A guide to the main blogging platforms

Peter Graves

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This is about the differences, pros and cons of the main three blogging platforms:

Wordpress is the clear leader in the blog field for good reason; it is a truly excellent product.
Confusingly for a beginner Wordpress has two offerings - wordpress.org and wordpress.com, which are quite different. 
Google's offering is blogger or Blogspot.

There are meny other good blogging platforms but these three are the market leaders, here are the main differences:

wordpress.com

wordpress logoHere you can start a blog for free, just follow the instructions, set up an account, choose a name and get started.

Part of their service is that they provide the hosting for the blog so it is free, but, and it’s a big but, the blog is always on their web site. You can see this by the domain name, something like http://yourblog.wordpress.com.

The disadvantage here is that you are never really building your own web site or domain, and not really building an asset in the way that building up a good ranking web site.  It is a bit like renting a house rather than buying - OK in the short term but not as good in the long.

However as it is free and takes no technical expertise whatsoever to set up, it is a great way to get started if you don't want to spend anything.

wordpress.org

This option gives you the web site code for free, but you have to set it up on your own server. This means you have to pay for hosting, and then go through the process of creating a database and then setting up the blog.

They give a very clear Quick Start guide here: http://codex.wordpress.org/WordPress_Quick_Start_Guide

Even though they make this process as simple as they can, even that is too technical for the average technophobe to do alone. The reason why this setup process is worth going through is that you then build the blog on your own domain name: i.e. http://www.yourblog.com, and that means you own your own house - you are starting to build your own web asset. 

Adding to a wordpress.org blog

Once you have set it up you can customise it using one of these many free themes: http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/  Having picked a theme you may still want to find a web designer to customise it - if nothing else to add your logo to the top of the page. You can add to Wordpress's functionality using one of the many plug-ins available on their web site. If you have the skills you can customise the page or write your own themes, as you have complete control over the code, but this is initially too advanced for the non-technical user to do alone. 

Security considerations

You do need keep the software up to date, and wordpress provide a simple update system for applying upgrades.  If you don't or if you are with a poor hosting company, it is just possible that your site could be hacked over time. You can guard against this by taking regular backups of your blog, which means you can restore a good copy shoudl anything go amiss.  Another security concern is spam – and with the ability to comment on blogs, you can get spam comments.  Keep these in check with a great Wordpress anti-spam plug-in called “Akismet”.

Costs of a wordpress.org blog

So there is more to think about with this option. A basic blog might cost a few hundred pounds if you want a developer to do a basic set up, or you can go wild and evolve it into a very advanced web site.  Your hosting might cost from £60 to a few hundred pounds per year, and your domain name £7 - £20 every couple of years, depending on who you buy it from.  So there is more to think about with this type of blog, and more cost, but you are developing and evolving your own web site and domain, so as an asset to your business, club or other organisation it is streets ahead of the wordpress.com option.

Getting someone else to do it

If you want the advantages of this type of blog but not the task of setting it up, a good web designer can do the basics in an hour or two.  Many hosts also have an installer service which makes this easier. Look to see if your host has a service called fantastico or scriptaculous which lets you set up with just a couple of clicks.  A note if you are choosing a host for setting up a self-hosted Wordpress blog, your hosting must include PHP and MySQL on a Linux server.  This actually describes most hosting packages on the Internet, but just check anyway to be on the safe side.

Blogger (or blogspot)

blogger logoBlogger acts like wordpress.com in that you can set up your own blog within its domain. I have one that doesn't get much use called http://webdevelopmentandmarketingblog.blogspot.com, see again how my blog is actually a “subdomain” on the real domain “blogspot.com”. Again my blog is the renter rather than the owner, to use the house analogy again.  However blogger does also give you an option to publish the same blog on your own domain - which looks then a bit more like wordpress.org, except that you don't actually have to set it up.

Overall blogger gives you less flexibility than wordpress.org, but it does integrate well with some other Google offerings. One nice feature is that having installed the Google toolbar you can highlight content on other pages, and post it straight to your blog.  This is not stealing content but referring to it, and is one nice way of taking the grind out of regular blogging.

Other offerings

There are other blogging platforms, some of them very good, but for the sake of simplicity I’ll stick to these three market leaders.

So which one to choose?

The bottom line is that they are all free or cheap, and fantastic platforms to work with.  We use wordpress.org option most of the time as it suits our purposes best and we know how to set it up.  But with all three being available and very cost effective why not try them all?  They all have their own pros and cons and there is a huge amount that you can do with all of them which I haven't even touched on here: so happy blogging!


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