It’s Thursday, so that means it’s time for a new Blogger Series article.
If you are new to my blog, I am currently running this series on Thursdays where I discuss topics around blogging to help people who are considering starting a blog as well as tips for getting the most from your blog.
How many blogging platforms are there?
I mean like seriously. There are loads. Some of the most common that you may have heard of are WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Squarespace, Weebly and Wix.
There are new platforms being created as well as old ones that have been around for ages.
How the heck do I choose a platform?
Well, you can spend hours researching every single one, checking comparison etc. Totally acceptable but very time-consuming.
The best way is to figure out what you want. Here are some basic questions to ask:
- How technically-minded are you?
- Do you have any coding skills?
- How much time can you devote to blogging?
- Does cost matter?
- Do you want to be able to monetise your blog?
- Do you want to be easy to find / easy for people to leave comments?
- Do you want lots of flash and features?
Your answers can help you narrow down your choices. For example, if you are just starting out and are not technically-minded you might want something simple and easy to use.
If cost is an issue, you might want to consider the free options with upgrade options rather than straight to ones with hosting costs.
Purpose is important
See, now you know why I said in my first post that knowing your blogging purpose was something you needed to figure out early.
If you have high ambitions for your blog then you might want to start out with a lot of control, customisation and a paid option. After all, changing platforms can be a little difficult later on (not impossible, just not always easy).
However, if you are not sure if blogging is going to be for you or that you might not be able to commit loads of time to it, then starting out on a simple, free platform would be best.
My personal opinion is there’s no point forking out cash on a paid hosting account if there is a chance you won’t even stick blogging out.
If you want to be a professional blogger, then setting yourself up well right off the bat is a good idea. Otherwise, don’t throw away money needlessly.
What are the differences between platforms?
I’m not going to go through a full pro and con list of each individual platform. Mainly because most of this can be condensed down to the following:
Free blogging options (Con):
- limited templates
- limited customisation
- limited features
- not always easy to back-up
- you don’t own the blog so the blogging hoster (e.g .Google with Blogger) can technically close or suspend your account at any time and could even stop the service entirely
- can’t be monetised or run your own ads on your blog
- includes ads and/or banners of the hoster (e.g. Wix)
Free blogging options (Pro):
- they’re free so you can see if you are really interested in blogging without forking out cash
- most have some form of an upgrade option that gives you more features etc when you move to a paid version
- they have free templates and themes that are pretty decent especially for starting out
- easy to use with either simplified customisation options (e.g. WordPress.com) or drag and drop features (e.g. Wix)
- almost no technical skill needed
Paid-for blogging options (Con):
- cost obviously, you have to pay for hosting as well as your domain name and those costs can be quite steep when you are just getting into blogging.
- can take some learning and some paid platforms need some technical knowledge
- for some platforms, you need to manage the security of the site yourself
- some paid options have limited plans that mean you are limited to the number of pages (unless you pay for a bigger plan)
- integration to some services can sometimes be limited depending on the hoster
- can be complicated to set up
Paid-for blogging options (Pro):
- gives you greater control over your blog/website
- with many you own it, so it can’t just be shut down or suspended
- numerous plugins that can help boost your blog
- often have thousands more templates and themes
- additional features available on planned schemes
- some hosters include more detailed analytics to help you track your blog’s progress and growth
- some hosters have the option for eCommerce
- can be monetised and run ads
- often includes access to the technical support team
Which platforms have I used?
I have personally used WordPress.com (this is what this blog runs on), I’ve also used Tumblr, Wix, Weebly and checked out Squarespace.
I am also semi-proficient in HTML coding and used to code my own websites back in the day.
While I did love the freedom and control of coding my own websites, it can become time-consuming.
Since my time is in short supply now, I just can’t justify coding my own when there are numerous platforms that work well enough.
Why do you WordPress.com?
This blog was started on WordPress.com Free account. I was new to blogging when I started (my coded websites had been websites, not blogs).
I wanted to see how I felt with blogging and so the free option worked well. In fact, after I started my blog I ended up drifting away from it several times over the first three years. I only got more committed and seriously with it back in late 2016.
So, I was glad I didn’t throw money away on a paid account right from the start.
I am now using WordPress.com Premium account, so I do pay for the account. I am happy with the plan I have and while I do have my sights set on moving to the Business plan in the future, currently the premium plan works fine for me.
Easy to use
I love how WordPress.com’s customisation is so easy to use. Everything from setting up pages, adding themes and widgets etc is not difficult.
I love the WordPress.com Reader. This is where all WordPress.com blogs are pulled together in an easily searchable place. You can add tags and find blogs with relatable content. I get many new visitors from Reader.
Also, if you find other blogs on WordPress.com you like, when you click “follow” they are added to your reader under Followed Accounts. It makes keeping up-to-date with other bloggers a lot easier.
While there are thousands of paid themes, there are loads of perfectly good free themes.
You can check them out by select “demo” or just select “activate” theme and it changes your blog. You can change the themes as often as you want until you’re happy with it.
Having tried other sites, I personally find WordPress.com the best for my needs. I love its quick set-up, I can get a new blog launched and looking ready in less than an hour now.
I like the upgrade options. I like having the ability to expand my features and customisation when I’m ready.
It is already set up so that it looks good no matter what device you use. Nothing worse than viewing a page on your phone or tablet that is not set up for that.
Is WordPress.com right for you?
I can’t answer that for you. I recommend that you consider carefully what you want from your blog both now and in the future, then see if you can match your requirements to a platform.
Check out other people’s blogs. Who are your favourite bloggers? What platform do they use? Not sure? Ask them!
A quick note
Be realistic. I’ve seen too many new bloggers come to blogging with the idea of making big bucks because someone else did. Then they struggle to even get anyone reading their blog.
Blogging is not a quick, money-making scheme. It’s work but it’s fun. Yes, you can sometimes make money and yes some people manage to make a lot of money even in a short amount of time. But they are the exceptions.
Don’t make decisions based on thinking you’re going to be the next big blogger. Aim for that if you want, hell yeah! But don’t expect it without a helluva lot of work and some upfront capital.
Instead, come into blogging for yourself, for sharing your ideas, thoughts, recipes, poems, stories, gripes… whatever your blog’s purpose. 😉
To all those readers who are already bloggers, which platform do you use?