WordPress vs Blogger

Note: this was obviously written before I moved back to WordPress!

So what’s with the clickbait title? Just as I was about to get my teeth into some home automation projects, get my ESB doing useful things and write some code I’ve ended up with a completely different project to work on – a new WordPress site, complete with custom themes and plugins.

I’ve created a number of sites with WordPress and I’d say I know my way around it pretty well. I’ve created themes from scratch, developed custom post types and rolled my own forms as well as assessing and using existing plugins to extend basic WordPress. And yet here I am, a WordPress not-quite-guru, writing a blog on Blogger. What gives?

They’re very different beasts. Blogger is a simple blogging platform, owned and hosted by Google, for straightforward traditional blogs. It offers relatively little in the way of theming and customisation but has pretty much all of the features you need. It offers good visitor stats, allows a certain amount of control over the layout of the side panel, is mobile friendly by default and comes with all of the social media integrations you’d expect.

WordPress.com is similar – it’s WordPress, hosted for you. It offers more choice in theming and you can get a better looking blog with little or no effort. It has a range of plugins available to extend the functionality of your blog, but only those that WordPress.com explicitly makes available.

To get the most out of WordPress you need to host it yourself. This isn’t difficult – many hosting packages include WordPress as a simple one-click install. Failing that, downloading and installing it on your hosted site is a really simple process. There are even companies that specialise in WordPress hosting and offer consultancy to get you started.

So what do you get out of hosting it yourself that you don’t get from using WordPress.com?

The best way to explain it is to explain what WordPress is, or at least, what it’s become. It’s no longer just a blogging platform. It’s one of the most widely used tools to create websites. Full stop. There are many sites that use it as a content management system and don’t make any use of the blogging functionality. It’s used to run shopping sites, news sites, galleries – you name it. Estimates vary, but some sources suggest that around a quarter of all websites use WordPress. That’s a lot of sites that aren’t blogs.

WordPress has a rich and comprehensive set of plugins to enable just about anything you might want on a website. The shopping cart is good example – there are plugins to display your catalogue, manage your stock and interact with payment providers. To make use of the full range of plugins you need to be hosting your own instance of WordPress, and you’ll want to do that anyway to have full control over your site and your data.

In short WordPress is nothing less than a platform for developing websites. Arguably it’s not the best platform. It has a history of security holes and, while the core platform is much more secure than it used to be, plugins still need to be carefully assessed for vulnerabilities. The underlying data structure is flexible but at the price of performance and would make a database purist gag. The code is all PHP and, well, let’s just say there are some strong opinions about its weaknesses. It’s ubiquitous though, and alternative CMS systems such as Drupal and Joomla are also written in PHP simply because using anything else would limit their market.

Regardless of its limitations, WordPress has pretty much won the market for small websites that want rich functionality beyond a set of html pages. It does a pretty good job, it’s pretty secure if you’re careful setting it up, and it’s easy to find people who know how to do that for you if you’re not technical.

And to come back to where I started, I’ve done all that. I’m familiar with it and I’m about to embark on another big WordPress project. So again, why I am using Blogger?

Simplicity. Sometimes you want to cook a meal from scratch, sometimes you just want a takeaway. I’m not developing a brand, selling products or doing much of anything other than writing about stuff. I could almost as easily have done this as a really simple WordPress blog, but I just wanted something that had no maintenance overhead and took no time to set up. As a WordPress user, I also wanted to check out alternatives and I like trying different things.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t considering WordPress. I actually considered writing blog style posts on Google+ or another social media site rather than having a separate blog. Blogger gives me a bit more control over the layout and style but is still quick and easy.

Despite the title, I don’t see WordPress and Blogger as being in competition. Blogger is great if you write long posts on social media and want to take it a step further. WordPress is the next level up.

in Web Design

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