Choosing a Blogging Platform

Want to become a blogger?

Great! This is one of the very best choices you could possibly make for your career and will not only give you a much more flexible lifestyle and potentially better salary but also the satisfaction that comes from running your own business and making money by writing about topics that fascinate you.

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But now you have a few more decisions to make. You need to choose your theme for instance and you need to choose your domain name. But something else you need to think about is your blogging platform.

Depending on your level of expertise, one of two things are now possibly going through your mind:

  • What’s a blogging platform?
  • Wait… there are blogging platforms other than WordPress?

Whichever school of though you’re from, let’s take a look at the various different options for creating your blog and help you decide which is the right one for you.

What is a Blogging Platform?

Simply put, the blogging platform you choose is going to define the look of your site, the location of your files and the way you access and edit your posts and layout.

In short, a blogging platform is a tool that streamlines the process of blogging so that you don’t have to build an entire website from scratch. That said though, the term is also rather ambiguous and can refer to a number of different things, depending on what you consider a ‘blogging platform’ to be. It is also in some cases interchangeable with the term ‘CMS’, which stands for ‘Content Management System’.

So let’s start from the beginning. When you first go about creating a blog, you’ll begin by buying yourself server space through a company like Bluehost and getting a domain name that points there. This means that when people type in ‘www.example.com’, they’ll be shown the contents of your folder on that server. Think of servers as big computers kept in a warehouse that mainly act like harddrives and are constantly connected to the web.

Every time you view any website, you are basically looking for the address of a given server and then being shown the contents of that machine through your browser.

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The most basic and straightforward way to go about building a website or blog then is to create a website from scratch. This will mean creating a website using code – probably HTML, CSS and JavaScript – and telling the browser how to arrange all the images and text on your site manually.

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This gives you ultimate flexibility regarding how you want your website to look but it also means that you’re going to need to learn HTML, CSS and JavaScript (at least). If you want to add interactive ‘web 2.0’ features to your blog, then you’re going to need to learn PHP or something like Python as well. And if you want your site to look modern and well designed, then you’ll need to learnt the principles of UI and UX and then spend time designing all your icons, fonts and logos from scratch. It’s an awful lot of work and a big challenge for most people. Still though, this is one option if you plan on building your own blog.

For a while, this was the only way for people to make websites and thus the idea of blogging was off-limits for most people. That’s until sites like Blogger (formally BlogSpot) started popping up. Blogger was basically a tool from Google that let people create blogs and keep them hosted on Google’s own server. That meant there was no need for them to invest in server space, to buy their own domain or to know anything about coding. Blogger not only provided the platform but also the necessary tools in order to set up a fully-functional blog with a UI, menus and a theme. This was customizable so that users could create their own look and feel for their sites and blogs.

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This was then also further enhanced by a slew of interactive community features. Users could create a profile and then meet other bloggers, or link to their blogs in their own ‘blog roll’.

For a while, blogging became very in-vogue and a lot of people started doing it as a hobby – blogging about their lifestyles, their diets, gardening or whatever else interested them. Sometimes this would turn into a career but often it would just be a pastime. During around 2008-2012, the ‘blogosphere’ was a popular term and it seemed that everyone had their own blog!
During this time we saw a lot of other sites and tools pop up to offer some competition to Blogger, notably Live Journal. This offered the same set of tools, essentially making it as easy to create a blog as it was to make a Facebook page. This is what is technically meant by the term blogging platform.

Enter WordPress and the CMS

Another competitor at this time was WordPress (www.WordPress.com), which offered pretty much the same functionality as those other options.

The difference was that WordPress also offered a lot of additional functionality. With WordPress you could create a much more feature-rich experience with more pages and more functionality. WordPress allowed for the creation of static pages as well as blog posts, as well as the creation of completely unique layouts and the installation of various ‘plugins’ that greatly extended the capability of a site.

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Whereas most blogs built with Blogger.com will look essentially the same, blogs built on WordPress can look like anything. In fact, WordPress is an open source platform, which means you can actually go as far as to completely alter the code that runs it to change the look and function of your site beyond recognition. Better yet, it’s possible to create a hosted WordPress site on WordPress.com OR to download the files and install them manually on your server in order to create a website of your own with your own domain name.

And thus, a huge proportion of the sites on the net are built using WordPress – including some of the biggest sites in the world like Forbes, The Times, BBC (America) and many, many more.

This elevates WordPress beyond the status of blogging platform to be a CMS. That stands for Content Management System and means that WordPress is a complete solution for organizing and creating content for a website – and for doing everything from blogging to creating business sites. You can even use plugins and themes to turn a WordPress site into a fully functional eCommerce store.

But you could still consider WordPress a blogging platform because you can still blog with it. That means we now have the full spectrum of different options to consider – from Blogger and Live Journal to WordPress and other CMS options. We’ll look at all them now…

A List of Popular Blogging Platforms and CMSs

Blogger

As mentioned, Blogger is a basic blogging platform that gives you the ability to create blogs that function like journals. While you can edit the layout somewhat and make other basic changes, you’ll ultimately be limited to a blog-type site and will have to host on Blogger.com. This means you’ll be limiting what you can do to earn money as well, particularly as advertisers will want you to have your own domain. The tool feels somewhat outdated now and as Google has a habit of doing, it has been somewhat abandoned.

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That said, Blogger is still a great tool with a lot of good features – including a strong community surrounding it. And in terms of making money, it does have the advantage of seamless integration with AdSense (seeing as both come from Google). If you’re planning on blogging for fun, then it’s still one of the best options. And there are still some fairly prominent sites that use the platform. If you’re planning on making money or starting a business though, there are countless better options out there.

LiveJournal

LiveJournal is very similar to Blogger. As the name suggests, LiveJournal is more about creating a journal over a blog and has some cool features for that kind of function. For example, it’s much easier to limit access to your blog to just friends, or to implement other advanced security features.

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LiveJournal also has some additional features in terms of the community, allowing you to see posts that come up on a feed on the homepage and have your blog featured there. LiveJournal only supports Google AdSense for paid accounts and is even more restrictive in that regard. Otherwise, it comes with the same design and customization features essentially as Blogger.
Overall then, LiveJournal is less flexible than its competition but if you’re more interested in writing an online journal, then it’s a good choice. The clue is in the name really!

Tumblr

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And then we have Tumblr, which really does offer something a little different from the two before. Tumblr is perhaps the platform that most closely resembles a social network. What’s more is that it focuses much more on images as opposed to words. This makes it the place to go for memes, funny GiFs and other such content. It’s also an ideal place to post art, to have funny conversations or to generally create something very visual and relatively quickly. Again, it also benefits from a ‘homefeed’ in a similar manner to a social network like Facebook and lets you easily keep up-to-date with friends and people you are following.

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Of course this all means that Tumblr isn’t the best choice for those people wanting to make a full website, or create something they can make a living from. For artists, cartoonists or people who don’t like writing though it’s ideal!

WordPress

100%, WordPress will be the best choice in the vast majority of situations. And this also means creating a site on your own server, which gives you much more freedom and flexibility.

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WordPress is the best choice for most individuals and businesses because it has:

  • The most user-friendly interface (for a CMS)
  • The most flexibility in terms of design and changed (especially thanks to its open-source nature)
  • The biggest community to help with troubleshooting
  • The most plugins and themes
  • A proven track record
  • Great SEO optimization
  • No fee

For the vast majority of businesses, choosing anything other than WordPress means making your life unnecessarily more difficult and restricting what you can accomplish.

Joomla!

Joomla! is a CMS in a similar vein to WordPress and comes with the same amount of flexibility with lots of plugins, themes and options.

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Where Joomla! is different is in the fact that it is a little less user-friendly and doesn’t have quite the same amount of support. But if you’re a coder, you can actually get a little bit more out of it in terms of web 2.0 functionality.

Specifically, Joomla! is very good for creating ‘back-end’ sites for businesses that allow you to collaborate with a dispersed team, or to communicate with colleagues. For these reasons, it might be well-suited to business blogs with lots of contributors. For the vast majority of people and scenarios though, WordPress will be preferable as a blog.

Drupal

Drupal is the ‘third big CMS option’ and is popular with a number of big companies. Though it is sometimes used for creating blogs, it is again better suited to internal use in most instances. Being somewhat complex, it’s recommended that you use a web design agency if you’re going to go this route (unless you’re a developer yourself).

WIX

Finally, WIX is a ‘website builder’ that works a lot like WordPress but aims to make life a little simpler. WIX also offers you hosting as part of the fee, meaning that you can have your own domain name and server space without having to worry about setting it up yourself.

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But on the downside, this means you are tied in to a monthly fee (WordPress is free). It also means you don’t have the option to move your site should you need to and it removes all the freedom that comes from being able to manage your own server. While there is some functionality in regards to the theme you choose to use and additional functionality, you’ll still struggle to expand this into a proper business and it’s very limiting.

WordPress is much easier than you probably think – so there is really no reason to use a paid ‘site builder’ like Wix when you have the option of WordPress. Make the right decision and try to think about the long-term strategy for your business.