This is the second in our Blogging for Writers series. Read the first part; Why you should not go for free websites.
In the first article of this series, I explained why free websites are not ‘free’. In this article, I review two of the most popular blogging platforms: WordPress and Blogger.
What is a blog?
Before reviewing, we need to get some terminology out of the way, first.
Technically, a blog is an online journal and it is usually hosted on a website, for example, www.myauthorwebsite.com/blog. Most websites have a blog, and it’s usually the most frequently updated section of their website. Nowadays, people use the terms blog and website interchangeably – I have done the same in this post.
This was one of the first blogging sites on the web and is owned by Goggle. You may have seen people with their own blogspot account. For example, www.yourname.blogspot.com
Blogger is a great platform. It’s intuitive and doesn’t take much to get you started. The only problem is that you won’t be able to get your domain name (eg, www.yourname.com), which, ideally, you should get, for the simple reason that it gives you full ownership of your brand and intellectual property. Further, I believe your own domain name looks a lot more professional than one with blogspot thrown in at the end.
Getting started with a Blogger account
The first thing you need to get started with Blogger is a Gmail account.
There are limitations with this, as you can’t really monetise the blog and are limited in what you can do in terms of the design. But it’s great for budding bloggers. I recommended Blogger to a friend and she was up and running in literally, 10 minutes. However, this ease of use does not take away from the fact that ultimately, Google owns your blog and can do whatever it likes with it, including shutting it down if it takes their fancy (a worst-case scenario, but a sobering one).
This is probably one of the most popular blogging platforms in the world.
WordPress.com (not to be confused with www.wordpress.org – see below), is free for up 3GB of space, which sounds great, until you start blogging and you realise that all the videos, images and text you put up on your blog can eat up that data pretty quickly. Having said that, you can buy extra space for a fixed annual fee.
WordPress.com will also host your blog for free (for example, www.author.wordpress.com). There are some limitations, though:
- You are limited in terms of your design (called ‘themes’)
- You have no control over the ads they run on your website. And even if you upgrade to an ad-free website, your website will still have their ad on it
- You are not allowed to have plugins (applications), which can enhance your website’s functionalities and aesthetics considerably.
Yes, they offer upgrades to remove these limitations, but the costs (loss of ownership of your website and the over-riding feeling that wordpress.com holds the reins of power over your’ blog), far outweighs the benefits.
If you are willing to overlook all these, then go ahead and choose wordpress.com as your blogging platform.
Again, not to be confused with wordpress.com.
Millions of website are built with wordpress.org. It is perfect for bloggers and business owners who want to take their website and branding to the next level.
The popularity of this platform over its .com counterpart is a testament to its flexibility and durability.
Owning and using a wordpress.org blog is easy:
- You find a hosting company (the company who will ‘host’ your website on their digital platform. Hosting fees can range from £5-£10/month)
- Download and install the latest version of wordpress.org (this is usually a one-click process and does not take long at all)
- Familiarise yourself with the platform.
A wordpress.org blogging platform offers considerable advantages over its .com counterpart:
In the first instance, you have full ownership and autonomy of your blog and can do whatever you want to it, including running ads and installing plugins of your choosing
WordPress.org is open source, which means that, at any point in time, there are millions of developers working on ways to improve the platform for users. This can be seen in the plugins and themes available. Even better, the world’s leading tech and software companies tend to develop wordpress.org plugins that fully integrate with their products. If that doesn’t show the power of wordpress.org, I don’t know what does.
Finding the best blogging platform can be a confusing process. Ultimately, the best for you is the one that fits in with your current (and long-term) needs.