What!? You don’t have a website!? This is how I imagine every conversation between somebody with, and somebody without a website would start. In today’s day and age, it’s pretty much a given that most people will have some sort of website, whether it’s for selling their hand-made knitted tea-cosy, re-blogging pictures of cats, or promoting their very serious law-firm. If you don’t have a website, you are very much behind the times.
Worry not though, for the options open to you to start one, are much better than they have ever been in the past. Which one to choose though, depends on what functions you will need it to perform. Below I’ll list the major movers and shakers within the web world and how they will benefit you (or not).
Website : tumblr.com
tumblr is huge at the moment, and is sort of like Myspace, if Myspace was a blog. If none of those terms mean anything you might find it difficult to get to grips with tumblr and it’s client base.
tumblr is essentially a free blogging platform with an emphasis on images and quick re-blogs (that’s the process of taking a post from another blog, and posting the same thing on yours). Young people mainly use it, but over the last year it’s started to be used by almost everyone who has something to say (even Barrack Obama has a tumblr page).
tumblr also blends aspects of social networks into blogging: you can follow other tumblr pages and all posts uploaded those pages will show up in your “dashboard” which is essentially a self-contained RSS feed. Here’s a snap shot of my dashboard:
If you’re thinking about using tumblr there are some negative aspects you should be aware of such as the fact that written content on tumblr is not as popular as visual content. Users on tumblr tend to quickly browse through things rather than sitting and reading paragraph after paragraph. I’m not saying everyone on tumblr is like this, but this generally seems the case.
The second most notable thing you should take into consideration is SEO and how Google views tumblr. Google are in a tough spot over tumblr because it’s a site that contains millions of legitimate blogs that all contain links etc. that should influence Google results, but tumblr also contains A LOT of duplicate content, which Google doesn’t like.
tumblr can be a very useful thing for a company, both to engage with a community and build SEO, but it is also possible to manipulate tumblr into boosting websites external of tumblr in Google results unfairly. So far it doesn’t seem as if Google are going to do anything to diminish tumblr’s influence, but it could do soon, or never, who knows?
Recommended for :
- Artists and Designers
- Film Bloggers
- Fashion Bloggers
- Humour Bloggers
- Businesses trying to seem cool and less business-like (you would need to use external sites like Etsy to sell your products).
Website : wordpress.org
Okay, before we start this section, I want to let you know that my personal experience with WordPress is for the various websites that I contribute to (I’m a tumblr man myself). That said, I much prefer WordPress as a writing platform (I prefer the audience engagement element of tumblr that’s why I use it).
WordPress is much more sophisticated than tumblr and allows for much more customisability and optimisation of content. Here’s a picture of the WordPress post editing facility:
As far as posting text based content, I would say WordPress is the King. Nothing comes close to wordpress in allowing you to do exactly what it is you want to do with your posts (unless you build a site from scratch but we’ll get to that later). You can follow other wordpress blogs through wordpress, but to read posts and content you will, as far as I am aware, need to set up an RSS feed.
WordPress is also highly regarded by Google because there is a lot more control over the sharing and scraping of content. It’s still possible, but in the sense that any site can copy and paste content from another, but unlike tumblr it is not actively encouraged (or rewarded).
Negatively though WordPress is a bit complicated for people who don’t know a lot about elements such as html, RSS feeds, SEO, meta tags and all that jazz. In fact, I looked at it a few years ago when I was in the position of starting up a site, and I found it too complicated then. I’ve only recently become more skilled with it because I use it on sites that aren’t mine. That might be worth considering when deciding to use WordPress.
Also, for people read your content they’ll have to find your site through a search engine or a link somewhere, you’ll have to spend some time getting out there guest blogging and getting links to your site. It’s beneficial to do this for any site anyway, but it is a definite must for a WordPress based site.
Recommended for :
- People wanting to start up online magazines.
- Generally anyone who is planning on doing a great deal of writing on a subject.
- Those with a bit of web know-how.
Website : blogger.com
Right off the bat I’m going to say that I used think Blogger was the worst platform to start a site on. I know that seems extreme, but it definitely used to be. I genuinely believed Blogger sites to look very cheap and unprofessional, regardless of who owns them. This apparently has changed (as I’ve found from researching this post) and there are now many good pros from having a Blogger.
Firstly, Blogger is owned by Google (come on Google you could put something nicer than this together before now) which means Google will recognise Blogger as a more important blogging platform than any other out there. This annoys me because I like other platforms more than Blogger and there shouldn’t be this sort of priority, but I suppose they’re allowed to do that since they essentially own the Internet (I love Google really).
They’ve also created a much smoother experience than I remember in regards to how it all works behind the scenes. Most notably they’ve created a beautiful dynamic theme (their other themes still look awful) that is highly customisable and looks fantastic in just a couple of minutes. Here’s a screenshot of what I made in about 3 minutes:
I’ve been trying to make my tumblr page look like that for months. It’s weird to say, but I think my time with tumblr may be drawing to a close.
Okay, it’s actually easier for me to list the cons in a list before recommending the users, so here goes:
- Not a wide choice of themes, which means you can still make something, that looks like it was made in the Nineties.
Recommended for :
- Bloggers who switch between text and image based content
- Bloggers who want a more website feel over a social network feel
- Companies or businesses that will be using a platform to blog and paying for a subdomain to do so
- Hobby Bloggers
- People who care about Google rankings
Sites with complete hosting packages
So far, the options I have mentioned here are blogging platforms that work very well for personal sites, craft based businesses, design based businesses, or entertainment based businesses, but they’re also platforms that might not work for all businesses. Some businesses might need complete deals that include websites with a separate blog and web-store, such as these by Vistaprint.
I’m not going to lie, I feel plans like this are taking advantage of people who don’t know anything about buying domains and hosting (price wise), yet at the same time they are extremely helpful for those very same people. A good example of this kind of person is my mum. She has no idea what she is doing when it comes to the Internet, and probably never will, yet she runs a successful business in her local area and could probably do with having a site. I don’t have time to sort all of this out for her, so something like this would be really good.
They can look pretty terrible though, and might do more harm than good depending on what you’re business does and is. For example holistic therapies and comedy clubs traditionally have awful websites (I don’t know why this is) and it probably wouldn’t make much difference to them.
Recommended for :
- People who are very new to the web
- People who don’t want to be learning a great deal of Internet stuff before they set up their site.
Each platform for setting up a website quickly is only useful to those that find it’s specific uses advantageous to them. Certain people will find tumblr the best, especially if they post a lot of their own designs for things like clothing, or posters. Keen, dedicated writers will probably love the customisation available on WordPress, and those looking for a mix of the two, will probably find their home on Blogger.
If you want something more than a blogging platform, there are other beginner’s options available in the form of complete packages that often include email addresses, and dedicated webstores.
Obviously I haven’t used a package like this, I’ve only seen them in action, so this part is up to you readers, I want to hear all of your comments on these sorts of deals, as well as the other sites I have mentioned. Which do you use and why?
About the author
Thom is a writer and his favourite quote is: “everything I needed to know, I learned from being a geek”, although he doesn’t remember who said it. Follow Thom on twitter: @thommilson or read Thom’s website.