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How to choose a blogging platform (Comparison table)

Selecting the right blogging platform for your creative blog is no easy task! Because there's a lot of variables to consider! 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?
How to choose a blogging platform - A beginners guide to blogging via @howjoyful

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

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, WordPress.com, and WordPress.org)

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 bandwidth, 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 design 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 than 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 WordPress.com, you have an account, log-in and start blogging.

The comparison table

WORDPRESS (dot) ORG

WORDPRESS (dot) COM

BLOGGER

Cost Free software, but you need to pay web hosting and domain* FREE FREE
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. It only requires you to set up an account. You can have multiple blogs under the same account. It 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 Yes Up to 10 pages
Supports widgets** Yes No. Does not support 3rd party scripts or most HTML codes. Yes
Custom Domain Yes, you HAVE to set it up with a custom domain.
yourcustomURL.com
Yes. You can link your domain (www.domainname.com) to your blog paying about $15/yr. Your default link is something like
yourblog.wordpress.com
Yes. You can link your domain (www.domainname.com) to your blog for FREE. Your default link is something like
yourblog.blogspot.com
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 starting a blog with serious aspirations and consider advertising or blogging for profit, I would recommend you to go with a self-hosted option (WordPress.org) 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.

WHERE TO HOST YOUR WORDPRESS.ORG BLOG?

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 every time 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.

THE BEST HOSTING?

BlueHost hosting company

Bluehost is the most affordable options and they have worked really hard to implement 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.

» SIGN UP WITH BLUEHOST TO START YOUR BLOG NOW

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.

» SIGN UP WITH SITEGROUND TO START YOUR BLOG NOW

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 LOOKS OF YOUR BLOG

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 them 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.

THEMES WITH GENESIS

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.
  • 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 =]

IS YOUR BLOG JUST A HOBBY?

If you blog as a hobby and have no plans of monetizing in the future, I would suggest you consider Blogger or WordPress.com – 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!

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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zithromax

Friday 24th of August 2018

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

Friday 24th of August 2018

Hi!

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!!! xo

Laurie

Thursday 24th of April 2014

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

Sunday 26th of April 2015

Hi Laurie,

To get strated with wordpres.com 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 =]

Karyn

Sunday 12th of January 2014

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

Monday 20th of January 2014

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 Wordpress.com ) the set up is very easy and you can even get your own domain inside blogger.

Hope this helps! XO

Abhi Khatri

Tuesday 22nd of October 2013

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! :)

sacha

Monday 6th of May 2013

thanks for the info. i'm using wordpress, but got curious about other platforms.