Brilliant guest post by my friend and colleague, WordPress Developer, Vik Martin.
Vik designs beautiful websites for real people using WordPress and I’m delighted to be co-hosting a workshop on Blogging With WordPress, with her.
If Blogging platforms were people…
You want to start a blog but which platform is best for you? It’s a confusing subject swamped with choice and conflicting advice. Allow me then, to scramble your brain even more by asking – If web platforms were people, who would they be?
Mr Squarespace – The hipster … and his hosted platform gang
Mr Squarespace always looks fabulous. He’s popular and buff with never a hair out of place. His tattoos are bang on trend and he’s been spotted at ‘popup’ festivals, his beard adorned with flowers. His style looks effortless, but an awful lot of work goes on behind the scenes to keep it in place.
He’s predictable but he’s also controlling. He frowns on any activity that might mess up his hair… or his street cred. He’s catlike, so on the plus side he doesn’t need a lot of care, but like a cat, he will never really belong to you. He’ll be faithful if you’re pledged to him alone, but if you try to make other friends he will draw a line in the sand.
Break up with him completely and he will take you to the cleaners.
He’s got quite a few friends who try to emulate him. Wix, Weebly, Yola, Moonfruit and (confusingly) WordPress.com – the hosted version. They look ok but they’re generally harder work and they don’t keep up with the latest trends so well…
- You pay a monthly fee to a single company and get the hosting, software domain name and technical care all included.
- Some platforms also have free plans (if you can put up with adverts on your site and don’t want to use your own domain name)
- You can build a blog, static site, an online shop or a combination.
- The interface is set up for non-coders, and most platforms have attractive templates.
- If you’re fairly confident with computers you will probably be able to self – build (if you spend the time to learn the system.)
- The companies use their own software, so you’re tied in to staying with them. You can’t download the site and move it to another server, so you’re stuck with their charges and their speeds.
- If the company/platform you have used ceases to exist, so does your website
- You can only do the things they allow you to do within their program and add the functions that they offer.
- As standards and technologies change, you have to wait for them to catch up – which they do at varying speeds…
- The above point can have an impact on SEO, particularly in this time of ever-changing Google goalposts.
Mr blogger.com – the networker – and the social blogging platforms…
He likes to come across as simple and straightforward. No nonsense. (A lot of work goes on in the background to keep him looking like that though…) He probably is the shallower of the 3 characters; but he doesn’t demand too much hard work or attention, which can make him quite relaxing to hang out with.
He’s a socialite and a great networker. If you’re friends with him he will introduce you to all the other amazing people in his little black book. On the downside though, you have to conform.
You can choose the colour of your uniform but there’s a definite theme… If you’re going out for a meal there’s a list of approved restaurants, and he chooses from the menu for everyone. Deep down he wants to be safe, and he needs to be in control.
Being with him might give you a nice warm fluffy feeling for a while, but you might eventually outgrow him. He won’t change with you if you go your own way, and like our hipster above, if you dump him, he gets the lot.
His group of friends include people like Tumblr, Medium, Ghost… and their pet budgie, Twitter.
- You can set up a blog quickly and easily and start blogging straight away
- You are immediately connected to a large network of other bloggers and potential followers
- The platforms are generally free to use (but again, you have to put up with adverts and a generic domain name.)
- They are great for short, casual, informal posts.
- You don’t need to learn lots of technical stuff about websites in order to publish your content online
- You don’t get a lot of choice over the look and feel of your blog
- You don’t have the option of building a website or online shop on the same platform in the future, so If you want your business to change and grow from your blog these might not be for you.
- Like the web builders above you don’t get to back your blog up, or download it if you want to move somewhere else (but at least you’re unlikely to have put a lot of work into the design)
Mr WordPress and the (loosely affiliated) self hosted buccaneers.
He’s a maverick adventurer with a million different disguises. You’ll see him looking dapper one day, outrageous and original the next, and then you bump into him in the supermarket one evening and he looks like a dishevelled madman. It all depends who his stylist is that day.
He can be whoever you want him to be – a hipster, a punk, an old fart… it’s up to you. He’s a bit of a risk taker too, always looking for the next challenge in a world of possibility and collaboration. His options are fully open, but they’re not always guaranteed.
He likes a bit of attention, and you have to care for him. With freedom comes responsibility. He doesn’t need to pledge your life just to him though, and he’ll let you change and grow without dumping you.
Mr. WordPress will let you call the shots, and he won’t get angry if you have other friends. You can move to another town, or even go out on the open road and he will come with you.
He’s got a gang around him too – Drupal, Joomla!, October, Magento and a host of others.
They have their differences but they stand for the same principles.
- You can build whatever you like, as long as you have the technical knowledge (or know someone who does!)
- You own your site, design included, and can download it and save a backup. This means you can choose/change your server company and shop around to get a balance of price and facility that suits your business. If visitor numbers suddenly skyrocket, you can move to a bigger and better server that can handle your traffic.
- The sites can develop and grow as your business does, and you can add/remove functionality as often as you change your mind
- All these platforms have communities around them where you can get help and advice (The WordPress community is by far the biggest of these)
- You can find plugins, themes and extensions written by other programmers so you can add functionality – and certainly, with WordPress, there is really nothing that you can’t find. A lot of these are free to use.
- You can implement any changes you like (if you know how) so that your site stays up to date up with trends in design and SEO
- If you’re not a coder you can use a page builder, which can make the design process feel similar to the hosted platforms
- You have to sort out your own server space and domain name, and install the software (Most server companies offer help and advice with this)
- There is a bit of a learning curve to using the software, and you will need either: help from a professional web developer or a lot of patience, time and willingness to learn ( but you can get a lot of help from the community around your choice of software)
- You need to develop a bit of technical knowledge to manage and update your site in the future – or pay a professional to do it for you.
- It’s a good idea to pay attention to security, to keep hackers at bay – and you need to scan regularly for malware (server companies can usually offer this service)
Ultimately, you know your own priorities and skills – and, (perhaps) the way you want your blog to develop. It’s up to you who you choose to hang out with, but it’s a commitment – so as with all relationships, it pays to do your research.
Talk to a range of people who’ve known them (their exes as well as their mums) and if a red flag comes up… run away. You can do better.
Join us at the Blogging with WordPress workshop