How to Choose a Blog Platform
The top performers in our review are WordPress, the Gold Award winner; Weebly, the Silver Award winner; and Wix, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a blog platform to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 options.
Blogging is the simplest way to make your own personalized page on the internet. Even with the advent of social media, millions still record their thoughts and ideas on a blog because it’s a space they control and one where they can display their individuality. Blogs exist for nearly every subject, from hobbies to journalism to photography. You can use a blog to act as your resume and portfolio when applying for a job. You can even use blogging as a means to start up your own small business.
Building your site with a blog platform eliminates the need to know complicated HTML coding techniques. While blog platforms can take the hassle out of owning and operating a website, the best platforms allow coding experts to tinker under the hood with HTML and allow you to host your blog on your own domain to give it an extra level of professionalism.
The best blog platforms give you the tools to make a distinct website that will get you noticed and even make you money. Unlike a normal webpage, you don’t need to be a web expert to maintain it, you just need to produce high-caliber content to keep your reader hooked. Read more articles about blog platforms and other internet services.
How It Works: Subscriptions and Hosting
While most blog platforms are free to use, some offer premium subscriptions for access to higher-quality templates, professional stat tracking or options for running your own business.
Another important point to keep in mind when selecting a blog platform is where you will host your site. A common feature among free blog platforms is that they let you host your blog on their own domain, usually adding their name to your web address (e.g., mysite.wordpress.com). In most cases, a premium subscription will allow you to host your blog on a domain that you own. Read more about domain and blog hosting here. With your very own web address and the right design tools, your readers won’t be able to tell that you made your website with a blog platform.
Blog Platforms: What We Evaluated and What We Found
We tested each blog platform by using each to make our own blog using sample posts and images. We carefully examined the most important aspects when designing and managing a blog, paying close attention to templates, ease of use and promotion tools.
Blog Design: Look For Customizable Templates & Easy-to-Use Tools
Blogging can be a great outlet for creativity and expressing yourself in words as well as in the aesthetics of your blog. You don’t need to be an expert in web coding to build a site, as these platforms offer an array of templates and themes to build upon. However, don’t just pick a theme and call it a day — explore the platform’s design tools and create something unique. The top blog sites let you change up their templates to match your exact vision.
Many blog sites offer free templates as well as premium selections made by web design experts for a price. On each platform we reviewed, we evaluated the extent to which you can customize the templates without touching the HTML or CSS coding options. You should be able to customize your blog without being an HTML wizard, but if you happen to be one, most platforms have an avenue for you to really tailor-make your blog.
Different platforms offer different levels and styles of design. Some let you plug specific features into set sections, while others offer a drag-and-drop style of placing content, so you can create almost anything you can envision. Our top picks allow you to customize things like your font with the press of a button or a simple keystroke. Adding things like photos, videos and audio to your posts shouldn’t take a degree in computer science to figure out.
For testing ease of use, we paid specific attention to instances of confusion, inconsistencies and overcomplicated interfaces. Our highest-ranking blog platforms were able to convey how their tools and features worked without requiring us to look up how to perform basic functions on a help forum. Platforms that performed poorly in this test had overly complex dashboards or vague menu options that didn’t clearly lead to the desired function.
Our highest-ranked blog platforms, such as WordPress, Wix and Squarespace, let you customize your site and make it easy to design your blog the way you want without being overly complicated.
Site Management Tools Keep Things Orderly
Managing a website may seem like a daunting task, as companies employ whole departments to manage theirs. Just like blog platforms simplify the design aspect, they also make the task of managing a site easy for a single person to handle. A good platform should give you tools to moderate comment threads and allow you to control the level of discourse on your site.
In evaluating site management tools, we paid extra attention to each platform’s moderation tools and the capability for preventing abuse and spamming. One common moderation tool holds all submitted comments until you approve them, so only your approved comments will appear on the blog. While most platforms will allow you to simply delete undesired comments, top platforms such as WordPress, Squarespace and TypePad let you ban troublesome commenters by their IP address, which keeps them from starting a new account and continuing to comment. Another advanced and useful tool gives you the capability to block comments that contain select words or phrases.
Other site management tools include mobile access and monetization. Some platforms automatically scale down your site to a mobile version, and the best even let you customize it separately from your main webpage. Having a dedicated mobile app from which you can make posts or adjustments to your site from your phone is a big plus. A few platforms give you the ability to set up your blog to be a storefront, and many come with built-in ad monetization, which often involves partnering with online ad services, the most popular being Google AdSense.
Promotion Tools Help Find & Keep Readers
With your blog designed and ready, now you just need people to read it. The key to any good blog is regularly updating it with interesting posts. You can get it even more exposure with an array of stat tracking and promotion tools.
Our testers paid careful attention to each platform’s various avenues for promoting your blog. An RSS feed, an email subscription and social media integration will keep readers informed and coming back to see the latest content on your blog. Social media can play a big part in how you build a following for your blog, so platforms that have integration with at least four social media sites got full marks in this aspect. Tracking statistics like views and shares will help you strategize how to get your blog more views. The more in-depth these tools were in our testing, the better the platform scored. Platforms that display those stats in a visual and helpful manner scored high, as did platforms that also track visitor referrals. If you can see what websites, countries or social media sites your visitors are coming from, you can identify where to promote your site more.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is an important tool of the trade to become familiar with in order to draw new traffic into your blog, and platforms that let you customize metadata and keywords are crucial. Optimizing your SEO is essential for attracting readers who are using search engines to look for the kinds of content you have on your blog.
Help & Support
Some platforms have so many different features and settings that using them can be overwhelming at first, so we checked to see if each site had a tutorial that walks you through the platform when you log in for the first time. If you get stuck with issues in design or managing your site, most blog platforms have help pages to assist you in resolving the problem. Even better is an option direct contact with developers and experienced users through a forum, particularly if your issue is too specific to be solved with a FAQs page.
Our Verdict & Recommendation
Our top-ranked blog platform is WordPress. It gives both beginners and advanced users full control over their blog and can steer it in the right direction. Its easy-to-use design tools let you personalize its large library of templates, while giving you the best comment moderation tools, mobile access and promotion tools of all the blog platforms that we’ve reviewed. WordPress’ most important features are yours to use for free, with a premium subscription only needed for a few more desired extras.
Wix’s drag-and-drop approach to design lets you customize your blog right down to the pixel. It receives one of our highest scores for template quality because of its deep customization options.
Squarespace is not only a powerful blogging platform, but also a website builder. It’s a subscription-only service that hosts your own domain. Its templates are as clean and professional looking as its own design interface, which you will easily be able to navigate.
Blogging is an enriching and easy way to get your ideas on the internet. You want to start your foray onto the web with the right foot forward, so launching a blog that looks expertly designed and well managed is the key to accomplishing your goals, whether it’s to make money, build a community or just share your thoughts. The top-ranked blog platforms can help you accomplish these things even if you’re new to the concept of web design.