Deciding to start a blog is not even close to half the battle, but it is a step in the right direction. A blog—short for “Web log”—is a great way to share your interests, hobbies, and causes with the world. Many have even used their blogs to launch full-fledged careers. But before you can revel in the glories of blogging, you have to make one big choice: What blogging platform are you going to use? Although there numerous Web-publishing services out there, there’s no denying WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger are the three most popular given their wide-reaching acceptance and deep integration on the Web. Moreover, each blog is custom-tailored for a different user and audience. Whereas WordPress is best suited for professional users who want to outfit their blog with upgrades and plugins, Tumblr finds grounding in quick, community-driven posts usually lined with images. And Blogger walks the middle ground between the two with a sheer level of simplicity and easy-to-use use design anyone can master.
Below is a breakdown of three popular blogging platforms. Now, let’s explore the pros and cons of each, shall we? Also, check out our top picks for the best WordPress themes and the best free blogging sites, along with our straightforward guide on how to start a blog.
WordPress (free, or $99-a-year premium package)
WordPress offers two separate but similar products: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. The first option provides free hosting and presents users with hundreds of customizable themes, along with an enormous bounty of plugins and widgets users can add or remove as needed. For only $13 a year, users can also upgrade to a custom domain name if they don’t want “.wordpress.com” in the URL. However, although the former options basks in simplicity, the latter provides an entirely new level of customization and control if users are willing to host their blog and perform the necessary administrative work to maintain the domain. Either way, both WordPress.com and WordPress.org are absolutely free, and users can even opt for the $99 upgrade package if they’re in need of additional features. It’s not as robust as the $300 business packages designed for eCommerce, but it does provide email support and 13GB of storage space while nixing advertisements in the process.
As a fully-fledged content management system and blogging platform, WordPress is indisputably the most powerful of the three aforementioned blogs. It’s perfect for those planning on expanding their site with multiple contributors with varying levels of access — such as authors, editors, and administrators — but it’s also somewhat daunting for many users given that the WordPress back-end can be rather confusing at first glance. However, the site is also relishes in a strong, knowledgeable community and user base given nearly 20 percent of all Internet sites utilize the platform. If users run into any trouble or have a specific question, the solution is often found within the active forums and the site’s thorough tutorials. Chances are, someone has asked the question before, so finding the appropriate solution is often easy.
Considering the WordPress offers the most freedom to grow and experiment with customization, though, the platform is generally ideal for the larger, more ambitious projects than those first-time bloggers typically undertake. It also touts a free mobile app compatible with Android, BlackBerry and iOS devices, allowing user to post or edit content, manage comments and explore other WordPress blogs on the go.
Best for: Building a site from the ground up, turning a blogging hobby into an eCommerce site, and those looking for robust customization via widgets and plugins.
Tumblr (free, or $19-$49 for premium themes)
Whereas WordPress is a turbo-charged powerhouse with every possible widget, plugin and add-on you could imagine, Tumblr is a straightforward exercise in sleek minimalism. Described as a “micro-blogging” platform, it’s more of a social media site than a publishing service — think Twitter with slightly more words — one in which users strive to follow other blogs, like posts, and get their own posts liked or reblogged. The heavy social component is ideal if that’s what users are looking for, but for some, the platform is a bit too sleek and minimalist for its own good. Sure, the platform offers a plethora of premade themes designed for limited customization should you know HTML or CSS coding, but Tumblr doesn’t offer the buffet of widgets and plugins WordPress does. However, Tumblr does offer an attractive mobile app for Android, iOS and Windows devices, additionally allowing users to follow their favorite blogs and post their own content while on the move. Users can also purchase one of the many premium themes, costing anywhere between $9 and $49, thus granting greater customization and administrative abilities than their free counterparts. Moreover, the designers even support the premium themes should users encounter implementation issues or have questions.
Unlike WordPress or Blogger, Tumblr’s biggest asset is undoubtedly the community of users that share content with one another. The majority of blog posts you’ll see on Tumblr are “reblogs,” or content one user originally posted that another posted again via a handy “reblog” button. Said content can include everything from beloved quotes to the latest music, but most posts consist of self-explanatory photos or Internet memes. Unlike the WordPress dashboard, where users can view all the administrative functions and mechanisms of their site, the Tumblr dashboard is an ongoing feed that includes their blog posts and those of the people they follow. Again, it’s like Twitter, but spliced with Pinterest’s emphasis on viral imaging. That said, most Tumblr posts revel in the short and sweet stuff, such as a quick link to an article or caption photo, in lieu of long-form theses. If your main concern is usability and you want your blog to be a catalog of things you find on the Internet, then Tumblr is a great platform. If you want to be able to fully customize your site and you plan on blogging in-depth about subjects of interest, then look elsewhere. Either way, give it a shot. Unlike Yahoo, which paid a billion dollars for the site, you can start a blog on Tumblr for free.
Best for: Quickly posting and reblogging others’ content (particularly images), following other bloggers, and those with little blogging experience.
Blogger is a happy medium between Tumblr and WordPress — not too sparse but not too loaded, either. It’s also the oldest of the three, having launched in 1999, and helped popularize blogging as a mainstream hobby and profession. Blogger is synonymous with blogging itself for many reasons given its history. And because Google bought the service in 2003, anyone with a Gmail account automatically possesses a Blogger account by default. Moreover, all Blogger blogs are already integrated into Google’s AdSense program, meaning users could start raking in the big blogging bucks with far less effort than WordPress or Tumblr.
The main downside to Blogger is that, because it’s essentially operates as a non-profit, it lacks many desirable widgets and plugins adorning other platforms. The free themes aren’t the most stylish in the blogosphere either, but there are plenty of for-hire Web designers out there willing to create a custom theme given a little economic incentive. Still, Blogger provides a multitude of site themes and a drag-and-drop template designer, along with ability to add media to posts and free hosting with the option of using a custom domain name. On top of that, the platform offers support for up to 100 authors on a single blog and touts a free mobile app for viewing and editing content on Android and iOS devices. Like Tumblr, the tools and customization options are geared more toward the causal blogger, so users will have to look to WordPress for more advanced offerings.
On the other hand, Blogger is great as a sort of “starter service” for people just getting into the blogging scene given users can sign up almost instantly with little hassle. The layout of the dashboard is simple and easy to use — reveling in a “what you see is what you get” sensibility — and starting a new post is as easy as clicking “New Post” in the main interface. Users can even craft posts in Microsoft Word, or whatever their preferred word processor is, and simply paste the content to Blogger without formatting issues.
Best For: Simple customization and beginners seeking a middle ground between WordPress and Tumblr.
What do you think of our direct comparison between WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger? Which blogging platform do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments below.