Starting A Blog Part 3: Choosing a Blog Platform + Design

When I decided I wanted to blog it became a little overwhelming with all the decisions I needed to make. What platform did I want to use? What did I want my blog to look like? How did I even set up a blog?


Eventually, I was able to navigate through those questions, but I didn't really spend any serious time thinking through the questions. So a few months after launching my blog I wasn't totally satisfied with it. This led to me going through that process again when I rebranded my blog. From those two experiences and the research I've done I've learned a few things about building a blog that I'd like to share. In this post, I'll be sharing information on
  • Choosing a platform and hosting service
  • Selecting a design theme

    Choosing a platform for your new blog | A Relaxed Gal

    (This post includes affiliate links. Should you click an affiliate link and make a purchase I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you.)

    Choosing a blog platform and hosting service

    There are so many options out there for blog platforms. Despite that, there are a few that tend to be most common among bloggers
    • Blogger
    • WordPress.com
    • WordPress.org (self-hosted)
    • Squarespace

    Not to put on any additional pressure, but the platform for your blog is a big deal. Some reasons being the platform can
    • Make or break your blog (literally)
    • Cost you money before you make money
    • Determine your blog design options

    When I initially started my blog I did little to no research on the blog platform I would use. The platform I use is Blogger and I chose it based on the process of elimination, cost, and ease of setup. The other platforms I looked at were Wix and WordPress.

    Wix was out due to my experience from using it for a portfolio site. I found the interface to be slow and cumbersome. It cost money to get the ad-free version. I also had issues with the hosting as the site would take a while a load.

    WordPress was another platform I eliminated based on past experience. I used the free version for a portfolio site and did like some of the features, but didn't want to commit to paying for anything or to be self-hosted.

    I chose Blogger simply because it was free, used by many other bloggers and easy to use. Over time though I've started to have a love/hate relationship with Blogger. This is mostly due to the limited features available for customization and how buggy it can be.

    Here are a few questions that can help you determine which platform you'd like to use and whether or not you'd like to be self-hosted.
    • Do I want my blog to be a business?
    • How much do I want to spend on my blog?
    • How HTML savvy am I?
    • How HTML savvy do I want to be?
    • How much customization do I want to be able to do?

    After thinking through these questions and your answers let's take a look at the pros and cons I've compiled about Blogger, WordPress, and Squarespace.

    Blogger

    Pros
    • Free
    • Hosted by Google
    • Easy to initially set up
    • Can find several free and premium design themes for customization

    Cons
    • Google offers limited, out-of-date, unattractive free design themes
    • Has limited features for customization
    • Need some level of coding knowledge to customize the design and functionality
    • Unattractive, non-customized domain
    • Have to pay for a custom domain
    • No easy e-commerce options
    • Pretty much no tech support
    • Google can suspend your account and take your blog offline

    Who this platform is good for
    • New bloggers who aren't ready to make a monetary commitment to blogging

    WordPress

    With WordPress you have two options 1) WordPress.com, 2) self-hosted WordPress.org.

    WordPress.com

    Pros
    • Free
    • Several free and premium design themes available
    • Free support via email and from the WordPress community
    • You own your content
    • Can customize using plugins and widgets
    • Platform is updated regularly
    • Don't need to be too HTML and CSS savvy

    Cons
    • Limited amount of space, 3 GB
    • Non-customized domain
    • Some of the plugins and premium features cost money
    • Can't make money using ad networks
    • WordPress can run ads on your site that you don't make money off of

    Who this platform is good for
    • New bloggers who want easy setup, access to multiple site features and aren't ready to make a monetary commitment

    WordPress.org

    Pros
    • Several free and premium design themes available
    • Free support via email and from the WordPress community
    • You own your content
    • Several plugins and widgets for customization
    • Platform is updated regularly
    • Can be used as a content management system
    • Can monetize your blog however you want
    • E-commerce capabilities

    Cons
    • Hosting costs (can be close to $100 a year)
    • Need to have some CSS and HTML knowledge

    Who this platform is good for

    • Bloggers who plan on blogging for a while and turning their blog into a business.

    Web Hosting

    Squarespace

    Pros
    • Easy to use interface
    • Drag and drop features
    • Free customized domain
    • E-commerce capabilities
    • 24/7 customer support
    • Unlimited bandwidth and storage
    • Design themes available for purchase

    Cons
    • Squarespace offers a very limited number of templates
    • Nothing is free
    • Can cost over $100 a year
    • 3% sales transaction fee for sales you make on the site

    Who this platform is good for
    • Bloggers who plan on blogging for a while and want their blog to be a business

    If you've decided to be self-hosted you'll need to select your hosting service. When it comes to hosting services not all of them are created equal. I've read and heard some horror stories about hosting services where sites are crashing all the time or the service needs to be constantly upgraded for a fee.

    I'm not currently self-hosted so I don't have first-hand experience with hosting services, but from what I've seen other bloggers say SiteGround is one of the better options because
    • It's cost-efficient particularly for new bloggers starting at $3.95 a month for the first three years
    • There are multiple hosting options
    • Has good and responsive customer service
    • Has fast load times

    Tips for starting a blog: Choosing a blog platform and design | arelaxedgal.com

    Selecting a blog design

    After you've chosen a platform it's time to select a design theme or design for your blog. Why not do this before choosing a platform? Blog themes are typically designed and coded to work on a specific platform.

    There are a few ways you can get a design theme
    • Hire a designer and/or developer to create a customized theme
    • Get a free (no tech support) pre-made theme
    • Purchase a pre-made theme (most come with tech support). You can get some pretty pre-made themes for Blogger and WordPress from designers. One designer who has several themes I like is Beautiful Dawn Designs. She has pretty themes for both WordPress and Blogger. Another designer I like is Pretty Darn Cute Design. She has several user-friendly attractive themes specifically for WordPress.
     Whether you have a design theme created specifically for you or get a pre-made one, you'll need to have a good idea of the type of layout and functionality you want your blog to have. When I was searching for a design theme during my rebrand I asked myself these questions
    • Does this theme work on the platform I chose?
    • Do I want a traditional layout or more modern?
    • Do I want the site to be minimalistic?
    • Does this theme work with my brand colors or will I have to adjust them?
    • How easy is it to customize?
    • How much coding would I need to do to customize it?
    • Do I want a sidebar? If so on which side?

    Which platform did you choose for your blog?



    14 Keys To Launching A Successful Blog eBook
    Starting A Blog Part 3: Choosing a Blog Platform + Design Starting A Blog Part 3: Choosing a Blog Platform + Design Reviewed by Leah | A Relaxed Gal on 07 May Rating: 5

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