There are a few questions you need to ask yourself when choosing a platform for your first blog:
* Do I want a free blog, or do I want to pay for it
* Do I want it hosted on a blog platform, or do I want to host it on my own website with my own domain name?
* How technically capable am I?
* Is blogging just a passing interest for me or am I seriously in for the long haul?
Remember, whichever decision you make here can be changed later, but there might be a cost to it.
For example, if you move from a hosted blog to hosting it yourself, be aware that the address (URL) of your blog will change. It will change from something like yourblog.blogspot.com or yourblog.wordpress.com to something like www.yourblog.com. This will mean that if you have developed a loyal readership, with many links to your site from other blogs and directories, RSS feeds, and a good rank in the search engines, all of these will be lost. You will more or less starting all over again.
I can’t answer these questions for you. What I will do is outline my own journey into blogging.
Back in 2002 I became aware of the blogosphere (the universe of all blogs). It wasn’t called that then, but was becoming popular as an easy way to build and use a website. I had constructed a number of free sites, and was just beginning The Roaring Mouse webhosting business. One problem when you build a website for someone else, or even yourself, is that when you want to add or change something you have to edit the HTML or PHP, etc code and then upload the resulting files to the site using FTP. This is a laborious process requiring considerable technical knowledge.
I came across the Blogger.com service, and it seemed an answer to my dreams. I could quickly set up a blog using their templates. They would host it for free, and updates could be easily made using their simple WYSIWYG editor, and instantly published to the site. Anyone could do it. And what’s more, if I wanted I could even host the blog myself on my own domain, but still use their interface to post articles to it.
This is the route I chose. I still use Blogger.com for many of my blogs. It is simple to setup, easy to use, and the templates can be edited to give a degree of individualization to your site. They have just upgraded to a new version which is even better. It has added some features previously lacking, and also allows you to host your blog at Blogger while using your own domain name. Of course, as you browse the web you will see blogs that look far more attractive, and have more features than your own, and you will see mentions of other platforms such as Typepad, MovableType, WordPress, and numerous others.
I’m a skinflint at heart, so I like a bargain - and what could be a better bargain than free? So I decided to have a look at using WordPress.org. While you can host your blog with WordPress itself, at WordPress.com, most WordPress blogs are self hosted. If you have a webhost who provides WordPress installed on their servers, as most do, then you are away. I went to my control panel, to the scripts library, clicked on Install WordPress, and all the files appeared on my site using a default template. It was simple to do, and the result looked quite simple too. But it worked well. From my WordPress blog I could login to my own administration pages and set about customizing my blog. I found that there have been many themes (templates) written by users for WordPress blogs.
I’ve now used a number of these, and customized them to my own liking. There are plugins available that are easily installed and add exciting new features to your blog, such as comment spam eliminators, calendars, blogroll generators, sitemap generators, and so on. I now have a number of WordPress blogs, but still more Blogger.com blogs. A number of these do not have much traffic yet, so I might migrate them to WordPress. There are tools available for such migration. However, several do have a significant readership, so I will probable retain them and keep a foot in both camps. This is not a bad idea, because there are exciting things happening in both communities, and I would like to be able to contribute to the life of both. This is a great strength of the blogging community - the wealth of expertise available and the willingness to share it and help each other out.
Next time we will look at building a blog with Blogger.com, before tackling a WordPress blog.
Darren Rowse, the well known Problogger, has a good article on choosing a blog platform.
What is a blog?