Dear Lifehacker, I want to start a new blog, but I’m not sure which platform is best for me. WordPress is the most popular, and there are many more common choices, but I’m not sure what will fit my needs the best. Can you help?Sincerely, Bewildered Blogger
Photo by Kheng Guan Toh (Shutterstock).
WordPress is popular because it’s great. So is Tumblr. Of course, these two platforms are vastly different. WordPress can be hosted by WordPress or self-hosted, and it offers an immense amount of control. Tumblr is only hosted by Tumblr and is kind of a cross between blogging and Twitter. If you were only choosing between the two, you’d go with WordPress if you wanted to write more long-form posts and Tumblr if you just wanted to post neat things you find online (or, on occasion, create yourself). But you’re not choosing between just two platforms. You have a wide number of options that do the same thing as these two platforms, plus you’ve got a variety of choices in the middle. Posterous, for example, is very similar to both. Before we take a look at your options, there are a few things you’re going to want to answer these questions (or at least keep them in mind as you read your options:
- Do I want to install, configure and host my blog myself, or would I rather rely on a hosted service?
- Do I want to create my own blog theme, or am I satisfied with using or customising an existing theme?
- Do I want to be able to install custom plug-ins or am I satisfied with the functionality that is built-in to the platform I choose?
- Will I be writing more long-form posts or posting cool things I find online? Or do I need to be able to do both?
- Do I want others to be able to comment on my post and interact with my content in a social way, or do I just want to be able to have a place to post my writing where people can read it and nobody can bother me?
- Am I willing to pay for this blogging platform?
Your Blogging Platform Options
This is, by no means, a full list of your options, but rather a list of the ones we like that cover the majority of blogging needs. Each option comes with a brief explanation of its strengths and what type of blogger it would benefit most.
Tumblr is a free social blogging platform that’s designed to take most of the effort out of actually blogging. Initially, blogging meant writing. On Tumblr, it means sharing something cool that you found online and occasionally attaching a caption. That doesn’t mean Tumblr can’t handle original content as well, but it’s not designed for anyone who is looking to create a long-form blog. If you simply want to share neat stuff and have a social network built-in to your blog so you can easily interact with other users, Tumblr is the way to go.
If Tumblr is a bit too simple for you, but you still want simple, Posterous Spaces is a great choice. It simply lets you post what you want and interprets the content you provide it. You can post from the Posterous site, but you can also just email everything you want to put on your blog. It’ll turn photos into galleries and convert video into a player as well. You can create custom themes, use your own domain name and more. It’s a great option if you want simplicity, don’t need a lot of control, but need the versatility to post short-form and long-form content alike.
Squarespace is a paid blogging platform that offers easily customisable themes, as well as the option for people well-versed in CSS to create their own. Squarespace is more versatile than your average blogging platform, however, as it’s completely capable of creating websites as well. The entire interface is web-based, and it’s pretty easy to learn. (If you need help learning it offers a great set of tutorials.) Basically, Squarespace was designed to create really nice websites very quickly and easily, without the need for the end user to have to figure out where to host their software, how to install it and how to best set it up. As a result you pay for that convenience — a minimum of $US12 per month and lose some control over what you can do with your blog/website and how it can be customised. That said, if you’re only looking to host one site, and you want to make something more complex than your programming skills allow, Squarespace is the platform for you.
WordPress is pretty well-known as the most popular blogging software around. It has that reputation because it is really great. It’s easy to get your blog started if you choose a hosting service, and even if you host WordPress yourself there are hosts (such as DreamHost) that offer one-click installations of the software. WordPress offers over 1000 free themes, and there are many great themes you can buy. It’s also easy to create your own theme, even if you don’t know much about writing code. (You will need to learn a little CSS, though.) If you do know how to code, however, you can add custom functions to your themes, create plug-ins, and use WordPress to do virtually anything you want. It’s a very strong platform and always a solid choice for those reasons. If you’re looking to write more long-form posts and create a more traditional blog without too much effort, WordPress is probably your best option. While it isn’t designed for short-form blogging, it’s certainly versatile enough to work that way if you take the time to customise it.
Habari is an excellent, lesser-known blogging platform written in PHP. It’ll require manual installation and a lot of work on your part if you want a completely custom blog — and you will, because the existing theme options could be a bit better. Although Habari is not as popular as WordPress, it still has plenty of plug-ins and an amazing amount of functionality built-in. It offers one of the best admin sections/post editors you’ll ever use and includes full keyboard control. It’s the most versatile and customisable solutions of anything on this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Habari isn’t difficult to use, but to get the most out of it you’ll want some programming experience. If you want full control over your blog with the help of a great content management system, Habari is the way to go.
We hope this helps you make your decision. Happy blogging!
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