. I looked at various static HTML generated based CMS’ like Octopress and its ilk, however I didn’t find a simple way of parsing the exported XML data from Squarespace into the format I needed to make it work. My other concern of course was preserving my URL structure. I’m sure with more time, I could have figured it out. At the moment, I’m happy with WordPress. Whilst it’s far more fiddly and complex, I actually am enjoying the ability to control my HTML and CSS, from top to bottom. The ability to SSH into my Media Temple server from my favourite client–Panic’s Transmit–is a joy. As a nerd, a self-hosted solution appeals to my sensibilities. I enjoy performing upgrades on my own terms and not being at the mercy of a provider who automatically pushes upgrades that I may or may not want.

For tracking stats, I turned to Shaun Inman’s Mint analytics package. A one-time fee, self-hosted solution as well. So far it’s running well, although I can’t seem to get the [Bird Feeder][BR] plug-in to track RSS stats. Near as I can tell, my .htaccess file is properly redirecting my old RSS feed to the new one. I tested my RSS feed in a feed reader, and that parses properly as well.

Instead of rebuilding my theme from scratch, I opted for a paid theme that I could simply tweak to my heart’s content. For theme duties, I purchased Information Architect’s iA theme. In case you’re not familiar with them, they made iA Writer, which is a pretty great writing app for Mac and iOS.

For the most part, I’ve worked out the kinks in my new CMS. I’ll have to do some further fine tuning over the next week or so, but I suspect no further complications.