This is our second instalment of our series “How to Start a Blog in 5 Minutes”. Check out the list of other posts here.
Choosing a platform for your blog can seem daunting. With so many choices and options, it be hard to know where to begin, but really you just need to consider:
– How much do you want to pay for your blog (if anything)?
– How much customising do you want to/ need to do?
– What extras do you need your platform to do, say run a shop or showcase your creative work?
While there are a lot of platforms available, we are going to walk you through 4 of the most popular.
Many bloggers that you know and love will have started out on Google’s Blogger platform. It offers a solid start for new bloggers, is quick and easy to get started on and is especially good if you already use Google’s other tools like Gmail and G+. However, its dated interface and limited customisation options can be frustrating if you are looking to do more than just write.
- Easy to Use
- Integrates well with other Google products
- Customisable. In addition to the built in templates, Blogger uses HTML and CSS for customisation, which is easy to learn or there are many designers out there who have the skills to help you at competitive rates.
- Mobile friendly straight out of the box
- Its interfaces and templates can feel a bit dated.
- Depending on the template used, it may resize your photos.
- There can be problems with storage space, with a limit of 15GB of storage space shared with your Google Drive.
Another great, free option is WordPress.com. Like Blogger, this is a free, blog out of a box option that gets you blogging in minutes.
- Easy to use
- Up and running within minutes
- WordPress handles all of the maintenance, upgrades and hosting for you
- Limited customisation
- Your blog will be subjected to ads which you have no control over, unless you pay for the ad-free service
- There is limited storage in the free version of WordPress, however you can buy additional storage.
Paid for Services:
Though technically a free platform in and of itself, WordPress.org (often referred to as “self-hosted WordPress”) will require you to buy and set up a domain name and hosting from a 3rd party service provider. This isn’t hard and a range of how-to guides exist to get you up and running. Once set up, WordPress.org has essentially unlimited options for functionality through its apps, referred to as plug-ins.
- Almost infinitely customisable. You can really build the site of your dreams with WordPress.
- There are thousands of themes available to make a site you love. There are free and paid for sites, both through WordPress itself and other platforms like Themeforest.
- A very popular platform, meaning there are lots of designers and developers who will be able to make any changes if you require them.
- Does require some technical know how to set up, but there are lots of guides out there.
- You need to buy a domain and hosting from a 3rd party. We use TSOhost across all of our sites.
- The limitless options can be daunting.
- You will need to stay on top of maintenance and upgrades. Its easily done, but will require some attention.
- Plugins con conflict with one another.
- Not all templates are mobile friendly.
“I use self-hosted WordPress. I love the free templates that are available and also love how flexible it is and how easily you can adapt the look & feel.” Katie Sadler Www.benourishd.co.uk
“I use self-hosted WordPress too & I enjoy the freedom it gives me to design & tailor my blog to my style.” Danielle Stoker www.dannisawthis.co.uk
“WordPress self-hosted. It’s the best way to go, but it has a steeper learning curve than Blogger, so I’d save that for step 2. I do love the customisation options! You can do so much with it!” Elisa Bieg www.Globetrottinginheels.com
If you are after a good looking site, straight out of the box with little or no technical know-how required on your part, then Squarespace is an excellent option. This paid-for service has become popular with artists, designers and photographers. It has built in templates that offer a good range of functionality from photo galleries to shops, making it a popular choice for businesses. It integrates well with Dropbox and across social media platforms.
- Beautiful site from the get go, without requiring much technical know how or searching.
- Excellent customer service
- Easily customised on the front end, so you can see the changes you are making to the design.
- All templates are mobile friendly from the outset.
- Subscription fees apply based on what you want to do with your site, but most beginning bloggers will use the $10/month category, but note there are limitations on pages and storage at that level.
- If you are looking for a shop, Squarespace’s payment handler, Stripe, while beautiful, doesn’t take paypal.
“I’ve just switched to Squarespace from WordPress and I love how easy it is to create a beautiful site. Perfect if you like to include a lot of pictures in your blog.” Beck Jones www.reallyprettyuseful.co.uk
In the end, you need to think about how much you want to pay, how much technical involvement you want and what you want to use it for. Most platforms make it easy to switch between them, so don’t worry about migrating your content over if you decide down the road that you want to switch.
See you next week when we look at the bare bones of what you need in a blog and blog design.