When it comes to creating and maintaining a blog, there are plenty of powerful, feature-rich packages from which to choose. But it is important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of a number of those packages, so that you can make an informed decision on which is best for you and your blogging needs.
Most blogging packages are similar, but there is one main distinction — whether the service hosts your blog on their servers or whether you must host it on your own server. Services that will host your blog tend to be more user-friendly but are generally less flexible.
Hosted Blogging Services
Blogger and WordPress are both free hosted blogging solutions and are the best place to dip your toe into the Blogosphere. They offer an array of features including robust text editors, syndication, and an area for reader comments. They are easy to learn and allow you to get started within minutes.
What Blogger and WordPress offer in convenience, however, they lack in flexibility. Both are limited in how much you can change the look and feel of your site, nor do they allow for the addition of third-party widgets or add-ons to augment your site’s functionality.
Typepad is similar to both of these services, but it’s slightly more robust. While not free, it offers great tech support, and the staff can help new users overcome some of the beginning hurdles easily. Monthly and yearly subscriptions to Typepad are available and range in price depending on the features you select. Visit the Typepad pricing page for current rates.
WordPress is community supported, which means that often help is just a Google search away, but you’re going to have to research a bit. Blogger’s support is offered mostly through a robust index, but you’ll need to conduct the search yourself. Many profitable, professional blogs are hosted on all three of these services, so try them out and find the one you are most comfortable with. They all provide solid exporting functions, so if you want to upgrade to a different platform in the future, you can take your work with you.
Blog Platforms You Host Yourself
Blogging platforms that you host yourself, like Movable Type and WordPress, are the next level in blogging software. They offer the ability to change even the smallest detail of your site. For the most part, these platforms offer a framework to make publishing content to your site easier and leave the rest up to you. This means both are very flexible, but you have to know how to write some code at times. You’ll also need to have the available server space and the technical knowledge to install them properly.
WordPress is completely free and open source, while Movable Type is free for noncommercial use but requires a license for business use. Once again, you’re paying for customer support more than anything else. Both offer a wide range of user-created plug-ins that can add any functionality from social bookmarking to live IM chatrooms.
User interface is often the deciding factor when choosing a blogging platform, and each of the above mentioned packages has a clean, easy-to-understand interface. Because they all have similar feature sets, the one you pick will likely be the one you find most visually appealing. Remember, though, that you need to determine your hosting environment before proceeding with any installations. If you want to get started blogging but your server isn’t currently running Apache, PHP, and SQL, it is strongly recommended that you relocate your Web presence to a host that does.
For more information on blogging and business, be sure to check out 16 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Business Blog and To Blog or Not to Blog? And be sure to visit AllBusiness.com blogger Denise Wakeman’s own blog, Your Project Partner, where she discusses blogs and other tools available to help you build awareness for your business on the Web.