Every once in a while, I plan to share something I call a solution blueprint — a way to fulfill a particular business need that I think is universal enough to be offered as general advice for the current moment in time. Something to consider as a safe default. That doesn’t mean there won’t be exceptions, but I trust you to notice when the particular constraints of your context are in fact unique enough to justify doing something else. For solution blueprint posts, I will generally include referral links that pay me commission. I only recommend products I believe in and can justify with a map, but it’s up to you to decide whether you agree.
So, I’ll come out swinging. Want to build a website? I think your default choice should be WordPress.com, Squarespace, or (in special cases) GitHub Pages.
For most businesses, a website is just a cost of doing business and not a source of differentiation (design firms and so on may be an exception). If there is differentiation, it’s on content and branding. So imagine the following scenario…
We want to write good web content for our customers and differentiate our brand from our competitors. In order to do that, we need to buy a server, rack it up, install the Ubuntu operating system, install and configure the Apache web server (including SSL certs), set up a MySQL database, and set up WordPress. Then we can add theming and content. Oh, and we’ll have to keep everything updated, take regular backups, test backup restore operations, monitor disk usage and uptime, and investigate the whole thing when it goes down.
And then there’s the alternative:
- Register an account with WordPress.com or Squarespace
- Pick a theme from the massive set of options in the gallery
- Add content and move on with your life
As an aside, I like GitHub Pages for special cases, like simple, static content — landing pages, quick experiments, or project pages that don’t require a lot of visual sophistication. If you’re technically-minded, it can be a helpful option to have.
Expressed as a value chain, websites encompass much more than we want to take responsibility for.
And, it so happens that when the value chain is expressed in terms of a evolution, most of the things we don’t want to deal with are in Commodity, meaning they’re outsourceable. How convenient, then, that WordPress.com, Squarespace, and GitHub Pages all supply these outsourceable components as invisible, underlying features!
TL;DR don’t take responsibility for everything if you don’t have to.