Answer Yourself! A blog by Sukhpreet Singh

A blog on personal development, entrepreneurship & change.

11th August 2007

How to choose blog software for your needs?

I spent some time searching for the right tools to setup my blog. Since its fresh in my mind, i thought of sharing it on the web hoping it might help someone in future.

Two Options

There are 2 options to begin with:
1) The hosted service: Examples for this would be – typepad.com, wordpress.com, blogger.com, and livejournal.com.

Pros:
a) Someone else manages the technicalities for you. All you do is express yourself.
b) Easy to get started. Just sign-up and within minutes you are up and running.
c) Most of these services are free and so won’t cost you anything to start your blog.
d) Community features on each of these site help you network better.

Cons:
a) Customization of design and layout is limited (but good enough for most users).
b) Cannot install new software or plug-ins that suits your need.

2) Self-hosted packages: Examples for this would be – Wordpress, Expression Engine, MovableType, Textpattern.

Pros:
a) You are the boss. You have absolute control over the software.
b) Can customize it to any extent. Can install any third party software or plug-in.
c) Future expandability. You can turn your blog onto a full blow website with blog.
d) You have absolute control over design and layout of your site.

Cons:
a) You have to deal with the set up, maintenance and troubleshooting.
b) You will need to buy the domain name and hosting space for your blog.
c) Need to have some technical knowledge.
d) Lack of community features. But there are open source communities that anybody can join and network.
To find more about what best fits your need – the hosted service Vs self-hosted package and to compare different features of various self-hosted packages, visit this and this link.

My choice

I went the self-hosted-packages route mainly because i wanted some more control over configurability and flexibility. I chose wordpress as my blogging software.
Why wordpress: It’s the most popular self-hosted blogging software package (when i was evaluating). For me that meant:
a) It will be mature and stable as more people will be working on its development and maintenance.
b) Must be easy to install and maintain by the user or else it won’t be very popular.
c) Must be feature rich.
d) Must have good online support as the solution to most of the problems or bugs must have been posted by someone, somewhere.
After some more research, i found that wordpress had over 1700 themes (design and layout) to choose form and about 2600 plugins (tools to extend the functionality) to choose from.

Factors determining the choice of theme: You can design your own theme. But, you need to have some experience with CSS, design and layout, color theory and php. Time investment would be significant if you don’t have enough experience with any of the above language / technique. I started with my own design but soon realized the time commitment. So I looked for a theme that had following features:
a) three columns so that I can have content in the center and user widgets on the sidebars (left and right).
b) theme should be widget ready. Wordprss.org describes widget as

WordPress Widgets (WPW) is a plugin designed to provide a simple way to arrange the various elements of your sidebar content (known as “widgets”) without having to change any code.

c) descent color combination.
d) good design and layout of header, footer and the three columns mentioned earlier.

If you would like add any other pros and cons, or factors for choosing 3-column layout relevant to above post, please let me know and i will update the post with credits.

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