Photography by Curtis and Norma Beaird
Article by Norma Beaird
First, a little background - I write this, not as a bonafide geek or a computer programmer, but as a writer, photographer and blogger. My college degree is not in Computer Science or Programming. However, I've been working on a computer for a very long time and have studied in computer classes over the years, especially in technical college.
Since 2005, I have had either a website, a blog or a photography website. Here are the following blogging platforms and hosting websites that I have used:
- Our Church (website) 2005 - 2008
- Homestead (website) 2008 - 2011
- GoDaddy (designed a website for local musicians)
- Typepad (blog) 2011 - present
- SmugMug (photography website) 2009 - present
The only domain manager we have used is GoDaddy, which we highly recommend due to their excellent, 24/7 American-based customer service department and reasonable costs for domains and email packages.
I have experimented with and even attempted blogs with Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr and Postagon (a beautiful and minimalistic platform). I have researched Throwww, Medium, Jux, Weebly and Ghost (a new kid on the block still ironing out the hosting issue).
Now, something you may want to know about two of the newer platforms out there in blogger land. Throwww and Medium have nice, simplistic formats; however, you will need a Twitter account. You can only sign in the Twitter. Personally, I prefer to have more control over my material through acquiring my own personal account with the blogging platform. But then again, that's just my personal preference.
Another new kid on the block is Postagon. It's very new and recently launched in June 2013. For folks who love black ink on white paper, this platform is a lovely and very minimalistic format; however, there have been no updates regarding the platform since September 2013. It's $4.99 per month through PayPal; and, I must admit, PayPal sometimes makes me nervous. Still, if you appreciate simplicity and minimalism, Postagon is one to watch.
Now, for the most popular blogging platforms, it's the big four:
Typepad, Wordpress, Blogger and Tumblr. I will rate these four in the order that (in my opinion) are the best overall, utilizing the following criteria.
There are seven necessary criteria that contributes to the overall blogging platform decision:
1. Stability and overall down-time
2. Ease of use and learning curve
3. Ability to customize your writing or product info into a professional looking blog
4. Option to point to a customized domain name
5. Customer service and speed of reply to questions or problems
6. Frequency of glitches in the system, such as formatting, comments will/won't work
7. Integration with social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+
Here is my overall review of the most popular blogging platforms starting with #4, with Number #1 being the absolute favorite, based on the seven criteria.
Note: I won't address all seven criteria in each of the platforms below, but will give an overall view, a composite review of sorts.
- Tumblr, recently acquired by Yahoo, is one of the most popular blogging platforms being used today. However, I personally can't take it very seriously. Tumblr has always seemed like a fun way to blog for teenagers, but not for anyone over the age of 30. On the flipside, if your target audience is teenagers and college students or people who follow celebrities and fashion, Tumblr may be perfect for you.
- The themes, the design and the overall "feel" of the platform seems a little childish and silly. Again, this is just my personal opinion. If you like it, I love it.......and it's free! However, if anyone is serious about developing a really professional-looking blog to attract serious readers, I would probably find a platform other than Tumblr.
- I know this will surprise a lot of people, but Wordpress is one of my least favorites. Personally, I did not find it to be intuitive, not at all. Now, don't get me wrong, it's definitely doable, but the open-source issue, the plug-ins, the complicated posting features and overall complexities were not appealing to me. Plus, I didn't want to spend a lot of valuable time figuring out "how it works". I had much rather put time into the content of the blog.
- Of course, it is one of the most widely used blogging platforms in the history of the universe; however, if someone is looking to mostly focus on content instead of engaging a learning curve, Wordpress is not the platform for you. Yes, it is extremely customizable, which is the main attraction for most bloggers; however, there's a considerable learning curve for someone not accustomed to blog design. And, Wordpress can be free to use, but if you need to customize to develop a brand or an audience, certain themes may end up costing you in the long run.
- Blogger, or (blogspot.com) is one of the most popular in the blogging world, especially because it is free. Consequently, if you're not making an income from your writing, photography or hobby, Blogger is definitely one to consider. However, even though I rely on a Google search engine like I rely on food, water and vitamins, I'm not a huge fan of all things Google-ized.
- For the newcomer to blogging who is not adept at customized blog design, HTML code, CSS, plug-ins and all things techie, Blogger provides a very intuitive and easy-to-use platform. Using Blogger's templates, you can design your own blog, changing the colors and the design as much as you like; and again, it's easy. Now, it doesn't offer the professional-looking design of Typepad and Wordpress, but it's free and it's definitely easy.
The number #1 blogging platform that I would recommend overall is
Typepad has stability, and that is important
- According to Udemy, the primary attraction to Typepad is the stability and the fact that it is closed-source. With Typepad being closed-source, it's not as easy to hack the system. Today, that means a lot to people who are serious about their blogs.
- Spending time trying to find out why your system has been hacked or why it's down is both non-productive and aggravating. No one wants to spend time attempting to recover lost material. Time is precious. People need blogging platforms that work.
- Consequently, Typepad is one of the oldest kids on the blogging block; therefore, they are truly one of the most stable and experienced. Let's face it, big names like Marriott and Amazon use their services. So, they must be doing something right if major corporations trust their platform.
Typepad has AYFD - "At Your Fingertips Design"
- For those who prefer customized banners and serious branding, Typepad offers many customizing options with CSS, HTML code, fonts, colors, layout and design. For folks like me who prefer simplicity, Typepad offers themed templates ranging from personal to professional.
- The main attraction for me is Typepad's ease-of-use. Writing a blog and adding photographs, links or video is extremely easy and even intuitive, which means a lot.
- Typepad offers categories that can be checked as you write your blog. You can add your own categories and correspond them with the subject of your blog so that people can locate your blog easily in the search engines.
- If you're not finished with your blog, you can save it as a draft to come back and publish it later. You can also preview your post before you publish it. After you're finished with your blog post, as you hit the publish button, you can simutaneously publish your post to Twitter or Facebook.
- Changing fonts and the colors and sizes of fonts is easy as well. Typepad makes it easy to highlight text with color. Again, it's intuitive and you won't spend a lot of time searching around for the features you need.
- If you have extra room in your budget, Typepad also offers design services to completely design and customize the blog of your dreams.
Typepad has the option of moderating comments
- Typepad gives you the option of turning comments on or off on each individual post. A blogger also has the option of moderating the comments and allowing the commenters to sign in through social media.
Typepad has the option of extras built into their system
- For example, if you want to add Share This buttons to your posts, Typepad makes it extremely easy for you to add this feature to your blog. In addition, you can also add Google Analytics to your blog if you prefer additional statistics and information on your blog traffic.
Typepad has solid customer service support
- Usually within 24 hours, Typepad customer service support will answer any question you have by email. So far, when we've submitted a customer service ticket, we have encountered kind and knowledgeable folks who go out of their way to help.
Typepad can track the visitors to your blog
- Typepad can track each visitor to your blog. You will also see each time someone searches the key words at the end of your blog post and finds your blog. Therefore, you don't need a special widget or feature to measure the traffic visiting your blog.
Typepad's pricing plans
- Typepad offers three pricing plans to fit your budget. You can pay either monthly or yearly. That makes it convenient, plus you can upgrade or downgrade to fit your current budget. Paying yearly with definitely save you some money, but if you're not in the financial position to do that, you can always switch to monthly.
A lot of folks may ask........
"Why pay for a blogging platform when I can find one for free?"
Well, it all depends. The answer will be different for everyone, according to your goals and objectives for a blog. For us personally, when we look at the whole picture, Typepad is the absolute best choice for us, and it has been for two years straight. It's worth the price, and it's inexpensive when you consider what people spend on a daily basis on things like coffee, sodas, newspapers or entertainment venues.
Even if you locate a free blogging platform, if you want your own customized domain name, you will have to spend money to purchase the domain. It's no different with Wordpress. Free is not always free. If you decide on a customized theme, it may also cost you money. So, the more you customize and the more you brand, the less free it becomes.
With Typepad, after you use their tools (closed-source) to customize, the only other expense you will have is if you want your own domain name. We have used GoDaddy for several years for all of our domain names and have been extremely pleased with their service.
All in all, after we researched each blogging platform with all of the bells and whistles, we came back to Typepad. Overall, we found them to be the most stable, the most supportive and the easiest to use. They fit our needs and I'm proud to say that we will be renewing our plan at the end of October!
Copyright 2013, Curtis and Norma Beaird. All rights reserved.