It was a pleasant chat until my friend said: "I thought I should let you know that when I google up your website, there's a note on the search that says, "This site may be hacked."
I groaned out loud.
ERRORS, HACKS AND GOOGLE WARNINGS
I have dealt with many errors and hacks over the years, but lately it has become an almost monthly affair. Early in 2014 or so, my blog was flooded with thousands of comment spam. The iPage support team said they couldn't help me. The only way out of it was to delete the comments manually. I ended up deleting entire posts instead.
My site was also going offline more often. And each time I would panic, get in touch with a support person and wait impatiently for them to solve the problem. It would take hours, even days before my blog was fixed. Once, my blog was down for a week.
But this Google blacklist thing? This takes it to another level.
I began chatting with iPage support staff immediately. To their credit, iPage's support staff is great and often answer promptly. (I've been with a "boutique" hosting service that ignored my calls.) But inside, I was fuming. I had been assured that by upgrading to a "security-enhanced" package these errors won't happen again. There was peace for only a month before my website tripped over an error. This Google blacklist thing felt like a further insult after forking out so much to secure the site.
It turned out that Google noticed that my site was hacked in 2014, and slapped a warning sign on my search listing to protect users from getting malicious code from my site that could wreck who knows what kind of damage on the computers.
DOING THE UNTHINKABLE ... DITCHING WORDPRESS
My first temptation was to move away from iPage and jump in bed with another hosting service eventhough the term was months away from expiring.
Then someone suggested Wordpress-managed hosting, where they take care of backend stuff for you. But the monthly prices were prohibitive, ranging from $18-$30 per month or more.
Then I thought: Maybe I should move away from Wordpress instead.
The thought was almost blasphemous. I mean, I've always considered myself a Wordpress girl and have always recommended it to my clients and friends. Wordpress is a powerful CMS, and you can do a lot with it. But now, managing my blog was actually disrupting my creative life.
Some of the problems I encountered were my fault because I failed to secure my site like I should, but Wordpress' open source nature also opens it to security threats. So I had to make sure to update my plug ins and Wordpress version on time to prevent hackers from come in through the cracks. But wait a minute! The updates could break your site because the plug-in versions may not gel with your current version of Wordpress!
Are you getting a headache yet?
I'm a busy writer. I'm trying to finish my novels, market them and still have a life. Oh yeah, I have a day job too.
Website problems were an unnecessary complication to my already-busy life. Each outtage disrupted my writing flow. It would take me days to get back on track.
The Google blacklist was the last straw, because it happened in a month where I made the bold declaration that I would finish my novel. My mind was just too consumed with solving this problem to meet the deadline. On top of that, in order to get that warning removed, you'd have to contact Google and convince them that you've solved the problem. I sent the request, all the while worrying that I had missed something or Google would ignore me. Thankfully, they removed it after a week.
I needed to not worry about "this stuff". I wanted to create content, not spend time diving into code and dealing with Google!
That's when I remembered Squarespace.
SQUARESPACE, An expensive option?
I tinkered with it a few years ago. I liked it, but was turned off by the pricing. For a Malaysian, an investment of US$8 a month isn't a small price to pay. A RM400 a year investment for a hobby site which I barely update? Didn't seem that worth it to me.
But in 2015 I started seriously working on the site, and it now houses my portfolio and is the centre of my creative business. It was time to invest in something with good security and won't suck up my time.
Is Squarespace more expensive? Not necessarily. The "security enhanced" package I was on with iPage will cost just as much if I renewed it for a second year.
People often tout how Wordpress is "free", but in the long-run you'll rack up bills for hiring a programmer to fix inevitable bugs, buying Wordpress plug-ins and themes or paying for secure hosting.
Plus, I love how gorgeous Squarespace sites looked - especially on my ipad and smartphone! With Wordpress, I'd often trawl for hours for the right theme, and when I did, I'd spend hours trying to get the theme to do what I wanted it to. I rarely succeeded.
Squarespace also deals with backend stuff for me, and their support staff has been stellar, the most stellar I've ever dealt with. They are responsive, helpful and very efficient.
Squarespace is for you if:
- You want to focus on creating content
- You do not want to be distracted by your website's backend stuff
- You want to put up a site quickly without having to deal with code
So, what's my verdict for Squarespace? After nearly a month on it, it's thumbs up. (And If you do decide to join up, be sure to grab Squarespace's coupon to get 10% off the yearly fee for the first year.)
PS: No, I'm not getting affiliate dollars for this post. I just love Squarespace so much I want to tell busy creatives that there are options besides dealing with Wordpress' nightmare backend.
What about you? Have you moved to Squarespace? Would you?