I wanted to get back to writing the beginners guide to blogging. It has been a little while since I wrote on this guide and it can be difficult if not impossible to write a definitive guide for beginners to start blogging. While reading and choosing a topic are part of starting your blog, choosing a blogging platform moves the process of starting a blog into a more technical area. If you do not have a technical background then this step can be one of the more challenging.
Now that you have been reading and you have chosen your blogging topic you can look at what blogging platform you will use to power your blog. There are a number of blogging platforms available and each has its advantages and disadvantages. The first decision you need to make is whether you want to have a hosted blog or a self hosted blog. What is the difference? A hosted blog is one where the content of your blog is hosted on the blogging services servers. Examples of a hosted blogging service include Blogger.com, WordPress.com and TypePad. There are many other hosted blogging services and Wikipedia has a good list of available hosted blogging services.
While some people will tell you that you should never use a hosted blogging solution for your blog there are some very good reasons to use a hosted blogging service. If you do not have a very technical background a hosted blogging service can get you up and blogging faster with less headaches. You don’t have to worry about software upgrades, security is less of a concern just make sure you have a good username and password to keep your account secure. Each service has its differences and I would encourage a beginning blogger to test and experiment with each service to decide if they want to use that service. Personally, I find the Blogger.com service very easy for beginning bloggers to use. The number of settings do not seem to be as over whelming to the beginner and they have made a number of enhancements over the last few years including allowing you to have your own domain name and scheduled posts that make the service more attractive.
The biggest disadvantage to using a hosted blogging service is you do not own your content. There are many stories of blogs being closed down for any number of reasons and your content can simply vanish overnight. It is for this reason alone I like to host my own blogs on my own web hosting. Wikipedia again has a nice list of many of the open source self hosted blogging platforms that are available. If you dislike free and open source software you can also look at the proprietary weblog software that you can install and use.
If you have never blogged before and you are just starting installing blogging software on your own web hosting space I would recommend looking at WordPress as your blogging platform (no surprise there eh). There are many good reasons to use WordPress as your self hosted blogging platform. For beginners there will be a learning curve to using any blogging platform, but the self hosted WordPress is perhaps the easiest to learn from the many options that are available. Many web hosts also offer an easy to use install service called Fantastico or another similar system that will install WordPress for you quickly and easily. Dreamhost, the web host Epiblogger is now hosted with, offers a one-click installer. This takes some of the harder work out of installing WordPress. Once you have WordPress installed you can also use the easy installers to upgrade the software when new upgrades are released. While some blogging consultants recommend you don’t use the easy installers for your initial install or upgrading and there are reasons to not use it, for beginners they are useful tools. You should at some point learn how to upgrade your WordPress installation without the easy installers.
The best reason to use WordPress as your self hosted blogging platform is because of the great community of WordPress users. They are a great resource for helping bloggers of all levels from beginners to expert. Many solutions can be found for any problems you might encounter in the WordPress support forums. If there is a problem you can’t find a solution for in the WordPress support forum the widespread use of WordPress makes it easy to find a WordPress guru to pay to help solve your problem.
Your choice of blogging platform can make a large difference in your blogging. You want to make the most of your time and when you are just starting out the learning curve can be kind of steep no matter what blogging platform you chose. In my experience of working on the web and working with many different blogging platforms over the years I do find Blogger.com and WordPress, either hosted or self hosted, to be the platforms that are the easiest to use. It is also possible to move your blog at a later time to another platform if you feel you want to change. Some platforms don’t give you any options to move afterward and you will then either have to abandon your blog and start over, or find another way of moving your data, such as copying and pasting.
Your turn, every blogger has an opinion about what platform people should use. What blogging platform would you recommend to a beginner blogger?
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