Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review: Wordpress vs. Blogspot

When I decided to start this blog, I had to consider which blogging platform I would use to express my opinions. I have been blogging since 2005, so I'm not totally unfamiliar with blogging, but each platform has its own advantages and disadvantages. So far, I've used LiveJournal, WordPress, and now Blogspot. I first used LiveJournal because I had friends who used it and it was easy to add them as friends. Honestly, though, I don't feel it's the best program out there for blogging, so it's out of the race in my opinion. A few months ago, I heard about WordPress and was really excited with the prospect of using a new, more robust blogging platform. Since then, I have a better idea of what I like about WordPress and where I could see improvements.

And in the last couple of weeks, I've learned the joys and troubles of Blogspot, so I thought I would take a minute and talk about what is good and bad about each and why you might choose one or the other depending on what you want to use it for.

Templates

In Blogspot, what template you use is endless. Because you have access to the HTML of your site, you can use any template you create or that is found on many sites that offer free Blogger/Blogspot templates. This allows for amazing flexibility. Some templates are basic and allow you to change what colors you use and the font style and size, while others are more strict, only allowing small changes.

With WordPress, you don't have the option immediately. Instead, WordPress offers about 75 templates that you can choose from. That might sound like a lot, but with thousands of users, that means you are using the same template as hundreds of other users. And there is not a whole lot of variety, esp. if you want to use one of those cutesy blog templates that moms are so fond of. There are a few templates on WordPress's site that are more adaptable, but only in what colors you use, etc.

Now that isn't to say that WordPress doesn't allow you the ability to access your CSS/HTML, but if you want the ability to do that, you'll have to pay $15/year. That's really not that much and considering all of the perks you get with WordPress, and its robustness, this might be the option for you.

Versatility

As I mention above, because Blogspot allows you to access your HTML, you have a lot of versatility when it comes to your blog. Not only can you use your own template, but you can adjust the template to your own specifications. The code for the template I'm using comes from another blog design. I wanted to create as semi-custom design by taking elements of other designs, mixing them up in Photoshop, and then combining them for the design I now have. I don't know how to code a template myself, but all I had to do to get my new design was to replace the header picture, the background picture, and the sidebar pictures. I now have my own design!

You also have the ability to add elements and adjust how the blog functions. Since I don't know much about coding myself, I can't create my own code, but I can find code on the Web that does what I want my blog to do, and for the most part, the person who created the code can direct me on where the code needs to be added. As long as I don't mess up, the code works fine and I now have added functionality.

Wordpress also has some versatility, but you will have to pay to get more (as mentioned).

Pages

Being able to add pages is one way that WordPress stands out from Blogspot. In WordPress, you can add pages easily. Pages are useful when you have information that you want your readers to get to quickly and easily. This could be something like, "About Me" or "Contact Me" or "Services Offered." There are many uses for these static pages.

Because you can edit the HTML, it's possible to add static pages to Blogspot as well, but it's much more difficult. The templates generally do not have the ability to add buttons to the template, and the only way I've found to add static pages is basically by just adding links to your header that lead to blog posts. This isn't as clean as having actual static pages.

This is one reason that for my professional blog, which outlines my services as a writer, I decided to use WordPress. It was easy to lay out my different pages and connect them together.

Tools

Another way that WordPress stands out is its available tools. On your homepage, you have access to stats which shows you how many views your blog has had, where your visitors came from, what pages they looked at, etc. This is a great tool that helps when you're trying to figure out what works to increase traffic and what interests visitors the most.


I was able to do the same type of thing with Blogspot, but I had to use another Web site, StatCounter.com, to do it, using an add-on. This means logging into another site every time I want to see how my site is doing. Much less convenient.

On the dashboard, you can do everything needed on your blog, which includes adding posts, managing comments, changing appearance, adding users, and so on. Blogspot has a similar dashboard, but without the stats.

Ads

The main reason I chose Blogspot, though, was the ability to easily add ads to my site. On a personal blog, this is not necessary. In fact, it would seem a little weird if there were ads unless the blog provider was the one that had added them. What's interesting, is on WordPress's update page, they have the option of "No-ads" for $30/year, and yet I don't see any ads on my personal blog on WordPress, so I don't know why this is needed.

But when I created this site, it was in the hope that I could provide good information to my readers and make some money for doing so. For this reason, I needed to not only have ads on my site, but be able to profit from those ads. Because Blogger is owned by Google, you can choose to add AdSense ads to your blog easily and quickly (I think it took me 5 minutes to set up and they were on the blog within a half hour). This way, when readers click on the ads, you get paid--not the platform (well, I guess Google gets paid too).

Blogspot also allows ads from other vendors. I don't know how it all works yet, but I know that many of the blogs that run BlogHer ads have their blogs on Blogspot.

Overall

So overall, which platform you use will depend on what your blog is being created for. If it's a personal blog, you could go either way. If you don't mind not being able to change your template, you might want to use WordPress. You'll experience less problems with your blog because you won't be messing with the HTML. At the same time, most aren't messing with their personal blogs on Blogspot to the point where these headaches tend to occur.

I've had quite a few headaches with this blog, but with my personal one, which I've been messing with here on Blogspot to see if I like it, I haven't had any headaches because I don't need as much functionality. And I love that I can have a cutesy template. I'm still not sure which one I'm going to keep, though.

If you're creating a professional blog that details your services, I would go with WordPress because it's easier to get the functionality you want, and many of the templates available lend well to a professional appeal. If you are looking for more versatility, you may be willing to pay for that ability because the blog is created to sell yourself or your product.

If, however, you are creating a blog in the hopes of lending your knowledge, whether that knowledge is of video games, tips on blogging, eating healthy, sharing cooking tips, or raising children, then I would recommend Blogspot. Just like many services on the Web, it's the advertisers who will be paying you for your blog, not your readers, so having the ability to display ads is essential to making your blog profitable.

Anyway, that's how I see it. I hope that helps you in deciding which blogging platform you decide to use. And hey, if you're still not sure, try them both out. After all, they're free and you can see for yourself which one you like better and dump the other one.

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