Finding the right blog platform
By: Jennine Jacob

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To tell the truth, I don’t believe there is a unilaterally great blog platform. And there is nothing that says that whatever blog platform you use, you’ll be stuck with forever. They all have their good points and bad points, and I don’t believe that one blog platform will make your blog successful. I do however know there are a lot of great options out there, and it’s just a matter of finding the right one to suit your needs.

Welcome to my domain

The first thing I recommend, is if you are planning on starting a blog buy a domain name. I have been using GoDaddy forever. Most domains are about $10 per year. If you have a domain, you can point it to any blog platform you use. For $10 you can start small then grow into what ever blog format you want without having to do what I did, and move blog platforms… which meant I had to move domains which caused a loss of traffic (for a while, it came back, and then some). Learn from my mistake, and buy your own domain name.

What do I want?

Once you figured out what you really want out of blogging. Oh dear. For me, it was deciding that I really wanted to blog, and I wasn’t going to stop in the near future. Deciding that I was going to keep blogging also meant that I would have to familiarize myself with a lot of other aspects of blogging, CSS, HTML, PHP along with deciding that I wanted to monetize and push my blog to the next level.

However, blogs I do for fun have different requirements, ease of use being number one over customization options.

Skills, skills

Often someone will say, “oh I hear WordPress.org (self hosted) is the best, I should start on that.” And the first thing I ask, is how comfortable they are with HTML, CSS, if they even know about PHP, how much they like using support forums, etc. That usually scares them off. Sorry about that. The truth is, most people know more than they think they know, and if you can tag your images, you probabaly have enough skills to use WordPress. If you’re not interested in learning about the technical components of blogging (not interested is different simply not knowing) then WordPress is not going to be the platform for you. Having a good grasp of what you’re willing to learn will help your experience, as the point it to blog, not to spend a lot of time figuring out how to make the blog work.

High tech skills… almost

You might have heard WordPress is the best out there… and with good reason. If you do get excited about customization and have no problem checking forums when you’re stuck, then WordPress will provide you with an amazing array of plugins, themes, customization to no end it seems. Clutch22 recently design her own theme with Artisteer what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) program. I’m continually amazed with what you can do with WordPress, and it’s really the best if you have big plans for your blog.

I’ve had a look at MovableType and it looks really impressive. Barak Obama’s and Britney Spears (good god) use this platform for their blogs. It also has social networking and community capabilities. It’s really impressive. However, I’ve heard that it’s not the easiest to use, even for programmers.

I know my way around…

Typepad has been around for a long time. As there are many veterans using the platform like StyleBubble (and my other favorite Cute Overload). You pay for hosting along with your blog service. The bonus for this is upgrades are automatic, you still get all the customization abilities all for a relatively good price. Honestly, I wasn’t wholly convinced by Typepad, because they don’t really offer anything free services like blogger don’t offer.

I’m just starting, and I don’t know anything…

My first blog was on Blogger. In fact IFB started on Blogger too. I always tell people, “If you can send an email, you can use Blogger.” It’s really easy to use. I learned a lot tinkering with the templates. The SEO is great (heck, it’s owned by Google). I just checked back in my Blogger account, and there is a lot of plugins that I wish I had on WordPress. Blogger’s also great because it connects seamlessly with AdSense so getting monetized is really easy.  The bad part is, you really are limited with the themes. If you want a magazine style format for your blog.. or forums, well Blogger can’t do that. Also setting up pages and navigation is tricky, so if you want  your blog to have more depth then things get difficult.  All in all, I say Blogger is great for starting out.

A lot of people are  happy with WordPress.com. It uses a similar back end to WordPress.org so if you are planning on working your way up to self-hosted WordPress.org then I would recommend going with WordPress.com. One word of caution… WordPress.com will not allow you to monetize, you’ll have to use a different platform if that is your intention.

Many bloggers have a separate Tumblr blog as a kind of notebook. Some use it as their main blog. Tumblr is really great to use, it’s a bared down bloggin platform. Unfortunately you have to use a plugin to enable comments and other.

Onsugar is a new blogging platform that sprung up sometime after Sugar purchased Coutorture, and it’s made especially for fashion blogs. They have lots of features like a drag and drop “spread maker”.  Create your look with thousands of fashion images from hundreds of online retailers through ShopStyle, e.g. ShopBop, J. Crew, Net-a-Porter, and others. and ShopSense their affiliate linking helper. This should be interesting to see how fashion bloggers use this platform, and if they like it. So far I haven’t heard anything either way.

So what’s the right one to choose?

At the end of the day, it’s best that you go with what’s right for you. What do you plan to do with your blog? How committed to learning non-blog tech stuff are you? Keep in mind, nothing is set in stone, you can always change just be sure to buy a domain name to save your blog friends some work when you have to move.

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Comments

  1. I have moveable type and it’s tough. I had to hire a MT specialist to set it up for me.

  2. LEAH says:

    Fantastic post! I’m the process of starting my blog and decided to go with Blogger (for now)… :)

    Although blogger is somewhat limited, there’s actually quite a bit you can do in terms of template customization. All sorts of templates are available to download and you can change the html around to make greater use of your real estate.

    Buying your own domain is definitely key since you will have complete control over where you can host your blog. (less headaches moving it later if you decide to)

  3. DesignerElla says:

    I wanted to write back about OnSugar. I love it but it’s slightly difficult retaining traffic (esp. going to the right posts, can’t happen) when moving. But it makes beautiful posts so quickly.

  4. Freya says:

    Well, I feel that Blogger gives more design freedom than any other platform from what I know. I am very familiar with the codes, so I’m able to make templates. You just need the right designer help.

  5. sara says:

    i use tumblr and i love it. i had had a blogger before that and frequently got frustrated with everything that i had to do; tumblr spells everything out for you. it really is “blogging for dummies” and makes my like a whole lot easier. the fact that it is also a social-networking platform is nice, too, because there are frequent meet-ups in different cities. you can make friends while you’re writing about what you love!

  6. eye4style says:

    I use OnSugar and it’s amazing. So easy and I love the flexibility of the Spreads and Galleries.

  7. I really agree that the domain makes for a most easy transition. I think that my original switchover from Blogspot to WordPress was significantly easier because I did have the domain pointing at both (and just moved the RSS feed link to the new page).

    It seems and sounds like Blogger has improved a LOT since I first began using almost 2 years ago. I remember making the switch over to WordPress within 6 months, because there was so much I wanted in way of widgets, and at that time it seemed blogger had so few…

    Now that I’m on WordPress though, and have gotten used to it, I’m really happy overall. I sometimes miss the ease of Blogger, but the experience on WordPress gives me the option for more growth, I feel.

  8. Fashiongrail says:

    WordPress for me! I’ve been using WordPress from the beginning and I’ve slowly but surely have become use to it and love it!

  9. Lyndsay says:

    Great post. I’m a WordPress user and had no idea I couldn’t monetize. Dang.

  10. The timing of this is interesting for me. I just found out that WordPress is free, for some reason I thought there was a fee as with Typepad, which I use. Thanks for the tip about techie aspects with WP, I had no idea about that, either.

    I’ve been asking myself if I really need to be paying for my Typepad blog. I’m happy with it, the support is excellent and I know that if I want to use advanced templates and get into CSS I can, but I’m wondering if I can get all that with something else, at no charge. Although no one platform seems to have everything so maybe I just stay put? And what about previous posts; I assume there’s no way to keep any of that?

    Can anyone advise as to the level of support with other platforms?

    Thanks Jennine!!

  11. Ondo Lady says:

    I have been using Blogger for almost two years and I am really enjoying it. Although I must confess that I did have a very slight flirtation with WordPress a few months ago and was about to switch over. I even regsitered the url and imported all my posts and had a goodbye Blogger post all written. But as hard as I tried I could not do it and Blogger just looked more and more appealing. Also the templates, plug ins and accessibility were hard to replace so I decided to stay put and I think I made the right decision because I have never looked back.

  12. I keep my personal blogs on OnSugar (full disclosure I used to own Coutorture until I sold it to Sugar Inc) and I like it just fine, I would caution it is still buggy now 6 months after it officially launched, I just lost a post the other day. I mostly use it to create spreads because I happen to enjoy playing around with the spreadmaker and shopstyle (something that grew out of a program on the original Coutorture). But unless you have a specific yen for enjoying that type of thing or really desire a built in affiliate program I am not sure I would send new bloggers to OnSugar.

    For newbie bloggers I actually would suggest Typepad. They have fantastic customer service, it is easily customizable, and a breeze to use. I had a much easier time doing custom templates when my blogs were on Typepad than I did on OnSugar. I needed a lot of hand holding to get them transferred. Typepad has a substantial amount of resources dedicated to it as it is primary product for 6Apart meaning glitches don’t occur very often.

  13. Sophy Robson says:

    Interesting topic. Thanks. I myself use wordpress as it was reccommended by my web designer. So far I have found it works very well but I haven’t really tried to mess around with it too much.
    Sophy

  14. dreamsequins says:

    Lots of people lurve WordPress and are trying to get me to jump on the bandwagon. I love the aesthetics of their websites, so I’m flirting with the idea… Perhaps in good time.

  15. Julie makes a good point – I’ve never lost anything on Typepad and updates are seamless. Starting to rethink my rethinking!

  16. This blog post really helped me a lot. I started my blog on blogger a few months ago because it was the easiest for me to use. As I become more familiar with blogging, I often find myself thinking about some of the things you write about on a day to day basis. I have been thinking about getting my own domain name for a while. I think I will soon . Thanks.

  17. grechen says:

    i cannot recommend wordpress (self-hosted) highly enough…it does take some playing with to get “just right” – but if can find a good theme right out of the box, you don’t have to do a lot of tweaking. there are TONS of great plugins for wordpress, and nearly endless customization options. all five of my sites now run on wordpress and i couldn’t be happier :)

    i guess if you don’t like the “techie geek” part of blogging, wordpress could be kind of a pain, but i really enjoy playing around with the design and tweaking little things here and there….

  18. I had been contemplating getting a domain name. I did it tonight! Thanks you always give the best blogging advice.

  19. Jennine says:

    thank you so much fora all the great comments!

    ❤ tami…wow…really? MT i can see that… it seems really complex.
    ❤ sarah, oh yes, i tried out tumblr, and it’s quite easy to figure out
    ❤ julie… thanks for giving your experience with typepad. i’ve herd good and bad stories with them, and had no idea how good their support was. onsugar does look promising , but 6 months is still quite young!
    ❤ denise… well i as julie said typepad offers a lot of support. i can only vouch for wordpress by saying there is a lot of support in the forums, if you know how to search it. otherwise you’re on your own. and with wordpress, it’s free, but you have to pay for your own hosting and domain…
    ❤ grechen… i agree, i love wordprss, but i also love tinkering around with this code stuff… though i must admit i hate doing the updates, everything else is so cool.

  20. Kate says:

    Currently I switched from WordPress to Tumblr and I must say I like how tumblr works. It’s different, but it’s a good system, which still gives you enough room to create your own templates etc…I also like the following and reblogging system.

  21. eyeliah says:

    Great post, always so helpful. I bought my domain straight off the bat, and then use wordpress,so I gues sI am on the right track there. I really suck at the formatting though, people who view with internet explorer get a bit of a mess!

  22. Helen says:

    You’re so right about MoveableType, I’ve used most of the major blogging systems out there during my years of blogging for myself and other and MoveavleType has more issues than most.

    I think WordPress (self hosted) has gotten a lot better since it’s early days and it’s so flexible and I love the plug-ins you can get to make it even better. Open source systems rock! That said, i’m not the biggest fan of WordPress.com (they host it) because there isn’t as much flexibility and some of the flexibility depends on the theme you choose.

    I’ve never jumped on to BlogSpot since my days of toying with Blogger as my blogging system in the late 1990′s – early 2000′s. I stopped using it when I moved on to GreyMatter then to WordPress in 2005. I haven’t looked back ever since!

  23. Sabrina says:

    Hi there, full disclosure, i work for Sugar, specifically on OnSugar. We are still a young platform, and yes there are some glitches from time to time, but we’re really listening to the feedback and are trying to make the product better based on what our users say/ask for. Also we’re free (even domain mapping), and allow a lot of flexibility in regards to themes and ad placement (you can run as many as you want). I can answer more questions offline if needed. Oh and since we are still so new, i also moonlight as a help desk, and you can bother me anytime.

    However, if you’re going self-hosted (which i think is smart for folks who know what they want and can set it up and cover hosting costs), i’d definitely opt for WP over MT. I used to use MT and it was so frustrating at times. I haven’t personally used self-hosted WP, but from what I’ve seen/heard it sounds so much more flexible and easier than the alternatives.

  24. Jordana says:

    I’ve played with a number of platforms and definitely think WordPress allows the most flexibility/customization. I like the look/feel of ONSugar and am a big fan of Tumblr too.

    Artisteer was a dream come true – it really lets you create your own layout and design without having to deal with the coding or trying to use an existing WP template. LOVE it!

  25. lotte says:

    i need help redesigning my site any one!

  26. Meghan says:

    I just switched my blog over from Blogger to WordPress and am definitely still getting used to it, but this Artisteer sounds really great! I’m going to check it out bc I hate that WordPress themes hardly let you customize unless you are paying!

  27. R.O. says:

    I use Squarespace. You can have your blog up and running on there in no time, and make it as simple or as complex as you want. It is WYSIWYG, but allows you to integrate your own code as well. They provide the hosting as well. It is $20 a month, but i think its worth it, since they also provide support. You can even import your current blogger, moveable type, typepad, or wordpress blogs. I think they have a two week free trial, after whch you can always export your Squarespace blog code so you can switch back to your old platform if you don’t like it.

  28. Fernanda says:

    Hello everybody!
    I had this doubt when I decided to start blogging. My main problem with WordPress was that things cannot be categorized and at the same time appear in the main page, at least I didn’t know how to do it. Then I discovered Drupal. Drupal is very powerful and you have lots of options with it: you can personalize everything! The only problem is that it is dificult to find a free Drupal host with mysql and other things you might want, but there are lots of options of very cheap hosts: see for example nearlyfreespeech.net. It is a good way to start without spending almost any money (you will only need a domain) and you can see if whether “blog” is what you expected or no to be.

    Fernanda’s last blog post..Jana Rosa conta "tudo" aqui no blog!

  29. Olivia says:

    I use Typepad and it works well for me so far. I figured that I would be paying for a company to host my blog anyways, that I mind as well have typepad host it because it’s so easy to use.

  30. Christina says:

    My blog is on Blogger, and I absolutely love it! My blog is only a year and a half, and I have seen a huge increase in traffic and subscribers. I’m not sure what the ratio is to switch to WordPress. I tried to switch to WordPress, but they don’t allow you to monetize, so I switched back to Blogger. I have found it to be more liberating, and I have found some awesome magazine style templates (the template I’m using now is magazine style, and I have had a lot of compliments on the design!) So, I would say do what works for you, don’t get too caught up on which best–afterall, readers are more interested in the content than the design, anyway…
    .-= Christina´s last blog ..My First 2 NY Fashion Week Invites : ) =-.

  31. Neesh B says:

    I Think tumblr.com is lame ass ever i just tried to do it on their and i dont like it i think blogger is great and wordpress i actually had blogger first and still do but i imported all my stuff from my blogger to my wordpress so i have both of them runnning..Feel free to check them out

    http://neeshbfly.blogspot.com

    http://therealdish.wordpress.com

  32. Karissa says:

    I use OnSugar for both of my blogs; Fashionista Files & Gossip Girl Fashion and I love it. You can also use ShopSense with it so you get money for each time someone clicks on the clothes you post. It’s a great way to make money.

  33. spectra says:

    The blog that we run is powered by the onsugar network, and for the things we do so far the platform is pretty nice, the only problem though is that it has a limited variety of templates.

  34. Belly says:

    I like information about fashion. I am glad to visiting this blog. information about women, shopping and a very comprehensive fashion. thanks

  35. WordPress is the best blogging platform. I love the plugins. Tumblr is much more like a scrapbook and a diary rather than a blog IMO.

  36. Avatar of Faith
    Faith says:

    I like WordPress! I started out using Blogger, but when it didn’t have the kind of themes I wanted, I switched over to WordPress. It was a little confusing when I first switched, but I got the hang of it very quickly! WordPress has beautiful themes that look very professional for blogs! I love the look of my blog!

    http://vintagereverie.wordpress.com

  37. Nicole says:

    I have been blogging for about 2 years now on the blogger platform, and I must say since I first started they have improved a great deal. I just made over my log for the new year and I love it! I tried wordpress.com but they do not allow for monetizing, and because my blog is a big part of my PR business it made sense to stay with blogger. As for domain name , my domain is a subdomain of my original business name.

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