During a recent edition of Blogchat, bloggers asked about blogging platforms other than WordPress. Here’s why WordPress should be your goal.
A blogger asked me my thoughts about Weebly.
Frankly, I had no thoughts about Weebly. I have nothing good to say about it, but then again, I have nothing bad to say about it, either. I’m sure, in its own way, it’s probably a fine little blogging platform.
But I’m on WordPress. I’ve been on WordPress for years. The thought of moving away from WordPress practically sends shivers down my spine.
Let me explain that.
A slightly different version of this blog began in November of 2003. You won’t find it today. You won’t find the couple of posts that ever appeared there — at least not in their original form — here. It was a static website hosted by GeoCities (remember them?) on which I posted a single essay about something I wanted to talk about. After a week or so, I’d go back to that static page and change the content to something else, replacing the old with the new.
After about the third post — it couldn’t have been more than that — I had already learned an important lesson: the blog format allows you to keep that old content easier, and gives people an easier way to navigate it. Old content is valuable: it gives people a reason to stay on your site longer and (hopefully) be entertained enough that they’ll want to come back.
When I realized I needed to move to a true blogging platform, I had to decide which one. I’d heard of WordPress, but it just seemed so…complicated.
Looking back now, I don’t know, for the life of me, why I thought that. But everyone always seems to think that.
So I settled upon AOL. Yes, it was still called America Online at that time, and it offered a blogging platform called “AOL Journals.” It featured a ridiculously easy (meaning ridiculously limited) platform. But since the platform was so limited, all I could really do was focus on the content.
There was a second big lesson: it’s about the content, stupid!
The best thing AOL Journals had going for it was the tight-knit community. When you posted something, you were going to have readers. On top of that, you were going to have comments. Remember comments? They used to be all the rage. Comments made you think, helped you see other people’s perspectives on things and helped you focus your own.
More importantly, they reminded me — lesson #3 — that there are people who will read what you have to say.
A group of us on AOL Journals had a falling out with AOL because of a censorship issue that concerned a fellow blogger that was horribly mishandled by the platform’s editorial team. Then they introduced banner advertising on blogs that blog owners could not opt-out of, could not share in revenue and could not even have control over which advertisers were allowed or not allowed to advertise on their blogs.
I moved from AOL to Blogger. That WordPress still seemed so…complicated.
Blogger had the same problem AOL did, I came to realize, when it came to editorial issues and complaints about content from those with axes to grind.
That brought me to the fourth big lesson: you want to control your content by having it on your own domain, not having it on someone else’s platform that they could tamper with if they thought someone had taken offense to something you said. This means buying a domain, finding a host and downloading WordPress’s software from WordPress.org. (WordPress.com, the Blogger-like alternative, doesn’t count: you’re on WordPress’s space, not your space.)
If their platform goes down, your blog goes with it. If they make a bad call (as AOL did) and delete an entire library of graphics over a complaint about a single image, that’s tough.
So I made the move to WordPress, where there is an incredible community of supporters out there easily reachable via social media; not to mention thousands of themes and plugins available to add virtually any kind of functionality you’d ever need to your WordPress site.
WordPress, miraculously, wasn’t all that complicated. It was a bit intimidating at first, to be sure, but not so intimidating that it couldn’t be figured out.
I’m glad I went the route I did when I started blogging, because the lessons I learned the hard way were lessons it might have taken a lot longer to learn otherwise. But I eventually made the transition to a self-hosted WordPress blog and wouldn’t change to something else now for any reason.
If you feel the need to explore on some other platform, my best advice for you is to go for it. Give it a try. Figure out all the things a new blogger needs to figure out wherever you feel comfortable.
But somewhere on your list of blogging goals, please add this: Self-hosted WordPress.
Sooner or later, it’s where you need to be.