The internet is saturated with free blogging platforms, and choosing one can be a difficult prospect if you’re going in blind. From WordPress and Blogger to the smaller platforms with less well-known names, each has its own set of positive features and drawbacks. Here’s a run-down of some of the most popular blogging platforms and how useful they are for students who are looking to spread the word about their skills, interests, experiences, and writing.
Those already in the blogging world are often quick to recommend WordPress as a favourite plaform. In his bumper post about blogging platforms, Jon Russell tells us that “it is, in simple terms, the Daddy of blogging”. Seasoned bloggers often prefer WordPress because it offers far better customisation offers, and although some features sit behind premium (paid for) packages, the selection of free themes is very reasonable. The popularity that this generates leads us to a second, important benefit: a larger, more diverse community. With users aplenty, students looking to connect with those in their academic field or chosen career path are more likely to hit gold. The only real downside is that WordPress is the most complex option on this list, and if you’ve never blogged before it will take a little more time to get used to.
In contrast with WordPress’ emphasis on customisation, Blogger is all about simplicity. The bloggers at fuelyourwriting.com say that it’s “among the most easy to use platforms out there, and many beginning bloggers prefer it… like WordPress, Blogger is popular, and has a large community of writers already there.” Again, this community can be a real benefit for students using their blogs to network. However, the lack of customisation can lead to Blogger users becoming bored, and you need to be proud of your blog if you want to stay motivated. Possibly even more frustrating, Blogger won’t help you purchase a domain name, a real disadvantage if you’re hoping to look more professional than the .blogspot extension suggests.
Tumblr has become hugely popular among younger users, and this is due to the fact that it functions as both a blogging platform and a social networking tool. In an in-depth article about Tumblr, The Economist suggests that “as well as being a blog platform, Tumblr is also a weakly linked social network, more akin to microblogs like Twitter … than Facebook. To ordinary visitors, Tumblr pages look similar to those on any journaling site. But register for an account and an entire microblogging ecosystem materialises.” This has led to the users developing their own culture, which places emphasis on sharing images and short quotes rather than posting lengthy original content. Although Tumblr provides a simple place to create attractive blogs, it is generally geared more towards personal blogging than academic or professional use.
Medium is one of a number of relatively new blogging platforms that have opted for complete simplicity and virtually no customisation options at all (others include Postach.io and Svbtle). Unlike Blogger, they get away with it by redefining what it means to be blogging. Thorin Klosowski, writing for lifehacker, tells us that “when you first head over to a place like Medium or Svbtle, they’re barely recognizable as blogs. Instead, they’re designed more like a magazine … Despite their outward appearances, both Medium and Svbtle are also blog-style platforms where you can write articles of your own.” Favourite posts are then displayed on a home page that is styled like a magazine. These platforms allow for a refreshingly simple blogging experience, and are great for students looking to both share their own ideas and discover other bloggers. However, Thorin also points out one major disadvantage to using Medium: “you give them royalty-free access to your content. You still own the copyright to your words, but they can do whatever they want with what you write.”
Evidently, the main decision to make up front is whether you’re going to need simplicity or customisation. There is no right answer – in choosing whichever option you find more appealing, you’re helping ensure that you’ll be motivated to keep blogging. If customisation is your bag then WordPress seems like the top choice, however if you’re looking for something simple then you have a few more options to play around with.