While we’re always talking about blogging as if you already have a blog, we realise that some people will be reading up about blogging to work out whether it really is something they want to do, and learn a bit about it all before starting their blog. The biggest question at this point is what platform do you want to use – while you can (of course!) change your mind later on, many people don’t want this hassle looming ahead.
Most of the blogs that you currently read probably use either Blogger or WordPress. They’re not the only things available of course (there’s also Typepad, Squarespace, Tumblr to name just three!), but they are the main two platforms most bloggers use.
Blogger is a hosted product from Google, which means it’s nice and easy to set up if you already have a Google account (and let’s face it, you probably do). It’s a free service, where you can pay for the additional add-ons, like having your own domain. It’s popular because of the simplicity of it – you can be writing your first blog post less than 15 minutes of clicking the “New Blog” button on the blogger.com home page. Another reason that some people prefer Blogger is that there is a bit more of a community around it – with things like Google Friend Connect built in; it is easy to add new blogs to read to your dashboard.
However, one of the downsides to Blogger is that it can be seen as too simplistic. While there is some ability to change the HTML on the blog design so it looks a little less like all the other Blogspot blogs, the truth is that most Blogger blogs do all end up looking a little similar. Some people might like to not faff about with HTML, so this might be a bonus to you!
Another downside to Blogger is that you are dependent on Google – there is no option to self-host a Blogger powered blog. We have seen so many bloggers (big and small) have their blogs become unavailable because Google has decided to disable it for whatever reason. When you have spent so much time, money and effort in getting your blog known and popular, it seems a little strange to be dependent on a company who can just pull the plug on your site so easily!
WordPress began as a self-hosted solution, but you can also get a blog at WordPress.com. A self-hosted WordPress account will allow you to do whatever you like, but if you host at WordPress.com, this gives you a look into whether this is a system worth using before spending a little money to make your own site. Although it isn’t necessary to move to your own site with WordPress – you can pay for the upgrades that you want, like your own domain name.
WordPress.com is a good place to see if you like the WordPress system, but if you expect to ever do any sort of advertising, affiliate linking and even reviews, be aware that this is may be against the WordPress.com terms and conditions. (WordPress.com does allow some of these things – they say that if you have a real blog that real people will read, the odd affiliate link is OK, but don’t go overboard.)
One of the biggest advantages with a self-hosted WordPress site is that there is less chance that your blog will suddenly disappear because of something you said or did – and you are able to do whatever you want. (Well, within reason. If you were doing something illegal, then your host would most likely shut it down!) If you’re
WordPress gives you more options to customise your blog so you can get it looking exactly how you want, but this can be seen as a negative thing – we spoke to some bloggers who said that they chose not to use WordPress because it seems “more advanced”, especially to a beginner.
Possibly the biggest downside to self-hosted WordPress set ups is that if you install a plugin that’s a bit dodgy, or you fiddle with the code and save the wrong thing, your whole site can disappear. However, if you have a decent host, then they will be able to restore your site from a backup quite quickly – you’ll never get that sort of service with Blogger!
It depends really on how much you want to get involved with your site. Just want to get the words out there? Blogger may be your best bet – but you have less control over your content, and you may feel restricted on how your site looks. Want full control over how your image comes across? Go for WordPress, but it can cost you money, and it can be a little tricky sometimes.
Whatever you choose, don’t worry if it turns out to be the wrong choice for you. The benefit of free blog hosts is that you can try them all out and see which one suits you best. There are plenty of tutorials out there that explain how to transfer your posts from one service to another – nothing is set in stone!
How did you decide which platform to use? Share your stories in the comments, you might just help someone else make their decision!