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I've been blogging at HowJoyful since 2010 and even though all of these years of blogging do not make me an expert by any means, there are things that I know now, that I wish someone had explained to me way back when I first started. Like, where should I start my blog?

So today, I am sharing a table with the major factors that should influence your desition when it comes to blogging platforms.

How to choose a blogging platform - A beginners guide to blogging via @howjoyful

So I am going to use a few posts that I had already written for my Design website and I am going to update them and share them here (along with some new content of course!) because I know that they can help some of the ones that are just venturing in the Blogging world.

In this new section I am going to cover the most frequent questions I get asked by my clients, but if you have a special topic you'd like me to blog about, just mention it on the comments and I'll try my best to cover it.

So to start, I am going to talk about blogging platforms.

I will cover the 3 most popular ones with my clients (Blogger,, and


How to choose the right platform for your blog

When starting a blog or when having a re-design most bloggers question what platform they should go with?, and to be honest it's about band-with, size, investment, and flexibility.

Personally, I started in Blogger, BUT I moved to WordPress.ORG after 3 months. I did this when I realized how limited I was on the designs aspects, how the pages worked and the fact that during that month, Blogger crashed and I had no way to recover my content.

The thing is, when you play in someone else's platform, you are subject to their rules.

WordPress.ORG gave me the flexibility of design I needed and also allowed me to set up the automatic backup of my blog in case something happened. And trust me, I've used that feature more times that I would want to.

but I would like for you to make your own choice, so I want to cover the options as best as possible.

So to start, note that there are two different WordPress, one is the free software you install in your own Host (.org), you are in charge of installing and updating, the other is self-hosted, meaning it's run and updated by, you have an account, log-in and start blogging.


The comparison table








Free software, but you need to pay web hosting and domain*




Level of customization allowed


FULL: You can transform it to look like a website or blog, set up slideshows, add PHP, Javascript, etc.



MEDIUM: You can customize the CSS file purchasing an upgrade normally $40/yr but it will only change the style sheet and fonts – so you can NOT run a custom theme.


FULL: You can transform it to look like a website or blog, set up slideshows, add PHP, Javascript, etc. but the capabilities are more limited.



Set up level


You will need to set up a database and then install the WordPress software in your host.



Only requires you to set up an account. You can have multiple blogs under the same account.


Only requires you to set up an account. You can have multiple blogs under the same account.



Software updates


You have to manually update the software and plugging, you will get a notification on the dashboard when a new version is available.




The update is automatic for the software, no plugging allowed.


Automatic updates and usually they will notify you in the dashboard when new features are added.



Allow Pages


Yes, Unlimited





Up to 10 pages


Supports widgets**





No. Does not support 3rd party scripts or most HTML codes.





Custom Domain


Yes, you HAVE to set it up with a custom domain.



Yes. You can link your domain ( to your blog paying about $15/yr. Your default link is something like


Yes. You can link your domain ( to your blog for FREE. Your default link is something like



Good for


  • Advanced bloggers that want more control or flexibility with your blogging.
  • Individuals that want to build a personal brand.
  • Small companies.



  • New bloggers that are not too interested in tweaking your blog or getting all the latest and greatest features and plugging offered by self-hosted options.
  • Bloggers that don't have the resources to manage a custom installed blog.

  • New bloggers that are not too interested in tweaking your blog or getting all the latest and greatest features and plugging offered by self-hosted options.
  • Starter businesses that need a web presence but don't have the resources for a hosting plan.

** Widgets are HTML or PHP code added normally on sidebars or footers. Example: Google Friend Connect, BlogHer, PassionFruitsads, Counters, Google Adsense, etc.

Most hosting providers cost anywhere from $2-12 dollars a month and they almost always come with a free domain name (in case you don't have one already) I highly recommend: BlueHost & Siteground.


So, If you are considering to start a blog with serious aspirations and consider advertising or blogging for profit, I would recommend you to go with a self-hosted option ( The software itself is free, but you will need a hosting account to install WordPress.

Nowadays, most Hosting companies offer a one-button install of WordPress.OG, back in the day you had to manually install and mess up with databases and things that were too complicated for the average user, especially when starting.



Once I moved out of Blogger, I went to an unnamed blogging company that seemed like an awesome deal, but once my blog passed the 10,000 monthly visits, they wanted to charge me double what I was paying!

That same day I moved everything to Bluehost and stayed with them for about 4 years, the only problem I kept having with them was that everytime my traffic would spike, or something would go viral (One time I had a post reach 500,000 pageviews a day before the whole site went down for about a week!!!) I would have to upgrade in hopes that it would not happen again.

I was tired of it and this year (2018) I switched to Siteground and it has been smooth sailing ever since.

The thing though is that I am paying Siteground what I used to pay for a private server in Bluehost, but for a shared server. So the price is more, but I needed that peace of mind.



BlueHost hosting company

Bluehost is the most affordable options and they have worked really hard to implement a better customer support (that was something a lot of people have complained before, but I never experienced.)

As a user, I've seen the improvement first hand and I would recommend them no question asked. You can get started with BlueHost for less than a cup of coffee a month, right here.



Siteground hosting company

Siteground is the more reliable option, and that comes with a higher price tag. The speed increase and free backups alone made it worth it for me, but also you have a higher threshold for traffic and depending on the plan you select, you can have multiple websites and SuperCacher for super fast loading.




IMPORTANT: If you are just starting, you might want to go with the more affordable option. You can always switch hosting companies as necessary, one thing that should never do is stay with a company you are not satisfied with =]





The Design part is also easy now (compared to when I started back in 2010) because themes are so advanced!

My favorite themes lately are from BluChic, I love how clean, minimalistic, feminine and most importantly, you will not need the Genesis framework in order to make them work so that makes thme VERY affordable in comparison to the ones that require Genesis, all you need is the theme and that's it! Check out the Maggie theme here.

Another of my favorites and the one I am currently using in my blog is the Enfold Theme by Kriesi, I love that just like the Bluchic themes it does not require Genesis and that it has many different ways to customize pages, shop, portfolio and landing pages. It's also one of the few I've found to be search engine optimized and it is translate-ready. Also, it has a bomb editor that makes custom pages super easy! I can not recommend it more (plus their tech support is always so fast and resolve all the issues I've had so far) Get the Enfold theme here.



But what is the Genesis Framework? In short, Genesis is the bones of most themes. Designers sell the “skin” (aka Theme). Genesis is one of the most powerful frameworks for blogs, and that is why so many bloggers prefer it to power their blogs.

But, as I mentioned before since Genesis is the bones that your blog will have, to make it pretty, you will still need a theme on top of the framework.

Most of the designer that works with Genesis, offer bundles so you can purchase both things together (most packages listed by Studiopress include a theme AND the Framework) If you want to read more about it, I recommend this Genesis guide for beginners guide where you can find answers to most questions. And if you already have the framework, I definitely recommend the following themes:

  • Glam theme: This one is my favorite from Restored 316, they also have this super handy quiz to help you select the template that would work best for your business or blog.
  • Pretty creative theme: Is my favorite theme (and for obvious reasons hehe) from Pretty darn cute design, they also have additional themes that you should definitely check out, they are all so pretty!
  • Boss pro: This one is probably my favorite theme from Designs by Bloom, a super close second option for me would be Simply pro. I absolutely love the minimalistic, but yet a super chic look of both of them and the best part is that all of their themes have Woocommerce integration, so if you plan to sell physical items, everything is already set up =]



If you blog as a hobby and have no plans of monetizing in the future, I would suggest you consider Blogger or – the set up is super easy and there are a variety of very economical templates, as well as some free ones  and while they might not have quite the same level of features, for someone that does not need much they are perfect!


Resources I love at the moment

Below you can check my favorite resources to learn and make money with your creativity!

  • SKILLSHARE: Is an awesome platform to learn lettering, photography, marketing and just about anything you need. I have a yearly subscription because I think that's an unbeatable value. If you want to give them a try, use my link to get 2 FREE MONTHS!
  • SHOPIFY: I switched to Shopify about 3 years ago and I love how easy it is now to have orders and my shop no longer goes offline and I never have customers unable to checkout, if you are thinking about opening a shop give them a try! FREE for 14-days.
  • ZAZZLE: Thinking about selling products with your art? give Zazzle a try. They have an incredible amount of products that you can customize and tools to create a branded storefront that you can promote. Open a store here.


And that's it my friends! I hope this helps you understand the differences a little better and if you are looking for more check out this post by Darren from Problogger.

And if you want to save it for later, just pin this image!

How to choose a blogging platform - A beginners guide to blogging via @howjoyful


I hope you have a wonderful day!



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Joy Kelley is a Chilean Designer & lettering Artist. Mom to 3 little boys. Crafter. Pattern lover. Color obsessed. Lemon pie dependent. And the hand behind the HowJoyful Studio & HowJoyful Shop. Read more about her & the blog here →

19 replies
  1. Angel Y.
    Angel Y. says:

    Great post! I agree with self-hosted WP being the way to go but it’s so great that there are plenty of options to choose from. What a great table! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Annie - The Ranting Latina
    Annie - The Ranting Latina says:

    This table’s awesome and a great resource! Bloggers of all sizes will appreciate it.. However, I’d add that the “Good For” section kind of makes it sound as though self-hosted WP Blogger was the absolute best-est for those who care about having a nice-looking site, but there are plenty of advanced bloggers and companies w/a Blogger presence and beautiful Blogger websites. The way I see it, it’s all a matter of taste and comfort level, since both can be fully customizable (as you mentioned). Thanks for sharing!

    • Joy
      Joy says:

      I think Its definitely about taste, there are huge bloggers that are perfectly comfortable with a Blogger powered blog, but others that need more specific features (like different structure for different pages or categories) always end up migrating to WordPress because blogger still does not support this (and others) kind of features. When I started they didn’t even supported pages! (that was my reason to start with self hosted WordPress), so at the end it’s about what features you need your blog to have =]

  3. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    Great post, thanks for the tips!

    I’m still kind of new to all this, but I would love to learn more about how to create your own template for wordpress. I have my design almost finished in photoshop, but it’s pretty complicated to turn it into a working template for wordpress (hosted on my own domain). Maybe you can help with some tips/tricks?

    • Joy
      Joy says:

      Hi Kathy, the coding process can be very tricky, if you are starting from scratch I would recommend you to read the Digging into WordPress book ( it has a lot of resources for people that are just starting in the coding world =]

  4. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Great tips – although I don’t know how you can beat wordpress as a blogging platform with all it can do.

  5. Anna
    Anna says: is for me, just can’t be beaten in terms of the freedom and flexibility you get from all those plugins! Having said that…I have had quite a few techy hurdles to overcome and did need support in setting up. It took much longer than I thought it would to get everything just right. So, I can totally understand why someone would want to start with something like or blogger – I think the most important thing is to just get started and build momentum! So, I’d say – either go with (and get a professional, like you, to support in getting everything set up) or go with Blogger or I say this because it’s so easy to get excited about the idea of starting a blog, but then stop everything because you feel out of your depth. This is a really useful comparision chart, and i’ve linked to it from blogbods as i know that’s where the newbie bloggers lurk. Wish i’d had it when I set up my own blog!

  6. Mer Santiago
    Mer Santiago says:

    Blogger is less hassle platform if you are just starting out but as you expand your interest in blogging plus the improvement of your site, WordPress got the flexibility to push your ideas in a more professional setup.

  7. Abhi Khatri
    Abhi Khatri says:

    Hello Joy, I like your blog very much. Will you please make a backlink to my website. I am a new blogger and hope you will help me.
    Thank you in advance! :)

  8. Karyn
    Karyn says:

    Thanks Joy, that was really helpful. Just wondering if you can give me a bit of further advice. I’m wanting to start a travel blog – mostly with the idea of keeping my family and friends up to date on my travels. I’ve never blogged before, but I do work with computers for a living so pretty confident that I wont find things too complicated. I want to be able to do things like photo albums and blogs and calendars or a world map with my trip plans – which blogging platform would you recommend for me, and how easy will it be to set up this kind of customisation without having to pay for things?
    Thanks! Karyn

    • Joy
      Joy says:

      Hi Karyn!

      If you are looking for something very simple and with no payments I would definitely recommend you to go with Blogger, you can easily customize it and add code for calendar and trip widgets ( unlike in ) the set up is very easy and you can even get your own domain inside blogger.

      Hope this helps! XO

  9. Laurie
    Laurie says:

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own weblog and was wondering
    what all is needed to get set up? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?

    I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100% sure. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Many thanks

    • Joy
      Joy says:

      Hi Laurie,

      To get strated with all you need is a hosting account, I would recommend you to maybe start with a free template to make it more economical and once you start monetizing you can have a designer make a custom theme just for you =]

  10. zithromax
    zithromax says:

    Wonderful blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers?

    I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or
    go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally
    overwhelmed .. Any ideas? Bless you!

    • Joy
      Joy says:


      If you plan to only blog for fun, a free platform like Blogger is all you need. Now if you plan to monetize and make money with your blog I would recommend you to start with WordPress.ORG since it’s unbeatable when it comes to customizations and it integrates better with Ad networks.

      Good luck!!!

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