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Part 3A: What blogging platforms are available, and how do each perform? (Tumblr and Blogger)
In the previous posts of this mini series, we talked about what a blogging platform is and I got you thinking about essential questions you need to ask yourself before choosing a blogging platform.
Now, we get into the meat of the topic — what each blogging platform offers in terms of what your needs and abilities are.
If you haven't already, I recommend you go back and read through Part 2 of this series so you can get a better idea of your needs, goals, technical abilities, and budget before I dive into the benefits of each platform.
In this and the next post, I'll talk about three (well, four) blogging platforms: Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress.com, and Self-Hosted WordPress. Of course, there are more options (think TypePad and SquareSpace), but because I don't have direct experience with these I don't feel right sharing my opinion! (*Update 10/1/14 - I now have a Squarespace blog, so please ask questions in the comments*)
All of that said, it's important to note that most blogging platforms can do most or all of the previously mentioned things. But if you are more or less tech savvy, or have more or less money to invest in your blog, or want more or less control over the blog design and functionality, some blogging platforms will be better than others.
Blogging Platform Exhibit A: Tumblr
Let's start with Tumblr. Tumblr is probably the most basic blogging platform, and is perfect for the less tech savvy. The design of the Tumblr dashboard (the front page of your blogging platform) is intuitive and easy to use. Tumblr is best used for anything visual: photos, graphics, artwork. You can also use it to publish text based posts.
Tumblr's Design Options and Growth
In terms of design and room for growth, there are definitely options to customize Tumblr blogs, but it's going to be the most difficult to do so.
There are several Tumblr themes available: some are free, some are paid. And you can tweak Tumblr themes or create your own, all within Tumblr.
Cost and Format of Tumblr
Tumblr is free and is mostly used for short posts such as single photos, short quotes, embedded videos or audio clips, and other similar shorter blogging items.
Your blog's link will look like this: http://your-blog-name.tumblr.com. You can also easily register for a domain and attach it to a Tumblr blog, so you can direct people to http://www.your-blog-name.com.
The Social Aspects of Tumblr
Because Tumblr is all built into itself and there's a growing population of users on it, it's very easy for other Tumblr users to like your individual blog posts and follow your blog in general.
Comments can be built in easy with Disqus. And most Tumblr themes have standard sharing options so people can share your post on Facebook and Twitter. What's unique about Tumblr is that Tumblr started the reblog feature, meaning that people can share your post on their blog. (Now other blogging platforms have this too, but people are still mostly reblogging things on Tumblr.)
Since Tumblr is typically visually heavy, you'll find a lot of artists and art lovers on here. If your blog is visually oriented with shorter posts, this is the place to go.
Tech Savvyness of Tumblr
You don't need to be very tech savvy to start and maintain a blog with Tumblr. The interface is intuitive and easy to understand and use.
The one downside of Tumblr is that you still cannot easily export your blog posts. So if someday you decide that WordPress or Blogger is for you, you will have to move your posts over manually, meaning one at a time. No fun at all.
Blogging Platform Exhibit B: Blogger
Blogger, now owned by Google, has been a standard blogging platform for several years. It's known as the go-to blogging platform for new bloggers because of its ability to do cool things without you having to be too tech savvy.
Design and Format of Blogger Blogs
I'm not sure if you can sense my feelings about Blogger yet, but I'll just go ahead and say it: I find it extremely clunky and antiquated in a lot of ways. While a lot of functionality is there, Blogger sites tend to feel weighed down by too much information. And while Blogger sites can be made to look more streamlined with custom and pre-made templates, there's a level of tech tinkering that needs to get you there.
That said, onward.
Blogger can accommodate more blog post types than a simpler site. It's easy to add photos, links, and large blocks of text in the blog post editor. Pages and other essential blog parts are easy to add to the sidebar, header and footer of your Blogger blog.
Cost of Blogger Blogs
Blogger is also free, and can also have a custom domain attached to it.
Growth for Blogger Blogs
There is room for growth here, but only in terms of adding custom content to individual pages. For example, if you're a designer with a blog and you also want to display portfolio items, you'll need to choose one or the other for your blog and use pages for the rest. While that is doable, I would never ever recommend it.
Shortly, Blogger is best for a blog-only blog with a few pages for basic information.
Social Aspects of Blogger
For a long time, Blogger has been really popular also because it's easy to display the number of followers your Blogger blog has and it also makes it easier for people who have a Blogger account (or Google, which is everyone now) to follow your blog. This is still the case: Blogger is excellent for followers.
Now that Google is integrating into Blogger more, commenting is easier since comments hook into Google Plus.
Sharing is also generally easy within Blogger blogs: share buttons and counts are usually displayed by default (but can also add to the clunky feel of a site).
Tomorrow I will talk about WordPress blogs — both WordPress.com and Self-Hosted WordPress (and I'll talk about what each of those means).
In the meantime… If you have questions about Tumblr or Blogger, ask in the comments below!