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It may not seem like an important decision, but when you’re starting up a blog, one thing you’ll want to think carefully about is the platform you’re going to use.
There are all kinds of options out there these days, and it’s easy to look at them and think they all do the same thing—but that’s definitely not the case! Each platform has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and can either help you or hinder you in doing certain things.
So today, let’s spend a little time talking about how to pick your blog platform.
Decide what you want to accomplish.
If you can outline what you want to do with your blog now, you’ll have better luck choosing a platform that can help you get there. Most blog platforms come with their own sets of tools, and no two sets of tools will be exactly the same.
For example, think about what you want your site to look like, and whether a certain platform has options for CSS, HTML, or block design. Or if you know you’re going to want a custom URL, figure out if that’s an option that you can get through your platform, or if you need to make other arrangements.
As you’re thinking about this, make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves (and don’t-wants, if you have those too) and compare the platforms you’re considering to your list.
Figure out if you can make a budget.
This was a pretty serious consideration for me at first, because well, it felt like a hobby to me. But unless you can set up and host a server, and write enough CSS and HTML to build your website yourself, it’s eventually going to cost you something.
As you’re going through your options, look into what it would cost to run a plan for that site, either now or later on. Be sure to investigate whether hosting is included, or whether you’d need to plan for that cost, too. You’ll also need to consider the cost of licensing your domain, which will need to be renewed once a year.
Wait. What about free options?
Some platforms do come with a free option, which is super helpful when you’re starting. But this is where you need to consider your goals for your blog, because free options won’t typically let you design however you like, create your own URL, or use any sort of income feature like ads.
You can always start with a free option and upgrade (that’s what I did), but if that’s what you decide to do, be sure to look into the platform’s options around redirects. Otherwise, it could create quite a mess of broken links for your posts and pages.
Consider your options.
I’ll be honest—I went with the first familiar option when I started my blog.
Though I don’t regret the decision, and love the platform I have, I don’t recommend doing what I did. Instead, do some research. See what’s out there, see what might fit you, and see what you can discover that you didn’t know was possible with a blog. Changing your blog’s platform after you’ve picked it is possible, but it’s a massive headache, so if you can avoid it, trust me. You’ll want to!
To help you get started, here’s an overview of the Big 3 blog platforms.
WordPress is well-known for being one of the biggest publishers of independent blogs in the world.
It’s also a popular choice for businesses and publications because of its flexibility and customization options. Because of this, it comes with a wide selection of third-party tools for just about anything you could want. You’ll need these plugins for things like ads, eCommerce, creative design, or mailing lists.
Fun fact: WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two different things!
They both give you a similar WordPress experience, but .org is their self-hosted version (which lets you do pretty much anything you want, but you need to arrange for your own hosting and URL), and .com is their hosted version (which comes with hosting and URL options, but is a bit more limited in terms of what you can do).
It’s worth knowing that .com does come in a free-forever plan, but that gives you a name.wordpress.com URL—you’ll have to upgrade to remove their branding. It also requires a business plan to use plugins, where .org lets you use them right away.
I use WordPress.com for my blog because I find it really easy to use and publish, and I like the tools it comes with. Its SEO tool helps me figure out what people are looking for on my blog, so I can write more of that content.
I also use a WordPress-exclusive plugin called Elementor, which gives me total creative control over my blog through an easy-to-use block builder. That’s how I built my own custom website theme, including headers, footers, and post design!
Though it definitely targets a more business-focused audience, Squarespace has a lot of tools to help bloggers build their sites too.
Its big claim to fame is its focus on marketing options for its websites, which includes email marketing. It might not matter for everyone, but it can cut down on extra tools you need later if you plan to do newsletters or mailing lists.
Squarespace sites also feature collaborative publishing workflows, which includes the ability to control permissions for contributors. It’s not necessarily something you’ll need when you’re publishing on your own, but it’s definitely a nice-to-have if you’re thinking about starting a blog with some friends, or including contributor content at some point.
One thing to note is that Squarespace doesn’t have a free-forever plan. It does mention a free trial of any of their paid plans on the site, but it’s not clear how long that trial might be.
It also focuses really heavily on doing as much of the business side of things as possible in-house, and depending on the plan, can do things like accept donations, run subscription programs (like Patreon), and run eCommerce stores.
Wix is a popular option for new bloggers because it does a really good job with design right off the bat. It has all kinds of resources for bloggers to create a beautiful site; templates, blog-specific guides, even a logo maker!
It also features a unique AI function that can take answers from you and create a fully designed site, which is pretty cool, especially when you’re not sure what you want to do.
Though a lot of the tools appear to be free, though, it’s important to note that Wix does not have a free plan. You can get a free trial of any of their paid plans for 14 days, but after that, you’ll have a monthly fee.
One thing that does not impress me is the storage size you get with the site. The biggest possible storage amount you can get is with a business plan, and it’s 50GB. Depending on what you have on your site, you can go through that pretty quickly! And unlike a disk drive on your computer, you can’t really delete files to make room for more—at least without breaking something in your site.
Wix, like WordPress, does have quite a marketplace of optional plugin-style apps that you can add to your site to do things like customize your design, run ads, set up eCommerce, and more. They appear to all be available with any of the paid plans, too!