Back in the last century if you wanted a personal “online presence” it wasn’t as easy as setting up a Twitter or Facebook account. In those days most geeky types had their own website.
You could have it hosted on one of the megasites like Tripod, Angelfire or the (now defunct) GeoCities. Each one had its own set of quirks and templates but – let’s face it – the default stuff was pretty lame. To get something personal you had to learn HTML and probably how to use an FTP program to upload your webpages and graphics. Coding was via an HTML editor or by hand in a Notepad like application.
I did that back in the day, and after GeoCities went dark I used Delphi Forums as the basis for my site. Nowadays I never bother with all the techy stuff and go straight to a blog. That’s what I want to do anyway – write some brief articles to keep friends and family up to date.
As with most online tech, blogging has seen a lot of convergence and these days the best blogging software gives you everything you need to set up a blog or a commercial site right out of the box. No HTML needed, no FTP programs – it’s all easy peasy, right? It can be that way – or not. Read on.
If I were starting a blog today I’d have three options. There are probably more, but these are the three I’d consider:
- Use Google’s Blogger Site
This is indeed how I got started. As far back as 2002 I had a Blogger account – even before Google bought the company. There are some advantages for sure to Blogger. First, it is a Google app so you can access it easily through the same account you use for GMail or Google Drive. Second, it is dead easy. Set up your account and you are set to start blogging.
The disadvantages are – first, it’s Google and you may not like Google all that much. Second, the templates are pretty lame and your blog is going to look like 100,000 other people’s. Third, I ended up with two accounts after Google got Blogger in the fold and was never able to combine them. Although this was probably my fault it was annoying and confusing.
In summary I think this is a great way to start a blog if you just want to experiment and see if you like it. If you know you want to be more serious about it I’d try another option.
- Use WordPress.com
WordPress is a competitor to Blogger in terms of software and in my view it’s more professional looking. Originally WordPress just supplied the software, but due to popular demand they set up a website where you can use it easily enough. You can even pay to have them host a personal domain if you want, so your site is called mygroovyblog.com instead of mylameblog.wordpress.com.
WordPress gives you the ease of use that Blogger does and provides that excellent WordPress look and feel. Unfortunately you will be stuck with the generic WordPress templates and themes – I can spot a blog made with “Twenty Fourteen” a mile away.
Nevertheless WordPress.com is a great option, and if you do select it as your host of choice your blog won’t have quite as much of a “training wheels” appearance as with Blogger.
- Use WordPress on Your Personal Web Host with Your Personal Domain
In my view this is the only way to go if your goal is to have a commercial website, or if you want to sell stuff online. It’s probably a bit of overkill for a casual blog but hey..it’s what I do now.
I had to find a hosting service, register my domain through it, and then use the web service’s scripts to install WordPress. This costs real money to do, rather than the free options offered by Blogger or WordPress.com. It’s not a lot of money though, given the flexibility it offers.
The advantages are many. First, you control your site without any ads you may not want to he placed there. Second, you can add plug-ins that speed up your site, kill spam comments, and notify Twitter and Facebook that you published something new. Third, you have your own website in its own right, with a domain name that means something to you. Finally you can install a premium WordPress theme that is not like the thousands of others. My simple Bayse theme is used by only 130 other people on the Internet so it’s not that common.
The only disadvantages are cost and the need to be a little more tech savvy. But it’s nowhere near as complicated as it was when I had to code all that HTML back in the day.
So there you have it. Depending on your blogging interest you can have it free and simple, or pay a bit more and invest a bit of time to get more personal. I think it’s worth the time, worth the money. Your mileage may vary. But give blogging a try at least. You can say more than you can on Twitter.