Originally posted on 05/06/2015
So I saw this post on StalkerSpace (La Trobe University's Facebook group, that's basically just a place people share memes) the other day where someone was asking for advice on starting a blog, and for the most part, people seemed to be reccomending WordPress. Now, sure, WordPress is good for the most part, but with all the better options out there, you really can do better. If you're running a full on professional website, sure, use WordPress, it's the best for managing multiple contributor accounts and it's plugin and theming features are second to none, if you're hosting it on your own server that is. WordPress.com is not worth it, mainly because of all the restrictions that come along with it.
If all you want to focus on is your content, Medium is the place to be. The brainchild of Ev Williams, the man who founded Blogger.com and one of the 4 people who brought us Twitter, Medium is essentially Twitter for long reads. Apart from choosing your images and layout, there isn't much customisation you can do to Medium, but you probably wouldn't want to either. Medium is a benchmark for modern, clean design, and it's WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) post editor for writing out your blog posts is really an industry leader. Medium lets you focus on your content and only your content.
Probably the best part about Medium though, is that it's more than just a network of blogs, it's also a platform. This helps take care of one of the hardest parts of starting your own blog, discovery. At the end of the day, when you write something, you want people to read it. On your own blog, your stuck to only sharing within your circle of friends and hoping that your SEO is good enough for people to find it on Google Searches (spoiler alert, your SEO is probably shit). Medium helps take that out of the way. By letting you add your post to collections and tagging them, Medium helps you get your posts to the audience that you want. You also get in-depth statistics on who clicked on your post, how they got there, and whether they actually read it or not.
However, Medium does have it's drawbacks. For one, your audience is not really "your audience". This means that if and when you decide to move over to your own hosted blog, unless you made a huge impact on your readers, you're not gonna be bringing most of that viewership to your own blog. Another thing is that although you own the content, you don't really get that feeling of pride and ownership over something, cause your article, no matter how original in content, in design still feels similar to someone else's post on Medium. If this is something you're willing to live with, give Medium a shot. I love it, maybe you will to.
Other than Medium, if you're looking for an easy to set up, free option that doesn't require you hosting it yourself, there aren't that many good options. Tumblr used to feel like a blogging platform that got turned into a social network for tweens to use GIFs to complain about Pretty Little Liars. However, it seems to have gone through a bit of a shift recently and actually seems like something that may be good to build an audience, like Medium, but more fun and quirky. Seshn and Svbtle are similar to Medium but organise stuff into Magazine's based on topics, and don't have as big a readership as Medium. Wordpress.com and Blogger.com aren't really worth your time, unless you really want to take the time to set it up properly.
Being self hosted means that you rent a server, either from GoDaddy or the likes, and you run your own blog on your own domain. This is usually the best option, because you get full control over your blog and can customise it how ever you'd like. It does however, require some technical knowledge, or the willingness to read through the manuals and documentation.
Anchor is my favourite new self hosted platform. It's pretty straight forward to set up and has a really easy to use back end dashboard. It's pretty limited in it's own right, and sometimes that's what you want. It's still fairly new, so it's got issues, but for a personal blog, it gets the job done. Plus, if you have knowledge of html and php (or know someone you can hire to do that), you get to customise the blog's design in any way your imagination (or the technology available) will let you. (stinking technology and it's limits). There are also a lot of people interested in Anchor, which means that a lot of people are making themes for Anchor, which is awesome.
Ghost, has probably made the most waves since it's launch almost two years ago. It's the biggest competitor to WordPress and has the most industry backing, from Australian web giant Envato to NASA, yes the space NASA. If this was a high school sitcom, Ghost would be new girl that's kinda shy but really cute that the protagonist is into and makes the really bitchy cheerleader girl really jealous (yes, WordPress is the bitchy cheerleader girl).
Ghost is also the most feature packed, and as an advocate for good design that makes sense, ghost is just fucking beautiful. Wordpress may have stepped up their game with the latest releases, but Ghost is just next level.
It's still fairly new though, so it doesn't have as many plugins and extensions as WordPress does, but it's getting there, and soon, very soon.
These are by no means the only options, but if you want to start your own blog and have no idea at all on where to start, give these platforms a look, you may find something you love. If you don't, send me all your hate on twitter, I'm @snazzyham.
UPDATE: The blog you're reading this on is actually running Ghost, isn't it nice?
this article first appeared on Rabelais