Moving from SquareSpace to Wordpress

On July 20th, I moved my personal blog site, robpickering.com from SquareSpace to WordPress.  This article is about why I did it and then how I performed the task, maintaining all of my posts, post dates, migrating authors, and most importantly, keeping all of my user comments.  I’ll also discuss some of the downsides and what you’ll lose (and how to get it back).

The Why

SquareSpace is a great personal website hosting company.  They have an amazing platform and lots of options for building yourself a web presence, be it a blogging platform, or just a standard website.  However, those tools come at a price:  the inability to have complete control over your environment.  If their tools cannot do something you want, then you can’t do it.  If you want a certain widget (say a Tag Cloud) on your blog, forget it, there is no Tag Cloud widget.  Want to add Mint analytics to your blog?  Or any analytics besides the built in SquareSpace ones?  Probably not without a lot of work.

After a friend of mine asked me to solve a problem he was having with SSH support in WordPress, I found out that I liked the platform.  So, I setup a WordPress installation and began configuring it for my personal blog.  I eventually decided I liked it better than SquareSpace and tried to figure out how to move it.

Migrating from SquareSpace

SquareSpace does an excellent job in supporting a variety of ways of getting your site INTO their platform.  However, the support for leaving their platform is a bit limited, but can be made to work with some effort.

The first thing you’ll want to do is export all of your content.

Exporting Content

SquareSpace names each of your Blog pages a Journal.  You can have multiple Journal pages on a site, each with its own navigation tab.  Unfortunately, each Journal has to be exported individually.  I figured that the place to look for exporting your data would be under the Website Management area, probably under Data & Media.  There’s even a Data Snapshots selection.  Unfortunately, that’s just for making a backup of your data, a dead end.

To export your Journal (and all of the comments for all posts) you actually have to edit each page (repeat steps for each Journal):

  1. Log into your SquareSpace site
  2. Change into Structure Editing Mode
  3. Select configure this page to edit the page settings
  4. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the Journal Page Configuration options to Data Export and click Export Blog Data

    This will download a *.export.txt.html* file, which is actually a Moveable Type formatted HTML file representing your Journal page, including Content, Authors, and Comments.

Now that you have your Journal exported, it’s time to import it into your WordPress site.

Preparing to Import

The only preparation you have to perform, prior to importing your Journal, is that any authors you had on your SquareSpace site should be created BEFORE you import your Journal.  However, WordPress will prompt you for author mappings when you import, so you could just assign all posts to your main account then update the posts after the fact.  Alternatively, WordPress *WILL *automatically create new accounts for you as it imports, if you want.  That’s better than SquareSpace will do for you.

Importing your Journal

To import your Moveable Type export file follow these steps:

  1. Access Import under the Tools menu
  2. Select MoveableType and Type Pad

    Note:  If you haven’t installed the Plugin previously, WordPress will prompt you to install it now, go ahead
  3. Click the Choose File button, and select the information>.export.txt.html* file you downloaded above*
  4. Assign your Authors, or have WordPress automatically create them
  5. WordPress will now print a list of each article it imports, if it prints nothing, it imported nothing

You’ve now moved almost all of the content of your site from SquareSpace into WordPress.  Yea, almost…

The Bad News

There are two pieces of bad news I have to tell you about now.  The first isn’t too bad:

All of your Posts will have the same Status they had on SquareSpace, so if they were Published, they’re now Published on your WordPress site.  You’re probably going to want to immediately go edit every article and change the status of them to Draft.  That’s because…

None of your images/media have been exported or imported.

This isn’t an insurmountable task, but you’ll have to manually download all of your media from SquareSpace, and then manually re-upload it into your Posts in WordPress.  Fortunately for me, I have a Macintosh, so I just dragged each of my images out to my Desktop, then re-uploaded them into my articles.  This is by far the worst part of the process, so I’m open to other suggestions folks may have.

Note:  It may not appear that your Posts are missing images.  This is most likely because the images are being loaded from your old site, as the references are still pointing there.  You can leave this alone, but once you move the domain name, they’ll most likely break.  So, re-uploading is your best bet.

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