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Which Blogging Platform is for You?


 
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So, you have decided to start a blog.

There are a number of important decisions that need to be made before you can start writing and publishing material to an online blog. Choosing which blogging platform to use is the first and perhaps most important decision of all. Your initial choice of platform will affect every aspect of your future blogging experience, making it a crucial decision to get right from the very beginning. It is much easier doing a little research now at the start of your journey than going through the painful process of moving an already established blog at some time in the future. It is important to make sure that you find a platform that provides the right balance - for you - between ease of use and depth of functionality.

Blogs also go by their more official title of Web Logs, and are fast becoming one of the most popular ways of publishing information on the Internet. A blog, in its most basic description, is a website that is displayed in a reverse sequential chronological order, often including a number of separate categories and archives. Many blogs are dedicated to a particular subject matter, while others act more as an online diary, an online magazine, or an online journal.

By asking yourself a few pertinent questions in these early stages, you can make sure that you are making the right decisions for the future of your blog.

- What will be the main purpose of my blog?

- Do I want to customise the design of my blog, and if so by how much?

- Am I looking to use a third party hosted platform, or a stand alone platform with my own hosting?

- What are my budget constraints?

- What is my level of programming and design ability?

By keeping these questions in mind when reading through the following descriptions of popular blogging platforms, it should be much easier to make the decision that is right for you. While there are a number of blogging platforms that you could use, the four that I have listed all have distinct advantages in a particular area, and are favoured by a number of amateur and professional bloggers from all over the world.

Blogger

One of the oldest and most popular of the big blogging platforms is Blogger. This Google owned and operated blogging system provides a simple way to get into the blogging game, although it does have a number of limitations. Blogger provides a totally free service for its users, and while it does include a fairly rich feature set, it is not an open source platform. This means that customisation can be difficult, and is at times even impossible.

There are a number of free themes and components that are available to use with Blogger, making it a simple and effective solution if you do not want to get into the nuts and bolts of programming your own blogging environment. Another possible advantage of using the Blogger platform is that it seems to be on good terms with the search engines, which is not surprising when you consider who the owners of Blogger are. This possible advantage is debatable however, and there are lots of people who publish blogs on multiple platforms who do not notice any search engine advantage when using Blogger.

Blogger does allow for the FTP transfer of blogger files to personally hosted websites; however, the vast majority of Blogger users choose to use the hosted Blogger platform. While Blogger is a fantastic tool for beginner and hobby bloggers, and is hard to beat as a free and simple solution, it is not used by many professional online publications. If you are looking to create a unique blogging environment or incorporate a rich back-end architecture, it is probably not the best choice for you.

Wordpress

Wordpress has become the major player in the blog publishing world in recent years. Wordpress has done so well because it offers users a powerful system and a rich functionality that is also easy to use. The Wordpress engine has two distinct personalities, which can be found at either Wordpress.org or Wordpress.com. Wordpress.org has been developed to provide you with the ability to host a blog on your own website, using your own hosting and your own unique domain name. Wordpress.com, in contrast, is a third party hosted platform where - much like Blogger - you do not control the software or the database, and do not have the ability to perform any heavy customization.

The Wordpress.org software is the blog engine of choice for a huge number of bloggers worldwide, including amateurs and professionals alike. As long as your domain name and hosting requirements are already taken care of, you can get Wordpress up and running with a simple five minute installation. There are lots of plug-ins available for the Wordpress platform, which are easy to install, and can add a wealth of features to any blog. Wordpress.com is much more difficult to customize, and because advertisements are not allowed on site, it is not an option for anyone who wants to make money through blogging.

Both of the Wordpress solutions are free to run, although if you choose to go down the self hosting route, you will have to pay for your own hosting and the purchase of your own domain name. Wordpress.org is home to one of the best, most powerful, and most flexible blogging platforms on the market. Wordpress.com provides an easy to use and hassle free alternative, although its limited features and inability to publish advertisements may rule it out for you.

Movable Type

Movable Type is a blogging platform that is operated by the company Six Apart, who also operate the TypePad platform. Movable Type has been around since 2001, making it one of the oldest blog engines in existence. It was re-licensed as free software at the end of 2007, and is the major competitor to Wordpress in terms of overall market share. In addition to the free version of the licence, there are also commercial, educational, and non-profit licences available which add a number of support features to this platform.

Movable Type is a self hosted platform with an installation procedure that is not as straightforward as that used by Wordpress. A familiarity with FTP and installation scripts will be of great benefit to anyone deciding to go down this road. There are a number of themes and plug-ins that have been created for Movable Type, although not as many as there are for Wordpress. One reason why people choose to use Movable Type is due to the increased security that is available on this Perl written platform. Customization of Movable Type is certainly possible, however, with not as many themes available to begin with, you may need to know how to do more direct coding to get the design and functions that you want.

You need to use your own hosting solution with Movable Type, giving you the benefit of a unique and non-generic domain name, but with the disadvantage of the costs that self hosting involves. Movable Type is a fantastic solution for professional bloggers, and if you have serious intentions towards monetizing your blog, it may very well be the right solution for you. It is not as easy to get up and running as Wordpress, and not as popular in terms of community support and available functionality; however, it is a solid platform that is worth checking out if you desire ultimate control and flexibility over your blog.

TypePad

TypePad is the second professional blogging platform that is developed by the team at Six Apart. TypePad may not have as big a market share as Movable Type does in terms of professional publications, but it is still a viable and powerful blogging solution. TypePad is a fee based and hosted platform with a number of existing templates, making it an easy to use solution that does not require any HTML or FTP knowledge.

TypePad is often advertised and recognized as the professional choice for people who wish to go down the third party hosted path. It provides a search engine optimized solution with a number of great looking templates, along with full video and audio integration. TypePad can be customized fairly easily, and it is even possible to code your design from scratch if you have the skills and motivation to do so. Using a paid blogging engine like TypePad means that you have support services provided for you 365 days a year, and this is a major advantage if you are just starting out on your blogging path.

TypePad is a great choice if you don't want to deal with the issues of hosting, file transfer protocols, and the back-end database management of your blog. If it is a hosted solution that you are after and you don't mind paying for it, TypePad can provide you with a great and flexible platform that has the ability to grow with your needs.

While there is a lot of choice when it comes to choosing a blogging platform, the four options that I have listed all offer a number of distinct advantages. Blogger is a great choice as a free and simple hosted blogging platform. Wordpress.com provides another free hosted platform, with a greater ability for customization, but an inability to publish advertisements. Wordpress.org offers a flexible, powerful, and professional environment for those wanting to become involved with self hosting and domain name management. Movable Type provides another professional stand alone solution, and while it may not be as easy to get started as Wordpress.org, many argue that its depth is even greater. As a third party hosted alternative that also has the depth and flexibility to be used as a professional solution, TypePad provides the best of both worlds in many ways. However, you do have to pay for support features and do not retain the same level of control as you do with one of the stand alone platforms. No matter what platform you decide to use, blogging is an exciting way to get into the Internet publishing world, and is a great way to develop, communicate to, and interact with an online audience.

 




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