I have had some sort of personal Web presence for at least 25 years, and around the time we visited Paris in 2001 I decided that a traditional website with my own HTML coding was NOT the way to go. A blog of some sort seemed preferable because I simply had to write it and not be all that concerned about website design.
My personal circumstances were much different back then. I was still working, still living in Georgetown, hadn’t traveled as much as we did later on. I did’t have the time in 2001 to devote to writing a blog every week or more often.
I got into it a bit more around 2008 and since 2014 I’ve been a regular poster. But I digress.
The Web was much different when I first started a blog. In those early days, blogging was strictly text – even photos had to be scanned from film or prints (no digital pics back then.) Bandwidth was punishingly low. Audio was rudimentary. Video didn’t exist yet. Mobile phones made phone calls. The Information Highway was more like an oxcart track.
Well, that was then. How about starting a blog today? Let’s unpack that a bit.
The first thing to consider in 2023 is whether you want to write a blog at all. A blog is still pretty much static – text and digital media. Maybe you’d prefer to make video logs and post on YouTube. Maybe you are into having a podcast. Or maybe even you’d like to stream your content. It’s all possible today. And we haven’t even mentioned social media capability. Every possibility is so much richer.
There’s another consideration – unless you are a celebrity, a major influencer, or a genuine expert in a hot category of interest – there’s no way to use a blog to make money. If you really get into personal blogging in a bigger way, it’ll cost you – though honestly not much more than a Netflix subscription – to put your thoughts out there.
If you are still interested in doing this – need I mention you’ll be investing a bit of time with no chance of reward – I’ll run through some of the ways you can get started.
Starting a Blog for Free
This would be my recommendation if you are just starting out. The price is right, you don’t need any particular technical expertise, and you can be on your way in a matter of minutes.
When I began I chose Blogger to be my host provider. Blogger is part of Google so it is a good way to go if you already use the Google suite of applications.
My choice today would probably be the commercial WordPress site. I use the open source WordPress software on my own site, and I find it to be excellent.
A third possibility is Wix. I haven’t used Wix but it has some interesting drag and drop features. Wix looks a bit more business oriented though.
Of course, we all know there is no free lunch – not even in blogging. If you go with the zero cost option, you won’t have your own domain name, you likely will have ads placed on your blog by your provider, and your content doesn’t belong to you any longer. Maybe those things are not important to you right now – but they might be later on.
Use the “Pay” Option on the “Free” Site Host
You could use WordPress’s and Wix’s paid option to get a few neat features like your “own” virtual domain or fancier themes but I’ve got a better idea than that if you want to move up the blogging food chain. The name of the game here I believe is Squarespace.
Squarespace – Just Do It
Squarespace seems to be the ideal way to build a blog if you don’t mind paying a monthly subscription. and you need the provider to take care of everything for you. I have to say that if I were starting out now. I’d just choose Squarespace, choose a suitable format and that would be that.
Squarespace does seem to be commercially focused but there are options to write a simple blog. You can start out slowly and change things easily enough if you need to get more sophisticated. It looks like a good way to go – if you’re sure you want to do this.
The Whole Enchilada
This is not what you want to do if you are just getting into the blog-o-sphere, but it’s where I ended up after about 5 years of serious blogging. I needed a place to write my blog AND host the supporting digital photos online. So I invested in my own domain name and web hosting service. The provider gives me support and WordPress blogging software, and I choose the theme for a custom look and feel.
There’s a simple enough sequence of tasks to host your own blog:
- Choose a web service provider and a plan of services.
- Get your domain name and have it registered. The provider helps with this.
- Install WordPress, the blogging software.
- Choose, install and activate the theme.
- Start blogging.
Complications start after that. You have to make sure to secure your website, check that it works OK, protect your blog from spam. The provider makes changes from time to time and you have to fix things if that happens.
Fortunately I have become increasingly geeky over the years. I learned about Linux and networks so I was not flummoxed by the technical aspects of a Web server. The Web service provider does give excellent support and can fix things if you have problems.
The major advantages to hosting your own blog are:
- You have your own domain name and Web address.
- Nobody will be putting ads on your site without your say-so.
- Your content and graphics remain under your control and ownership.
So there you have it. I am more or less committed to self-hosting now. Squarespace wasn’t around when I went this way, and I won’t go back to a do-it-for-you provider.
I now have close to 9 years and 600 posts on my current setup. It’s still a simple personal blog but it’s mine.