Blogging is something I really enjoy and yet I don’t do nearly enough of it. Many things keep me from blogging: not thinking I have much of interest to actually blog about, not being sure that anyone actually reads my posts, and the big one, not being really sure what platform is really the best for blogging. As I think about that last one, the actual platform, I realize that I have spent way way too much time pondering this question. I’ve also tried just about every blogging solution I know of in the hopes of finding the perfect solution, one that has all the features I could possibly want while also being accessible and easy for readers to interact with. Because I feel blogging is more than just the sharing of information, it’s an opportunity for dialog — discussion — and for all, reader and author alike, to learn from one another.
WordPress has long been my favorite blogging platform. It’s stable, it’s been around forever, many of the largest sites on the net are powered by it, it’s free, and the community has put in a tremendous amount of effort into its accessibility. On the flip-side, WordPress requires a bit of maintaining and updating, there are frequent updates that address security vulnerabilities, because it’s so powerful and flexible the dashboard can be a bit daunting, and sometimes it’s difficult to make customizations to layout and design unless one possesses more knowledge than what I possess.
Medium is a really neat service and I see more and more people using it. On the plus side, Medium handles all the back-end stuff, the author need only log in and write. There are limits though to Medium functionality, it doesn’t support plugins, they don’t host audio, readers need a Medium account in order to comment, accessibility is improving but there are definite gaps.
Micro.blog is another really neat platform. The thing I love about Micro.blog is that it’s possible to aggregate feeds from a number of services into one place. Users of the service can also comment on and mention one another. There are lots of really cool aspects to Micro.blog, but … it does not support commenting on posts directly other than mentions from other Micro.blog users; think expanded Twitter-like functionality. Micro.blog also does not support plugins, does not really allow for category-based organization (at least not as of the last time I tried it), and limits the amount of audio and video that can be hosted. I really want to love Micro.blog as I love the concepts behind it, but I just really want it to have some additional features.
And so in my quest to find the perfect blogging platform, I’ve lost sight of the reason behind it, blogging. And so as I think about more topics about which I might blog, I’m curious what platforms people out there prefer? Which do you find easiest to use, what features make for a better experience either as a blogger, or reader?
6 replies on “Looking for the perfect blog platform, wondering what readers prefer?”
I think defining the perfect blogging platform depends greatly on what perfection looks like, and how you want to blog. I personally favor WordPress, for a ton of reasons I’m not going to go into here. On the other hand, I have the ability to custimize it to support how I want to blog. I’m aware this takes a lot of work. I didn’t begin to realize how much work I’ve put into it until I started to document how I did it, at which point I realized that there are a lot of things I’ll need to explain in order to provide others the background to make all the customizations. This, in turn, has created a backlog of very long drafts which need to be edited, finished, and published. I think that, for people just getting started, and who are interested in quick, status-like updates instead of blog posts with a title and all that, Micro.blog is the best option. There are several reasonably accessible third-party clients that can be used with it, (Icro, Quill, to name a couple), and it allows for exporting of content later when you’re ready to grow. The next best option is WordPress, but as Steve mentions in his post above, it is extremely flexible, and this means that you’ll need to have a good idea of what’s necessary for your blog, what’s nice to have and doable given your current skill set or budget, and what’s in the “Dream House” category: Things you’d like to have but which will need to wait for later. Static site generators are also a good option, and can be middle of the road if you’re willing to put in the work to handle the CLI aspect as well as the templating. My favorite is Jeckill with Hugo coming in second. I think static site generators are great for sites which are ten pages or less, aren’t going to be frequently updated, or whose updates are small-ish. YOu can attach commenting systems like Facebook or Disqus to them, but if you’re concerned about privacy or owning your content, these two should be avoided like the plague. Same with Medium. Self-hosted WordPress is still your best option here. There’s also Known, but I’m not sure how accessible this is, although it supports plugins, is almost exclusively focused on semantic HTML and the other Indieweb building blocks, (webmention, microformats 2, post kinds, eTC). I hope this is helpful.
Amanda, thanks for writing such a great detailed comment, my apologies that I’m just seeing it now. I think the situation today is just as it was last year. I still love micro.blog, but it just had a few things that consistently stoped me from using it as my primary platform — mainly difficulty for people to comment without figuring out the MB platform, creating an account, and so forth. My only wish is that I could figure out how to add status posts to WordPress, I know there are plenty of articles on how to do it, but they’re all above my hed and this blogging stuff should just be easy. Ultimately, while I hate to divide my content, I might just wind up subscribing to MB just for cross-posted status updates, I’d rather just put everything in WP though.
Those of us who are interested in the views and information that a blogger might provide don’t necessarily have the tech expertise to devine the “best” way to present the material; we do, in fact, want to be able to read it, find it again and even interact with it. Also, as one who has kept a number of blogs on Blogger and WordPress I find WordPress easy to use; as a reader it is easy to read and comment on and as a rule pretty easy to find older content. Sometimes all the new formats and concepts have lots of zing and flash but don’t have the advantages and comforts of the older platforms. God, I almost sound like a luddite 🙂
I’m not sure how technical you wish to go, but static site generators (SSGs) are rapidly increasing in popularity these days. I’ve used both Nikola and Hugo. They require knowledge of the CLI, but once you get your themes and workflows set, it’s only a matter of writing a post in a text document with markdown, regenerating the HTML, and placing the HTML in your public site directory. I think some of these even have web interfaces for administration.
I’ve been reading about SSG options and it’s definitely interesting. Is there any way to support commenting though? I’m guessing not unless there’s a way to tie a commenting system into each and every page at the template level. Thanks for commenting, I really should become more familiar with SSG.
There are solutions for comments. Disqus, Facebook, etc. A good friend blogged about this conundrum a while ago:
This specifically refers to Nikola, but based on your theme and add-ons, it can apply to any SSG.