Get on blogging, chapter 2 – Choosing the platform

Get on blogging is a new weekly series about blogging and becoming a blogger. In this second chapter I talk about choosing a blogging platform.

When you have decided to start blogging you will need to have a place for your blog. You can either host your own website or use one of the hosted blogging services. Hosted blogging services offer ready made platform for your immediate writing needs, whereas your own blog must be "built" before you can get on blogging. How to choose which platform works the best for you?

Self hosting or hosted?

Self hosting a blog requires purchasing a domain (eg. and a hosting service or having a server of your own. I doubt you'll have the latter so I'll just talk about hosting services here. Domains and hosting services come with different costs. You can get by with only a couple of euros a month (or a couple of dollars, what ever currency you are using) or you can pay a lot for the hosting. Many hosting services offer basic .com, .net or .org domains for free as part of their hosting packages. When you have the hosting set you'll need to install a content management system (CMS) or a blogging platform for your site. Of course if you have the tech skills and really want to mess around then you can build your own platform.

Self hosted blog has it's basic costs, but they aren't very high. When you have your own blog you will have a good variety on choosing how it looks and how it works. This depends mainly on your own skills and on if you are willing to use some resources and perhaps even money on your blog. A self hosted blog is quite flexible and gives you a good platform for blogging as you please.

Most hosted services are free or have free basic functions. You can usually start blogging right after creating an account and making some brief customisations. These platforms are built ready for you and often you can begin without touching too many options. So it's generally pretty easy. However platforms like this come with some disadvantages. Some of them will show ads for your blog readers whether you want to host ads or not. They also have certain restrictions, such as how your blog will look and how the content is presented. The restriction and customisation options differ between platforms. Hosted services can also come with a community that you can then try and get into reading your blog.

The biggest advantage a self hosted blog has over a hosted service is that you will own your content. A hosted service makes you to depend on the fact that the service will remain the same and will be there tomorrow. For instance the popular blogging service Posterous was shut down after only five years of being available. This was because Twitter purchased the company. Basically when you use a hosted service you will be trusting your blog content in hands of some company that can be sold or shut down any day. If blogging isn't that serious for you it's fine, but if you want to have control over your own content I recommend going with a self hosted blog.

Choosing a self hosted blogging tool

Lots of people use WordPress for self hosted blogging. It's a pretty nice blogging tool, it's free and comes with many options and additional plugins for extending it's functions. It's not my favourite since I feel it's a bit stiff for advanced customisations and creating something else than a basic blog site. My personal favourite is Drupal. It's a very flexible and powerful free CMS for building blogs and other kinds of websites. Extending Drupal is easy with add on modules and custom content types come as an in-build feature. Additionally there's an excellent module called Views which allows creating different sorts of pages and, well, views of your content.

However these two aren't the only options available for your self hosted blogs. There are multitudes of free and paid blogging platforms and content management systems with different kinds of features. One of the most popular ones, besides WordPress and Drupal is Joomla! and those of us who have around blogging since back of the time MovableType is pretty familiar. There are also light weight blogging tools such as Anchor or PivotX to mention some. If you want to go with something really simple, check out Jekyll.

How to choose the one for you? The WordPress fanatics will tell you to get WordPress because it's the bestest and us Drupal folks will give them a high nose and tell you not to be fooled. However the choice is yours and it shouldn't have anything to do with fanboys and fangirls telling you which CMS is their favourite. It really depends on what you need and that's a bit difficult thing. If you want something very simple and just to blog I recommend going with one of the light weight tools and if you think you might want to extend your blog to something else in time then go with the more complex ones. You'll also need to look through the plugin, module and other extensions of the different platforms. There are also paid systems that usually come with extra support and other such features their free counterparts may lack of. It would be best for you to test yourself which platform feels the best. Don't trust your initial feeling, give it a little longer try.

Choosing a hosted platform

If you decided to choose a hosted platform for your blogging you are facing lots of decisions, decisions. There are some very popular options, including and Google owned Blogger. Also the microblogging and social networking service Tumblr is often used as a blogging platform. Some platforms don't call themselves as blogs, but as something else like writing platforms or web-based editors. An example of this is Medium. Old school journal kind of blogging can be done on LiveJournal. A little less known one, but growing in popularity is website service Weebly. Paid options include such names as Squarespace, Typepad and Posthaven. There are many many other options, including some national blogging platforms which are aimed for bloggers of your own country.

As with the self hosted blog I recommend testing yourself which platform works the best. I also recommend trying reader functions like commenting or sharing blog posts, as well as reading the blog with a mobile device. You may notice things such as that commenting a Blogger blog can be difficult if you don't have a Blogger blog yourself and totally impossible on iPhones. You need to decide if the restrictions of different platforms bother you and which is best for you and your blogging needs.

Self hosted blogging tools have their fans and haters and so do the hosted platforms. The choice of the hosted platform comes down to a couple basic questions. What are your blogging needs? How much customisation you need? Do you want the community features? Do you want comments and who do you want to be able to comment your blog posts? What kind of blog posts are you going to write?

Next week's Get on blogging will be all about the content. Do you need to have a speciality and aim for niche markets? Can you successfully blog about your life? Should your content be strictly professional or could you be personal too?

Mervi Eskelinen

Hello, I'm Mervi!

An artist, nerd and business sorcerer, dedicated to make world more beautiful and strange with art, illustrations and logos + to help you figure your sustainable business out.

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