One of the main questions that I’ve been asked about blogging is, where to start? I’ve been blogging for about 13 years now but when I first dipped my toe into the world of blogging, I was fairly clueless. I pretty much stuck to sites like LiveJournal, blogging about my many dramatic woes as a teen. As I gained confidence I moved across various platforms until 5 years ago, I published my main blog Mum’s The Nerd on WordPress.org that is self-hosted on my own server. I’m a firm believer that this is the best option for me as I have full control and ownership of my own content. It might be the perfect option for me but everybody has their own preferences and requirements.
So lets talk about some of the blogging and microblogging platforms that are available, each will have its pros and cons.
I loved using blogger, it’s a great free tool from Google and it’s super easy to set up and use. Blogger can will integrate effortlessly with your Google Apps but it would be advantageous to be familiar with basic html to customise your blog. There are widgets available and there are plenty of tools built in for you to edit and publish your posts.
Being a free tool you are given a blogspot.com url i.e yoursite.blogspot.com but if you are wanting a more professional appearance, you can purchase a vanity url. If you decide to go down the vanity url route, there are many guides available to help you set up your custom vanity domain name.
Tumblr is quite different in terms of a content management system, it is more social with a huge community which is one of the biggest selling points. There is a focus on reblogging which means that users can ‘Reblog’ original content from other users within the Tumblr community. Tumblr is a very social site which encourages users to comment, share and reblog, if this is your style then it’s definitely worth checking out.
Like Blogger it is free, easy to set up and get going. It’s more of a micro blogging site with content being featured around images, videos and gifs, rather than long strings of text.
With Tumblr there are options to customise your blog but it is very limited.
Squarespace is great for those that want to blog but don’t necessarily have the skills and coding experience. It uses a simple drag and drop interface with many templates available to create your blog and also the ability to turn your blog into an ecommerce site. Squarespace starts from $8 per month for unlimited bandwidth and storage and you can also use a custom domain. I currently manage a site hosted on Squarespace and find it relatively easy to update and publish blog posts in a short amount of time. It’s certainly a contender when it comes to blogging platforms but can get a little pricey.
Drupal is definitely more of a content management system than a blogging platform and you will need your own domain name and web host. The Drupal software isn’t for a complete novice, it’s quite difficult to navigate so I would recommend using a simpler platform to publish your blog unless you are really tech savvy.
I really do like using Joomla, it’s robust and you can create any website you want. Again like Drupal it’s more of a content management system than blogging software. It’s free for the first month but then prices can go up pretty steeply for premium plans. Unless you will be turning blogging into a business, Joomla might be a little bit too much to start with.
WordPress.com is free but quite limited, you can upgrade at a cost. It’s one of the most popular blogging platforms but since sites are hosted on the wordpress.com servers you don’t have full control. If you plan on monetising your blog then this option might not be for you.
Now, it’s no secret that I am a big fan of wordpress.org, the software is completely free to use but there are costs involved. You have the cost of hosting your blog on your own or shared server and then the cost of purchasing your own domain name. How is this different to other options? well, the main bonus for me is that you have complete control over everything. I purchased the majority of my domain names from 1and1.co.uk and I use WordPress.org for the majority of my sites, as it is one of the most flexible blogging platforms that I have come across. There are many tools, templates, widgets and plugins to customise your blog and there are always fresh tools and themes being developed as wordpress.org is a popular, well-loved platform. WordPress.org is constantly being updated so it’s worth keeping upto date with new releases to avoid any security risks.
WordPress.org also has a great online community which provides help and advice if you ever get stuck or need a little bit of help when it comes to your blog. You can search the forums to see if anyone else has had similar problems to what you are experiencing or you make make a new post to ask for help.
You don’t need much technical knowledge to get yourself started, but it is handy to be a little tech savvy when hosting your own site.
Ultimately, it’s your choice and whatever works best for you. Choose what you will feel most comfortable with