January 17, 2020 at 5:38 pm #84174ChinomnsoParticipant@chinomnso
With so many options available, choosing a blogging platform can be challenging. In one of my previous articles, I wrote an in-depth review of the best website builders. But this article is focused on blogging platforms, although it may include platforms that double as website builders and blogging platforms.
What To Look For In A Blogging Platform
A blog should be easy to set up, both for techies and non-techies. Even without knowing how to code, a blogger should be able to click their way around and get things up-and-running.
It’s also important to figure out what kind of blog you want to build, what features you need, and the potential for growth. And it is good to decide whether you plan to monetize the blog or not. These considerations are important because starting off with the wrong platform may make things difficult in the future.
The world’s most popular blogging platform, WordPress makes blogging very easy. It is free and open-source, and allows you to set up your blog with ease, especially if you’re tech-inclined. A self-hosted solution, it gives you so much control over your blog, allowing you to install themes and plugins to change the look and feel of your website, and add functionality to it. In fact, with a dizzying array of plugins available – free and paid – it is possible to extend your site as far as your imagination and skills can take you.
It is different from WordPress.com (which I will discuss shortly) in that it offers you total control over your website and requires a hosting plan and a custom domain name.
WordPress is SEO-friendly. By default, WordPress has an option for pretty URLs, allowing you to change the structure or format of your URLs. With both free and paid SEO plugins, your blog’s SEO needs would be met with ease.
WordPress’ repositories give you access to tens of thousands of themes and plugins. And with plugins, you can take your site to another level, changing it from being just a blog. You can add a store, a forum, a photo gallery, and even more. This website is an example of a site that started off as a WordPress blog but grew to have extra features. You can even add paid membership as a feature to your site, where users gain access to exclusive content. The ability to add features to your website provides more monetization options.
WordPress is free. You won’t have to spend money purchasing a usage license, or subscriptions. You don’t even have to bother about overly restrictive license agreements. And if you are able to code, you can extend it by yourself by adding to its core, building features on top of it, or writing plugins for yourself.
I’ve mentioned before that WordPress is a self-hosted solution. Therefore, you will have to take responsibility for managing it, updating it and maintaining backups. You will also be responsible for the security of your website.
Although WordPress is free, you will have to purchase a domain name and a hosting plan which you will have to renew yearly. And if you do not know your way around, you may spend a lot on premium themes, plugins and extensions.
A website builder with blogging capabilities, Gator is a platform created by HostGator. It has a drag-and-drop user interface that allows you to create different types of websites including blogs, e-commerce stores, and corporate websites.
It is worthy of note that while Gator is owned and managed by HostGator, there is a bit of a difference between them. Gator is HostGator’s hosted website builder, while HostGator is a web hosting service on which you can host even your WordPress website.
It’s quite easy to set up. You don’t need to be a super coder to be able to set things up. The drag-and-drop builder is easy to use. HostGator takes care of security, backups and performance optimization. Adding an online shop to your blog is just a matter of a few clicks. And you get a free SSL certificate and a free domain name when you sign up for any of their plans. If you are unsatisfied with their platform, you can get a refund within 45 days of purchase.
Apps and extensions are few, limiting how far you can extend your website. Although enabling e-commerce features is pretty easy, it is available only to those on the higher pricing plans. There’s no free tier with which you can test-run their platform.
Blogger is one of the old guys on the block. First launched in 1999 by Prya Labs, it was later acquired in 2003 by Google, and redesigned into what we have today. It is free, and you only need to have a Google account to make use of Blogger.
Blogger is free – absolutely free! Even without technical skills, it is easy to use and manage. And Google takes care of security and software maintenance. Being among the oldest blogging platforms available, Blogger is quite stable and secure.
Design options are greatly limited. Templates are not many, and third-party templates for Blogger are not great. Blogger rolls out updates once in a long while. This means you cannot expect to see updates or new features every now and then.
It has only basic tools. It’s not open source. Therefore, you cannot add new features as your blog’s needs increase.
Probably the biggest disadvantage of using Blogger is that Google can decide to suspend your blog anytime on such grounds as plagiarism. Sometimes, they might unsuspend your blog, or the suspension could be irreversible, making you lose all your content. Who knows? In the future, Google could even decide to shut down the service altogether.
Medium was launched in 2012 and has since grown into a very popular blogging platform where journalists, activists, software developers, craftspeople, and others share their thoughts and teach their skills.
Medium has evolved into a community that operates like a very basic social network of some sorts. Once you create an account, publishing articles becomes very easy. You are given a personal URL in the format of https://medium.com/@yourusername.
Since November 2017, medium discontinued their custom domain name offers. But you can create a publication under which your articles will appear. You can add a logo that appears at the top of all posts in the publication, and you can also add contact information.
Medium is very easy to use. You don’t need any technical knowledge to set it up. And since it’s a fully hosted platform, you don’t need to worry about maintenance or updates. The user interface is very easy to use. Formatting text is a breeze. It’s very easy to upload pictures too. But you don’t have access to a library of pictures for reuse.
I mentioned earlier that Medium works like a social network – a large one at that. Reaching readers who have similar interests can be is easy as readers receive articles from topics they are interested in regularly.
Since November 2017, Medium no longer allows custom domain names. Therefore only those who got theirs from them prior to the discontinuation of support for this feature can still use theirs. This places a limit on your branding. Building a brand without a custom domain name makes the brand somewhat incomplete.
Medium is free – completely free.
You cannot monetize your blog by running ads. If you are looking to make money from your blog by way of monetization, stay away from Medium.
Design options are greatly limited. There are no themes, no templates – just the plain, white background with the same fonts.
Wix is a website builder that offers a good solution for small businesses to build websites. It also has blogging capabilities Adding a blog to your website can be done simply by adding the Wix Blog app. Boasting over 110 million users worldwide, it has come a long way since it was founded in 2006, allowing both techies and non-techies to create websites without coding skills.
Wix offers a basic plan free of charge. However, you cannot use a custom domain with this plan. You’d rather get a subdomain like https://yourusername.wixsite.com. But adding a custom domain costs $4.50 a month, and their premium plans start from $8.50 per month and go as high as $24.50 per month.
Customizing your website’s design is very easy because there are lots of templates from which you can choose. And if you want to add functionality to your website, you can choose from third-party apps. Setting up a blog using Wix is easy and can be done in no time.
Using Wix’s free account gives you very few features, and Wix branding and ads are displayed on your website. You have to be very sure of what design you will use because it cannot be changed once it has been selected.
Their blog features are quite limited and do not come close to some of the more advanced blogging platforms on this list. E-commerce features can only be used on paid plans, and those features are not great either.
Squarespace is a popular website builder that allows users to create stunningly beautiful websites using a drag-and-drop interface. Optimized for small businesses, the website builder which launched in 2003 is the platform on which millions of websites today stand.
With over 200 editable design templates, you can be sure your blog would be beautifully designed. The intuitive editor allows you to make changes easily at any time.
Pricing for their Personal plan starts at $16 per month. But if you pay for a year, you get the package at $12 per month. The Business plan goes for $26 per month or $18 per month if you pay for a year. For online stores, pricing starts at $26 per month and can go as high as $40 per month.
Squarespace’s templates are beautifully designed. Sometimes, bloggers add shops to their blogs. Squarespace offers e-commerce features. But it also offers a custom domain name along with SSL and HTTPS.
It is very easy for beginners to use. You don’t need to be a software engineer before you can use Squarespace.
Squarespace is a proprietary platform. Therefore, you are limited to features built into the platform. Available integration options are very few, so you can’t really extend Squarespace.
A minimalist blogging platform with features completely channelled towards writing blog posts, Ghost was launched in 2013. Ghost offers two options: a fully hosted version, and a self-hosted version.
The fully hosted version sells for a minimum of $29 per month for two users with a maximum page view count of 100,000. It doesn’t come with a custom domain. Therefore, it’s either you purchase a custom domain from a third-party registrar, or you make use of a subdomain with a .ghost.io extension.
To use the self-hosted domain, you must purchase a domain name along with a web hosting service. A web hosting service can go for as low as $39 per year, and a .com domain for as low as $7.88 for a year.
WordPress.com is a blog hosting service offered by the same company behind WordPress.org. It was launched in 2005 with the aim of making the WordPress.org experience available to more people.
It offers a basic blog hosting service for free. However, to access other features like a custom domain name, extra storage and other premium services, you need to upgrade to a paid plan.
The Personal plan sells at $4 per month billed yearly and gives you access to free themes, and just 3GB of storage. It is a very basic plan that excludes many essential features. To enjoy WordPress.com, you should signup for at least, the Premium plan.
You don’t need technical skills to set it up. It’s easy to use and manage. You don’t need to worry about backups, software updates, or other technical stuff. You can focus entirely on creating content.
You don’t have a lot of options available for customization. Even with some of the paid plans, WordPress will still display their branding on your site. You cannot upload and use custom themes and plugins except on the Business and eCommerce plans.
Even with paid plans, you cannot show ads from third-party ad services. You are restricted to showing WordAds – ads from WordPress’ ad service. And you lack total ownership of your web site as WordPress.com could suspend your account at any time if you violate their terms of service.
Tumblr is somewhat different from all the other blogging platforms discussed so far. It is a microblogging platform that offers social networking features including allowing you to follow other blogs and reblog other blogs. It also offers built-in sharing tools and more.
Tumblr is free to use and offers a free .tumblr.com subdomain. You can get a custom domain name which you will purchase separately, and you can also purchase third-party themes and apps to spice things up a little.
Tumblr is optimized for media content – audio files, images and videos. It has an integrated social media tool that makes sharing content very easy. Tumblr is very easy to set up and use.
Tumblr offers a limited set of features which cannot be extended as your blog grows in popularity. There are many themes offered by Tumblr, but they do not offer extra functionality. It is difficult to migrate your blog to another platform. Therefore, if you want to just start out on Tumblr and migrate in the future, you may need to reconsider.
An AI-powered platform, Constant Contact Website Builder allows users to create blogs for free, online stores and business websites within minutes. Using their drag-and-drop feature, you can customize templates to your taste. It also offers a logo maker and a library of over 550,000 professional stock images.
The Starter plan goes for $10 a month and gives you access to many powerful features along with phone support. This is important, as many other platforms don’t offer this form of support. The business plan costs $20 per month and allows you to access e-commerce features.
The drag-and-drop feature is easy to use and does not require any technical skills to use. Setting things up is very easy and you don’t have to bother about hosting. The free plan allows you to test the service and even build an online store before you purchase a plan. You get free SSL and a free domain name when you purchase any of the paid plans.
Constant Contact Website Builder offers limited integration options. This is because the developer community around it is small, unlike others like WordPress. Migrating your website to another platform would be difficult too.
From the points above, Constant Contact Website Builder is also a great option. You can use it to build a blog within minutes by using its AI-powered setup wizard.
With all its goodness, WordPress.org is the best option for blogging. Although it may not have the mildest learning curve, it is very powerful, affordable and very flexible. If you want something robust, one on which your blog can stay for many years to come, one to which you can add features, one that you can extend, WordPress is the right choice.
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