Everyone’s got a blog these days and depending on your topic of choice, you can make a pretty sizeable name for yourself online. Now, you probably won’t garner any accolades by just picking a site and writing right out of the gate.
To save you the hassle of narrowing down a service from dozens of choices, here are the top seven blogging platforms available today, so you can make your decision a bit more easily.
It’s almost infinitely customizable, designed for both novices and professionals and is one of the largest blogging platforms in the world. WordPress is a do-it-yourselfer’s dream blogging environment, thanks to its modular backend and numerous extensions for increased functionality.
WordPress allows users of all types to customize their blogs using either the pre-designed themes (of which hundreds are readily available), or HTML, CSS and PHP. Extensions give the user access to extra features, like editorial calendars, tag clouds, Twitter feeds and other doo-dads so their blogs run more efficiently and are more interactive for visitors.
Bloggers can utilize their own custom domain names with a paid hosting service, or they can use WordPress’s servers with a WordPress.com url. A vast user community and support system mean users don’t have to worry about messing up their blogs and being forced to start again (usually). There’s always a support forum, fellow blogger and even WordPress’s own support section of their website available for assistance in case things go awry.
If you’re looking for a robust and scalable freemium blogging service with an enormous user base, WordPress is your go-to platform for sure.
Think of Tumblr as true “microblogging”. Users can post to their free Tumblr accounts via apps on their mobile devices, the Web and/or dedicated apps on the PC and Mac.
Tumblr pages tend to be sparse in design, allowing bloggers to focus more on content, rather than customizability (of which there is very little compared to other platforms). If someone likes your content, they can “favorite” it or “reblog” it, which re-posts a snippet of your blog post with a bit of their commentary on their page with all attribution leading back to the source – you.
Tumblr can import blogs from services like TypePad and Blogger and can export your blog in the event you want to migrate to a different service. Longer-than-normal outages have plagued Tumblr in recent months, leading to frustrated users looking for similar blogging environments, but if you’re a casual blogger who just wants a quick-and-dirty way to make your voice heard, you could do a lot worse than Tumblr.
Google’s Blogger blogging platform is very popular for its “quick-and-dirty” setup and because it’s tied to a user’s Google account. Getting started is quite easy. Simply create a title, what the address should be (name.blogspot.com) and select a template. After that, you can add a custom domain name, modify your template or pick from a variety of others to truly make your blog your own.
You can also follow other Blogger blogs you’d like to keep track of and your dashboard will alert you when any have been updated with new posts. In addition to updates, your dashboard will display your own blog’s stats and allow you to create a new post on the spot. Additional features include comment moderation, layout modification and “gadgets” that display any number of things on your blog, including search functionality and RSS content.
The best thing about Blogger? You can create as many blogs under your Google ID as you’d like. It used to be that Blogger blogs were looked at as cheap ways for angsty teenagers and bored mommies to write about their feelings and parenting skills, but lately, more and more professional bloggers are using the service as a distribution method for their message. For examples, check out FOSS Patents blog and Google’s own official Google Blog.
Squarespace is more than just a blogging platform – it’s a way to create a beautiful site of any kind in minutes.
While you will have to pay a monthly fee (upwards of $8.99), the prices are well worth it. What you get in return is a state-of-the-art content management system, built-in analytics and a host that almost never goes down. Did someone really popular link to your site and now you’ve got 10,000 visitors bringing your blog to its knees? Don’t worry – Squarespace allocates the necessary resources to your site to make sure it stays up no matter what.
Choose from a wide variety of elegant and design-focused templates, then manipulate the CSS to get your site to look exactly how you want it. Not a coder? Don’t worry. Squarespace also provides a WYSIWYG customization engine using sliders and dropdown menus that should give even the pickiest blogger enough control to really make his or her website pop.
In addition to all the above, Squarespace offers widgets for inclusion on your site, similar to Google’s Blogger gadgets. Add a live-updating Twitter stream, RSS feed, search bar, or just a plain box you can dump any HTML into. If you’re looking to build a professional-looking site with the least amount of effort, look no further than Squarespace.
Originally developed by Six Apart in 2001, Movable Type has emerged as the “power blogger’s platform.” It offers plugins, like WordPress, to customize the experience for both the blogger and the reader, including Twitter and Facebook integration, code sanitization and photo galleries.
Movable Type comes in two flavors – the .com version is for non-developers who want their blog hosted for free by Movable Type and the .org version is for people who want to host their site using external services for greater control.
You’ll probably find a lot of similarities between Movable Type and WordPress, so it’s a matter of really doing your research and figuring out which service offers the features, plugins and support you need to get your site running and keep it running.
TypePad is kind of like a hybrid of Squarespace and Movable Type, which makes sense because TypePad is based on Movable Type. It’s not free, like WordPress or Blogger, but follows more of Squarespace’s tiered plans model. There’s a free trial available, but after your trial period is up, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee of $8.95, $14.95 or $29.95 depending on your needs.
Once your blog is up and running, you’ll have a choice of templates from which to choose, much like other blogging services provide. However, unlike Squarespace, you’ll only be able to edit your CSS if you pay for one of the higher-level plans, like Unlimited, Premium or Business Class.
TypePad is great for a semi-regular blogger who doesn’t want to fiddle with design and would rather have everything taken care of by the service. Many businesses, journalists and professionals use TypePad to showcase their brands, so don’t expect amateur hour here – this is the real deal.
If you’re just looking for a way to share your thoughts with the public, a specific subset of people or even yourself, Posterous might be the way to go.
Once you sign up for a free account, you can set up what are called “spaces” for people to follow. Permissions can be set for each space and you can have as many spaces as you want. For example, you may have one space as your personal blog for the public to read, but you might have a private family space to share photos of the kids and family vacation videos.
There’s a mobile app, so you can post on the go and a mobile-friendly version of your site that automatically renders when viewed on a smartphone or other personal Internet-connected device.
Of course, these aren’t the only blogging platforms out there, but they’re definitely the best and most widely used. So, now that you’ve got a good jumping-off point, go build your blog and write! It’s the only way you’ll know if you’re any good at it.