Hey everyone! First of all, thanks soooooooo much to all of you who commented on last week’s post about blog branding! It is hugely helpful to me as we move forward in this weekly series to know what is working and what people find useful, and how the process is going for you! (Plus, it’s just a lot of fun to hear from you. Comments = candy for a blogger.)
Also, before we get into the meat of today’s post, I want to tap into the collective blogging minds that are reading this and ask you a question — do you have any ideas for fun blogging quotes?? I’ve been working on making some new typography prints for my shop .. usually I use reeeeally old quotes that are in the public domain (like Jane Austen’s, etc.), but obviously there are no old quotes about blogging! So I’ve been making up my own quotes (like the one above), but I thought it would be so great to find out if any of you have quote ideas about blogs/blogging – to be turned into prints! If I use your idea, I will credit you for the quote in description, and give you a discount for my shop. :)
So while you mull that over, let’s jump into today’s post. We started off last week by starting to get a feel for branding, to get a bit of a roadmap so we know what we’re going for in each of our own sites. This week we’re going to start jumping into some of the getting-it-done basics of the beginning – where should I be blogging?
These are common questions for bloggers –
Which blogging platform should I choose – Blogger, WordPress…?
Do I need my own domain – and is having a domain the same as having hosting?
And how would I get set up if I DO want that??
And what is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?????
Ok, maybe not that last one, but we’ll be getting to the other questions in today’s post. And the nice thing is … whichever route you take on these questions, it doesn’t have to be too difficult. And bonus points if you got the reference of that last question.
So first question, Blogger vs WordPress:
So, where should you have your blog? Blogger or WordPress? Now, I’ll say upfront – these are not the only two options. There are also options like TypePad or Tumblr, etc. … but TypePad costs more money then either Blogger or WordPress, and Tumblr tends to be more about photos/sharing others’ posts, than writing/commenting, which is the essence of most blogs we’re dealing with in this series. Also, I’d say that Blogger (aka BlogSpot) and WordPress are probably the two most popular blogging platforms, so I think it makes sense to just look at these. But by all means, if you have another platform that you are absolute sold on that you think others should know about, please tell us about it in the comments for your fellow bloggers to see! :)
So which one? It’s a head-to-head BATTLE! Ok .. well … not really. There is no one right answer on this for everyone, it largely depends on your goals and desires in blogging. Personally, I have blogged on both Blogger and WordPress and definitely prefer WordPress – and if you’re going through this series because you’re serious about growing and branding your blog, then I would highly encourage you to consider WordPress. But if you’re more wanting to blog very casually and only want a free version, then Blogger might be better for you.
But one thing I want to point out – in talking about WordPress, I am referring to WordPress.org NOT WordPress.com. WordPress is always free, but on WordPress.org you use WordPress on your own domain/hosting which would look like yourblogname.com, and which you purchase elsewhere — whereas on WordPress.com, they host your blog and it would look like yourblogname.wordpress.com. Also the WordPress.com version does not offer limitless customization, does not have unlimited storage, and has rules against having ads on your blog. Some of those can be added on if you pay for them – but in that case, you might as well be using WordPress.org because your hosting would probably cost less. I think if you’re going to use a free version, I think you might as well be at Blogger. So in the comparison here, it is between Blogger and WordPress.org.
Here’s my visual chart of the pros and cons, and while certainly not an exhaustive list, it hits what I see as the major points:
I think the two biggest factors are the ability to customize, and the ease with which people can comment on a blog.
On commenting …. comments are a HUGE part of blogging. You want your readers to be able to interact with you as easily as possible. Most people who visit your blog won’t leave a comment – but of those who DO choose to leave a comment, you don’t want to make it difficult for them. It is very common for people starting to comment to end up not leaving their comments because of CAPTCHA. (CAPTCHA is that spam catcher thing that makes you type in the hard to read squiggly letters to be able to leave a comment.) For one thing, it is another step, and not always an easy step, that can easily cause people to choose to skip commenting — I hear people talking about this often on Twitter, it’s a pretty common reaction to CAPTCHA. Or sometimes it is accidental. I’m less likely to leave a comment on a CAPTCHA blog, but even when I do, I can’t tell you how many times later I’m closing my tabs and find a comment that failed to go through due to CAPTCHA mishap. Also, besides CAPTCHA issues, to leave a comment on a Blogger blog you have to choose an account type to comment with – and not everyone fits those account types (including myself), which again makes commenting more difficult for people reading your blog, even if they want to comment. To comment on WordPress, however, you simply comment with your name, email and site, if desired, and don’t need to jump through CAPTCHA hoops. If your blog is fairly small you may not need any spam guards – but if you do need a spam filter, you can use Akismet on WordPress. It’s a few dollars a month, and it does an excellent job – this is what a I use, but that small amount is worth it to me to make commenting as easy as possible for my readers.
Besides commenting, there is also the difference in customization. On Blogger you are limited to templates and certain amounts of personalizing, which can lead to many sites looking much the same. There are ways to get in there and personalize to some extent, and there are even way to use a custom domain, which you would need to purchase elsewhere. But in the end, you are limited on Blogger in ways that you are not limited on WordPress. The sky is the limit to design and brand your blog exactly as you choose.
Lori, who has the blog In My Kitchen, In My Life, which I am redesigning as a demonstration in this series, has been on Blogger, but decided she wanted to move to WordPress and that is what sparked this entire series. A move from Blogger to WordPress can be the perfect opportunity to redesign your blog. And one thing that is indicative of the value of WordPress – there tend to be a LOT more people who move from Blogger to WordPress than vice versa.
Ok, so let’s say you do want to move to WordPress. What’s all this hosting/domain stuff?
The domain of Lori’s new blog is InMyKitchenInMyLife.com. The domain of my blog is TheFlourishingAbode.com. It’s what becomes the address of your site. Hosting, on the other hand, is the background storage and capability to make your website available on the web. You can have a domain – but without hosting you can’t set up and run your blog on it. Domains cost about $10 per year. Hosting costs from about $5 to $15 per month. I personally use BlueHost.com, where I can host an unlimited number of domains per month for about $5 per month, and I’ve been very impressed with their customer service. And there are lots of other sites where you can purchase hosting as well — but one way or another, if you’re going to use self-hosted WordPress, you’ll need to get both domain and hosting. Having your own domain and hosting both helps your site look more professional (as opposed to a .blogspot.com or whatever being added on the end) and gives you greater control over the workings of your site.
So let’s say you want to get hosting and a domain for your blog, and set up WordPress. How do you DO that??
This will vary some, depending on which hosting company you use. But it is not difficult to set up. If you go with BlueHost, which I recommend, they have excellent customer support to help you through the process, including live chat assistance if you need it. You just click on the “sign up” button, enter the domain you wish to buy, and they walk you through the process of purchasing the domain and the hosting you need. Once you’ve purchased and verified your account, this means you have hosting, but not that you have WordPress on your site yet – it has to be installed. As we mentioned before though, WordPress itself is free, so there’s no extra cost.
One reason I like BlueHost is that they make it very easy for you to install WordPress. In the “help” section of BlueHost, you can search for how to install WordPress, and they actually have a video showing click-by-click how to do it. And I’m sure any hosting company offers helps/how-to’s. But just to give you an idea of how easy it is … on BlueHost, you go to your Control Panel (or cPanel, the “hub” page where you manage your hosted sites), and click Simple Scripts, then select WordPress, then click “install”, then select the domain you want to put it on – and it installs it and gives you your log-on info. Easy-peasy. Then you can use the log-in information to get into your WordPress dashboard. Once you sign in, you’ll be at your dashboard, which you can think of as “back stage” for your blog. Here’s a screenshot of the dashboard and just a little roadmap of the basics of what-to-find-where in WordPress:
So now you are on WordPress! If you’ve been blogging somewhere else, that blog is not interrupted at this point. For instance, I’m working on Lori’s new WordPress blog at her new domain – but her blogger blog, at InMyKitchenInMyLife.blogspot.com, is still completely operational, uninterrupted, and not connected to this new blog yet. The actual transfer from Blogger to WordPress will be one of the last steps in the series – not until the new site is ready. Only then will we transfer over her Blogger blog, and set it up so that any one visiting her Blogger blog automatically gets redirected to her new WordPress blog. And that is a good thing to have this in-between time – because that gives you the chance to fix up, design, and get your new blog ready before making the transfer.
I hope this post has been helpful for you to get your bearings on where you want to blog, the perks to WordPress, and that getting set up is not too difficult at all! Next Friday, I’ll be sharing some design tips, Lord willing.
Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you have any blog quote ideas! I think it is so fun to have inspiring images and such around you in your creative work area, even if it is just a corner of your apartment (like me!). Here’s another one I’ve come up with so far:
So, where do you blog? Leave your thoughts and comments below, I love to hear from you!
You can check out the rest of the posts this series, here:
Part 1: Discover your branding with “The Drawing Board” Printable
Part 2: WordPress vs. Blogger (That is today’s post!)
Part 3: Design Tips + Design Worksheet
Part 4: Themes, Coding and Stylesheets
Part 5: Making your own graphics
Part 6: 7 Blog Layout Tips to Engage your Reader
Part 7: Blog Page: The Must-haves and the Panache
Part 8: 25 WordPress Tips
Part 9: The Big Reveal
Part 10: 7 Ways to Promote and Market Your Blog