Whether you want a parcel of cyberspace to plant your thoughts in, or need to share your business model with the world, blogs are the du jour communication channel. But the sheer number of platforms available makes the decision to blog harder than it needs to be. Here are some thoughts to help you weigh the choices and find an option that suits your needs.
A website or a blog?
If you publically admit that you’re starting a blog, it’s nearly certain someone will tell you about WordPress. It’s not surprising, given that WordPress.com claims to power 23 percent of the Internet. But before you spend any time comparing WordPress.com with WordPress.org, let’s stop at this first fork in the road to get a better sense of what you want.
WordPress began as an open-source blogging tool, but it’s grown into a robust content management system (CMS) that supports complete websites. It’s great for those who want to begin with a blog, but need room to grow and customize. Other great options are Squarespace and Wix. If you say blog but really mean website, then either WordPress.com or the WordPress software hosted on Go Daddy or your server of choice—the WordPress.org route—is a good place to start.
So, if WordPress and other companies cater to the website crowd, what do the blog-only options look like?
Minimalism on the mind
The call for clutter-free publishing tools has grown out of the cornucopia of plug-ins, widgets, themes, etc., on platforms such as WordPress.com. And no small number of newcomers have cropped up to heed that call.
Grace Smith’s article on Mashable presents a well-curated list of 16 options that reduce the jumble and put your words front and center. But the obvious way of dividing this list— free and paid options—conceals an important point that Smith papers over: the technical knowledge needed to put some of these options into action.
To code or not to code …
Brutal honesty about your technical savviness, and the effort you’re willing to make to become tech savvy, will help you feel better about paying a nominal monthly fee. If the blinking cursor of the command line stirs confusion and fear in you, sticking to economical options such as Postagon ($4.99/month) or Svbtle ($6/month) is wise. Another low-price option is Postach.io, which lets you sign up with and post directly from your Evernote account.
Get down with Markdown
Whether you resolve to scale the peaks of source code or remain on the temperate plains of hosted online platforms, one common denominator has surfaced—the option to compose in Markdown.
Markdown is a plain text-to-HTML conversion tool that lets you style posts as you write, using a simple syntax that translates into HTML. Unlike the more technical options, Markdown is easy to pick up, even if you’re unfamiliar with HTML. It might feel a bit foreign at first to writers accustomed to Microsoft Word, but the gain in efficiency and focus might be reason enough to learn a new trick.
For blog platforms with a social media vibe, check out Medium or Tumblr. Also check out other options, including those covered here. If you bump into something that inspires you, share it with us. We’d love to hear how you’re writing on the web!