Tip #3: Choosing a Blogging Platform
You’ve identified the reasons why you want to start a blog, and you’ve chosen a topic. Now it’s time to get a little technical and start thinking about the right delivery method. There are many, many choices to choose from. Most people are familiar with WordPress and Blogger. There are dozens of other options, but I recommend you stick with one of these two choices.
We use WordPress for our gaming blog. Specifically, we use a self-hosted installation of WordPress on a virtual private server. If you’re just starting out, that’s a little more info than you need to know. WordPress can be installed and hosted through your choice of hosts (if you have questions on that feel free to ask) or you can host through WordPress.com and get a blog up and running there for free. I’ll break down the advantages of all three options then give my recommendations.
This is where you sign up for an account, press a few buttons, and your new blog is ready to go at example.wordpress.com. It’s free, extremely user friendly, and a great way to start writing and publishing great content in minutes. You get a lot of built-in tools to track your traffic and publish content quick. However, there are a few limitations. You’re limited on the plugins you can use. Plugins are a way of extending the capabilities of WordPress, and many amazing plugin authors have developed tools that can radically improve the basic functionality of a WordPress installation. You’re also limited in your choice of themes, or the way your blog looks, and the ability to customize. You’ll see ads,
You can upgrade your free account with Premium Features. These cost money, of course, but can let you have a custom domain, more storage space, ‘premiere themes’, remove ads, etc. In my opinion, most of these are pricey. But you’re paying for convenience, and you’re paying for a guarantee that something will work. In the end, you’re paying to have it all handled for you.
- Easy to use
- Basic features provide decent functionality
- Premium Features to expand capabilities
WordPress.org or Self-hosted WordPress
This option allows you to download the wordpress files and install them on your own server, or a server you have hosted with a provider. WordPress itself is free, but hosting costs can be as low as ~$5 a month for someone starting off. You’ll have full control over everything about your blog from the look, to its capabilities, to placing your own ads, to a domain name — it’s all on you. That’s also the downside. It’s up to you to make it work, and keep it working. You have the most power, and the most responsibility.
- Complete control to customize your installation
- WordPress is free but hosting and domain are not
- Requires basic to advanced technical knowledge
- Freedom to use any plugins you want
- The most user friendly option available
- Requires little to no technical knowledge
- If you’re an advanced user you can get some neat visual improvements
- Easily integrates with Google’s other features
You can’t go wrong with any of them, but if I had to choose just one I would say go with a self-hosted WordPress. We started on Blogger, and quickly realized we wanted the freedom to do more. I enjoy tinkering with the backend, learning how to code along the way, and knowing that no matter what happens my Blog can be moved in its exact state to another host. The same export functionality exists for WordPress.com, but it can cost you some money, and if you go with Blogger and utilize their export feature you’re only going to bring over your content leaving you to create a new blog around it. If we did it all over again, we would start on WordPress.com and begin branding ourselves properly right away.
Not quite ready to take on the monetary or technical responsibilities, but confident you’re going to one day want those features? WordPress.com is for you.
Comfortable focusing entirely on your content in a free, Google supported environment, and can’t foresee upgrading? Blogger is fantastic for you.
I’m happy to answer any questions you have about choosing a blogging platform for your gaming blog. I’ve used all of them extensively (even many not listed above), and I work daily helping clients make these same decisions.