If you have read my post Starting a blog – it’s easier than you think and you are now tempted to give blogging a go, here are some hints and tips on choosing a blog platform.
Choosing a blog platform that’s right for you
If you are new to blogging let me explain what a blogging platform is and why you need one. A blogging platform is the software system you use to add and edit your content (i.e. blog posts). There are a number of platforms to choose from some of which are completely free to use and others you have to pay for. If you are a complete novice it is probably better to start with something that is free because free blogging platforms are typically super easy to use and don’t demand any technical knowledge.
Although there are quite a few free blogging platforms to choose from, the two that are usually at the top of the recommended list are WordPress and Blogger. Creating and writing blogs using either of these is as simple as using a word processor such as Microsoft Word.
Free or paid-for blogging platform?
Although a free blogging platform is probably the most suitable for a complete novice, it is worth knowing what the pros and cons of a free platform are and what the paid-for alternatives offer. So before you rush in to anything, take some time to have a read.
When choosing between a free or paid-for blogging platform one of the main considerations is deciding how you want your blogs to be hosted (i.e. where they are stored on the web).
Free blogging platform providers host your blogs for you (these are called hosted blogs). The advantage of a hosted blog is that because all of the files and software used to create your blog are taken care of by the provider, you don’t have to worry about maintaining them. However, even though you have complete control over the content of your blogs, you don’t have any control over where or how they stored. This means that in theory your blogs could be taken down/removed at any time and you will have no way of recovering your content. Your domain name will also include an automatic extension (i.e. a bit tacked on the end). See ‘What is a domain name?’ below for more on this.
A self-hosted blog on the other hand, gives you the freedom to choose your own host and your own domain name and so you have complete control over your blog and its contents.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the address that people use to find your blog or website. It is a good to use a domain name which can be easily remembered and reflects the subject/topic of your blog but keep it short (short domain names are not only easier to remember they are also easier and quicker to type).
If you decide to use a free blogging platform, your domain name will include an automatic extension (i.e. a bit added on the end which reflects the name of the provider). For example:
Because all blogs set up on a free platform will have these extensions you may decide that you would prefer to have a unique name (i.e. without the added WordPress.com or blogspot.com extensions). To do this you will have to purchase a domain name from a domain name registrar and then redirect (point) your blog to the blog address you have set up in WordPress or Blogger. This is typically done through Settings on your blog but you would have to check this with your provider. For this website I purchased my domain name through GoDaddy but click here for a list of the top 10 domain name providers (2016/2017)
Choosing a blog platform – setting up a free blog
If you decide you would like to start with a free blog then click here to set up a free WordPress.com blog. Because Blogger.com is owned by Google you will first need a Google account. Once you have created this, you simply sign into Google and then click on New Blog.
Choosing a blog platform – setting up a self-hosted blog
With a self-hosted blog you have to download and install the blogging software yourself, choose and sign up to a hosting company and purchase your own unique domain name. With a self-hosted blog not only do you have to pay for the hosting and a domain name, you are also responsible for the maintenance of the blog and so many people choose to use a free service first of all. However, if you want to become a serious and prolific blogger then the increased flexibility of a self-hosted blog and access to many more features means that this is definitely your best option. If you can’t handle the set up and/or maintenance yourself, you could use the services of a webmaster.
WordPress. org is probably the most popular self-hosted platform but do a search on the internet to find out what else is available. WordPress provides a selection of payment plans including the free option (as described above) and the self-hosted option – click here to find out more about the WordPress plans.