Choosing the Right Blogging Platform
Looking to start a blog? Considering changing from one blogging platform to another?
Like anything else, it’s about finding something you’re comfortable with. Here’s my spin on the top four choices.
Tumblr is the newest blogging platform to hit the web. It’s free and fast-moving. Tumblr incorporates a ‘dashboard’ feature that, sort of like Facebook, shows posts from other Tumblrs that you follow on your dashboard. To me, it feels like a mix of Facebook and Twitter. It’s pretty cool. Just not your “typical” blog.
When you create your site, you need to choose the category that best fits what you’ll be blogging about. I chose health and fitness when I was blogging about my weight-loss experience. My Tumblr blog name is www.mikewakesup.tumblr.com. Your site’s URL will have the ‘tumblr’ name in it too. Unless you buy a domain name and re-point your blog to it. Tumblr will allow you to do that. Check out their help/support section for instructions on how to make that happen.
From the dashboard, you can ‘like’ the post and/or leave a comment. Or…you can click on a link to take you to the person’s blog. From there…you can see all their posts, begin to follow them and send them a private message.
Creating a post is easy too. Tumblr offers pre-set templates for various blog post types: text, hyperlink, audio file, video file and quote. Choose a post type, add your content and hit the “publish” button. This makes getting your post to your blog quick and easy.
Tumblr is free and super-easy to set up and maintain. Compared to the other platforms, Tumblr is the most casual blog you can create. I created tons of posts by taking a photograph on my smart phone and uploading it to my site along with a caption. From my PC, I added more text and re-published the post. It worked great for me. Yes…there are apps for smart phones. I used the droid version and liked it a lot.
My Tumblr site is quite stale at this point. But…there was a time that I was hot and heavy into it. There is a great blogging population on Tumblr that gives you instant feedback on your blog posts (which can quickly become addictive). This was a huge boost to the success of my diet and exercise plan. I made several online friends that helped me stay accountable to my plan.
If you’re looking for a laid-back blog atmosphere, Tumblr might be for you. If you’re looking for a platform that you can monetize, Tumblr is probably not the best choice.
Tumblr had some major down-time a few months ago. I think they’ve cleaned up their act…but just wanted to toss that out.
Blogger is definitely a few steps up from Tumblr. Out of the box, your blog’s URL will contain the ‘blogspot’ name. For example: www.mysitename.blogspot.com is what it will look like.
It’s free and hosted by Blogspot.com (which is owned by Google). There are lots and lots of customizations you can make to your site. Some people have tweaked the HTML code so much that their site barely resembles a typical ‘blog’. There are gadgets that can be added to your Blogger site that allow you to incorporate a Flickr badge, an Etsy or ArtFire shop, an Amazon shop, etc. You can also add code that will take a user to whatever URL you tell it to, just by clicking on the image. You can monetize your site by adding Google ads to your site too.
I used Blogger for many years and give it two thumbs up. Like I said before: it’s free. And easy to use. There are TONS of tutorials on the web that will help you modify your site. There are lots and lots of web designers that specialize in helping Blogspot bloggers spice up their blog. Do a Google search for “blogger designers” and you’ll see what I mean: 27,000,000 results!
If you have a domain name that you’ve purchased, you can point your Blogspot to this URL and it will be easier for people to find you. It gives you a bit of ownership (even though Google owns your content).
The choices are pretty much unlimited with Blogger. SO…if you want a great amount of flexibility and don’t mind if your blog is owned by someone else, then I highly recommend you go with Blogger.
Are there smart phone apps available to create posts? Yep.
Tip: Sometimes you get what you pay for. And sometimes you get lucky. A blogger blog is free. And, in my opinion, you get a lot great options. It might be the perfect platform for you.
TypePad is another blogging service that can give you lots of options and design possibilities. The drawback is the monthly fee. I used TypePad a few years ago but found it wasn’t worth the price, so I switched back to Blogger.
Just for the heck of it, a few months ago, I thought I’d revisit TypePad so I signed up for a free month. Honestly, I was disappointed. I consider myself to be internet- and blog-savvy. But I got very frustrated trying to set up my TypePad blog. My first time around with them (a few years back) was much, much better. I’m not sure why they made such major changes…but I found them to be a hindrance. Period.
Like Blogger, you can do all sorts of design changes (on your own or by hiring a designer). You can add Google Ads, Facebook connections, Twitter apps, etc. Flickr and Etsy apps can be added too. I’ve seen some beautifully-tweaked TypePad sites. I know several folks who have been with TypePad for many years. (Seth Godin, Alicia Paulson and JCHandmade are blogs you should check out). Bottom line: TypePad is a perfectly-fine blogging platform; it’s just not for me.
The default setting for TypePad (since they’re hosting your site) will look like this: www.mysitename.typepad.com. I’m sure there are ways to point your blog to a domain name you own. Check out the TypePad site on how to do that.
At last check, there were about 3,800,000 results when I searched the web for ‘typepad designers’. So, if you want/need some help, you will have lots of options!
If you want to dip your toe in the TypePad water, sign up for a free trial. If you fall in love with it, wonderful. If not, just be sure to cancel before the end of the trial…or your credit card will be charged.
Phone app available? Yes. I know they have one for the iPhone; not sure about the Droid and/or others. Check out the details here.
By the way: you SHOULD be in love with your blog and/or blogging service. If you’re not, make the decision to change soon and move on. It’s not the end of the world to switch.
Tip: Find a blogging platform and theme that fits your personality and technical skills. You’ll be spending a lot of time on your blog. Make it a positive experience!
Heads Up! There are two (2) different kinds of WordPress blogs.
They look, smell and operate the same as a self-hosted blog, but a site hosted on wordpress.com belongs to WordPress. You can still add widgets, Google Adsense and tons of other code. The blogs hosted on WP.com come with several free themes you can choose from. There’s likely to be one that fits your blog’s personality. To set up a blog site hosted on WP’s site, visit www.wordpress.com. You’ll have a blog up-and-running in no time!
Your blog’s URL might look like this: www.mysite.wordpress.com. Yes, if you own a domain name, you can point your blog to it. Check out the WordPress support section for help on doing that.
There are lots of customizations you can make to your WP.com blog. Most are very easy. Some are a bit trickier. You can add a Flickr badge, a Twitter-feed, other social media apps, block ads, etc., etc. to your blog. It’s relatively simple to do all these things.
Phone apps are available for the WP.com blogs. Search your phone’s app store for options.
According to some brief research I did online, there are also phone apps available for self-hosted WP blogs. Search Google for “phone apps for self-hosted wordpress blog” and see what you get!
You can go to www.wordpress.org to download the code you’ll need to install on your own web space. (Space you buy from places like Bluehost, GoDaddy, etc.) By the way, my web space provider of choice is Bluehost. They are great. I’ve been with them for several years. No complaints. Bluehost offers a super-fast turn-around on account changes and adding domain names is a piece of cake.
They have a super-easy way to install the WordPress code on your site. It is slick! I highly-recommend Bluehost. Check around…not all web space providers offer the WordPress installation. It’s like night and day. Take it from someone who has “been there and done that”.
If you’re uncomfortable with HTML, FTP and the like (or you just want a click-and-be-done-with-it-approach), go with a provider like Bluehost and your life will be much easier. I promise.
As with the WP.com blogs, the WP.org blogs can use all the free themes that WP offers. Or…you can do what lots of bloggers do: buy a theme.
There are several companies out there that specialize in WordPress themes. I’ve had excellent experiences with Chris Pearson’s Thesis Theme. And…a few months ago I purchased three WooTheme themes for the price of one. Check out my blog if you want an example of the Delegate theme. WooTheme also offers some free themes. Search their web site for details.
Another source is StudioPress. I have not had personal experience with their stuff, but I’ve heard good things and SEEN some pretty cool sites built with their framework. And, one more: Headway Themes looks like something I may want to check out. They claim to have drag-and-drop functionality. It doesn’t get any easier than that! Visit their nifty website here.
By the way, if you didn’t already know it, the Handmadeology site is run on WordPress: (The .org version.)
Tip: Looking for a WordPress theme? Do your homework. Scour the web and research several themes and theme companies before you make a purchase. Remember: buyer beware.
So…there you have it. Options. Choices. Decisions to make. The blogging platforms I’ve reviewed all serve the same purpose: to help you take your message and/or products to the world wide web. If you have a blog and you’re happy with it, I recommend you stay there. Minor tweaks and changes are good; making a change to a brand new environment can be frustrating.
If you’re seriously thinking about a change, then do some research, ask questions and then go for it! Just be sure that your blogging platform matches your style and technical skill level. Blogging should be fun, not a chore.
Remember: Your creative time should be spent creating, not trying to figure out how to make your blog work.
If you have questions regarding this post, drop me a line at email@example.com. I’ll be happy to help!