Jul 27, 2015

LITHW #3 : Choosing your blogging platform


Hi everyone! 

First of all, let me say thanks to everyone who joined in the #LITHW15 twitter chat this Saturday! It was a huge success, and we were able to cover a lot of aspects of blogging! I hope that it was informative to everyone, and don't forget to join in out next chat, on the 15th of August 12 PM EST!

Having said that, let's move on to the topic in hand today!

When you start a blog, one of the most important decisions to make is your blogging platform! There are a couple of good ones, out there, and it's necessary to choose the right one!

So today, Ashley from Nose Graze is here to help you with it! Other than being a blogger herself, she runs a business to help bloggers and entrepreneurs with their websites, and you can check out her shop here

Over to you, Ashley!


How to choose a platform as a new blogger

You're new to the blogging world and want to get started, but the big questions are:

  • How do you get set up?
  • Where do you get set up?

There are a variety of different blogging platforms available, and they all have their own set of pros and cons. I'll walk you through a few of the most popular:

Blogger


Blogger is a simple, free platform owned by Google. It's easy to get started and completely free.

Pros:

  1. It's free! No costs at all.
  2. You can choose to buy and use a custom domain name (yearly fee).
  3. It's quick and easy to get set up.
  4. It's very simple and easy/quick to navigate.

Cons:
  1. Since it's free, there's less motivation for Google to keep it running. They could choose to shut it down at any time since it's not profitable for them.
  2. There aren't many options for customization or expansion. You can outgrow the platform quickly and easily.
  3. You don't own your content. This ties in closely to #1. You're storing everything on Google's servers and they can choose to shut your site down at any time, for any reason.
  4. Themes don't have a lot of customization power. You need to know how to code to make significant changes.
  5. There are a few arbitrary limits. For example: you can only have 2000 unique labels per blog, and only 20 per post.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com uses a stripped down version of the WordPress platform. Your content gets hosted for free on Automattic's servers.


Pros:
  1. It's very, very easy to move to self-hosted WordPress later, since it's still the WordPress platform.
  2. It's easy to get started. Pretty much just a matter of creating an account and signing in.
  3. Since every theme is coded or approved by Automattic, they're all guaranteed to work nicely. You don't have to worry about your site breaking when switching from one theme to another.
Cons:
  1. Since it's free, you have less ownership and control over your content. You're bound by a strict set of Terms of Service that may limit your ability to use advertisements, affiliate links, etc. Your site can get shut down at any time.
  2. You cannot use a custom theme.
  3. You cannot use any of the WordPress plugins.
  4. You have to pay for a lot of simple features, like the ability to add custom CSS code.
  5. You cannot use JavaScript or iframes, which may limit what you can post on your site. For example, you cannot embed Rafflecopter giveaways.

WordPress.org (self hosted)

I know this has almost the same name as WordPress.com and that's crazy confusing because they're actually totally different. With WordPress.com, you get a stripped down version of the WordPress platform. Automattic (a company) has the WordPress platform installed on their servers, they've stripped away some features (and added some others) and give you access to it for free.
On self-hosted (WordPress.org), you get the full, complete, unmodified WordPress platform and host it yourself. That means there's more of a set up process, but you also get a lot more features.

Pros:
  • You can use the thousands of free plugins and themes available in the WordPress.org repository. You can also upload any custom/premium plugin or theme you want.
  • Many themes have very user-friendly interfaces and settings panels where you can change the design.
  • Because of the thousands of available plugins, you have a lot of options for growth and expansion. You can create templates for different kinds of posts and save them, you can offer email subscriptions straight from your platform, you can view Google Analytics, improve SEO, or even sell products online.
  • It's completely open source. That means if you have coding knowledge you can change any part of the platform. You can code your own plugins, add your own features, or change how certain things work.
  • WordPress is used by 24.2% of all websites, and used by 60.3% of all website that use a content management system[source]. That makes it the single most popular content management platform on the internet. The benefit of this is that it's super easy to find solutions to your problems, since it's very likely that someone else has had the same problem at one point.
Cons:
  • There's a monthly fee for hosting (average $5 - $20 per month) and a yearly fee for a custom domain name (about $15 per year).
  • It's more complicated to set up. It's not just a matter of creating an account and logging in. You have to find a web hosting company, create an account with them, then install WordPress on that account. It's not too hard, but can be a bit confusing or overwhelming.
  • You cannot stop and take a break. Once you stop paying for your hosting, the company has the right to delete your site/data.
  • You're in charge of your own site. That means you have to be security conscious and stay on track of updating your plugins and themes.
  • There can sometimes be a "quality control" problem with themes and plugins. There's no warranty with those products so not everything may work correctly or work well together. You may sometimes experience issues when switching themes or adding new plugins.
Recommended web hosts:

Remember: you get what you pay for with hosting. Those $1/month deals (*cough* GoDaddy *cough*) might be tempting, but the less you pay the lower quality service you should expect!

Recommended plugins:

Squarespace

Squarespace is a blogging platform that's recently been on the rise. People are talking about it more and more. Let's see how it compares...

Pros:
  • You have a dedicated support team at your finger tips.
  • There's a free trial so you can test it out before committing to a monthly fee.
  • It's easy to sign up.
  • It's very "what you see is what you get". It's super easy to customize themes and see your changes instantly.
  • I've heard it's very simple and easy to navigate. People seem to love the admin interface.
  • It has a lot of integrations, like with MailChimp, Typkit, and Google Fonts.
  • It's very easy to add cool things like buttons, galleries, and columns.
  • Since every theme is coded by Squarespace, they're all guaranteed to work nicely, transition smoothly from one theme to another, and they're all responsive. You don't have to worry about your site/features breaking when you switch themes.

Cons:
  • There's a monthly fee (starting from $8 per month).
  • You cannot build your own theme. You can only use and customize the ones that are available to you. You don't have the option of hiring a designer to code something completely custom. (Note: They do have a "Developer Platform" with one of their higher tier plans that mentions having control over HTML and CSS, but I don't have experience with this first hand.)
  • There are fewer options since it's a closed source platform. You don't have access to thousands of plugins, like in WordPress. You only have access to the features that are given to you.
  • You cannot stop and take a break. Once you stop paying, Squarespace has the right to delete/remove your site.
  • The lower plan ($8/month) has some arbitrary limitations: maximum of 20 pages and 2 contributors.

What about the platforms not on this list?

If it's not on this list, don't use it.

Why would I say that? Because if it's not on this list then it's not a common or popular platform. And that isn't a terrible thing if you know what you're doing. But if you're not super tech savvy and will want to be able to easily Google things and ask for help, then you want a platform that everyone and their mother is using—not a platform that only a handful of people are using.

The platforms listed above all have a huge wealth of information, guides, and help available. You can easily Google for information you're looking for, or ask your friends for help since it's likely that you'll find people who are on the same platform.

Avoid these mistakes!

  • Using Disqus on Blogger? Make sure you enabled the "sync new comments" feature. Otherwise your Disqus comments won't sync back to Blogger and your comments won't move over to WordPress if you ever migrate.
  • Stay away from Weebly. A lot of people outgrow Weebly and want to move to WordPress later on, but Weebly makes it VERY hard to move away from since they don't provide any good content export options. If you want to try a free platform, choose Blogger or WordPress.com.
  • Interested in moving to WordPress? Make sure you understand the difference between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.org. Many people move to WordPress.com, but don't realize that it's not the full version of WordPress. Then they're disappointed when they can't actually use the plugins everyone raves about!

Which platform sounds the most appealing to you?

Or if you've already chosen a platform, which one did you go with?



1 comment:

  1. Bluehost is ultimately one of the best hosting provider for any hosting plans you need.

    ReplyDelete