Beyond wordpress

A rundown and comparison of six different blogging platforms

Posted on April 14, 2015

Well I’ve tried out a whole bunch of blogging platforms - Wordpress, Medium, Tumblr, Ghost and now Jekyll. They all have their own quirks and each one is more suited to different intents & audiences. Here’s a quick rundown with the pros and cons I’ve found for each. I’ve split this post into Two types of blogging platforms - those that are self hosted, where you own all of the rights to your content, and externally hosted platforms where you don’t.

Self hosted platforms

Wordpress logo

“The most popular blogging system in use on the Web” Examples: Tech Crunch | Spectacular Stays

Wordpress is an all encompassing blogging platform that dominates online publishing, with over 20% of the world’s websites using it as a content managing system (CMS) - according to a recent interview its founder Matt Mullenberg. It was originally designed primarily to allow bloggers to easily create their own platform without any knowledge of coding but due to it’s popularity has grown into a multi-purpose CMS, with extensibility and plugins allowing anyone from podcasters, marketers to large companies using it as well.

Userbase/audience

Anyone and everyone.

Professional bloggers will probably want to stick to this one but potentially leverage other platforms by reposting elsewhere later - Medium for instance.

Pros

  • The most fully featured and extendable platform out there
  • If properly managed, a highly secure platform for any entity
  • No coding knowledge required for a simple setup

Cons

  • Wordpress has become somewhat of a bloated swiss army knife that can do a million things, when often you just want it to do one thing (i.e. blogging) really well
  • can be time consuming to keep up-to-date, format and so on
  • Poor website speed performance and security on the most affordable option for hosting (shared).

Recommendations

  • Go for self hosted (.org) rather than .com if you want to customise your own site, whether this be your own advertising, products or using advanced plugins
  • If you’re using it for a company or brand that will scale and has security concerns, consider investing in managed hosting (Synthesis, WPEngine - or Digital Ocean for the tech savvy) rather than shared - this will be much more secure.
  • If you’re considering going down the development route, may be worth considering a widely used framework (e.g. Genesis) - this will save you the time of having to relearn each theme. Personally I find any theme that uses visual composer incredibly hard to manage when it comes to websites with a significant amount of content.
  • If you’d like to use the same theme as someone else’s, use this chrome extension or view the source code and search for ‘theme’

Ghost logo

“designed to simplify the process of online publishing for individual bloggers as well as online publications” Examples: Tak Lo | Rebecca Collins

Ghost is essentially a much more stripped down version of wordpress which makes it easier to do one thing - blogging. Allows you to see the markdown side by side with what a preview of what it will look like afterwards, like so:

Ghost markdown

Pros

  • simple to use once it has been set up
  • you own the platform

Cons

  • tricky to do the initial set up

Userbase/audience

People who just want to blog and don’t really care about all the other bells and whistles.

Recommendations

You can avoid the pitfalls of shared hosting by using Heroku to host your blog, which was free although recent pricing changes mean that this has changed.


Jekyll logo

Example: Rasmus Andersson

This is the main blogging platform I am using and is the sole platform that can be hosted on Github. It’s probably the most geeky of all of them.

Jekyll logo

Pros

  • Hardly any security concerns
  • you can blog offline, schedule a script to run and sync whenever online
  • Can be hosted for free on Github
  • Fast to load

Cons

  • Difficult to set up and requires technical expertise
  • Scarcity of ready made themes
  • Most of the themes available are pretty functional rather than pretty

Userbase

Programmers!

Recommendations

If using Jekyll for blogging it may be worth using bywordapp.com (or a load of other alternatives) as a text editor which allows you to write drafts in markdown. I’m currently using a jekyll theme which incorporates bootstrap which means I can use elements of the development framework I’m most familiar with, including typography such as highlights, deleted text and so on.


External hosting platforms

Medium logo

Example: Top posts on Medium

Medium is a slick, minimal platform which has become incredibly popular over the recent years.

Userbase/audience

All sorts, but many people within the tech & startup scene who were the early adopters.

Pros

  • Free
  • Incredibly easy to get started. Just sign in and start writing
  • Nearly impossible to make look ugly
  • Allows you to edit offline
  • Easy social sharing on twitter & facebook
  • Easily share drafts
  • Shows you useful stats of how widely read your posts are - note that the Twitter metric is incorrect -

Cons

  • Readers tend to stay on the platform rather than following any Call To Action
  • Nearly no way to customise

Recommendations

  • Use publications or contact the owners of large ones (here’s an out of date list) to be featured there to get more views
  • Share drafts of your posts with others - when they comment and you share the post afterwards, their twitter handles will all be mentioned & they will naturally repost
  • Medium can be used to repost your own content originally hosted elsewhere

Tumblr logo

Examples: Notes on Peter Thiel’s lectures | Lucas Gordon’s blog | Slack HQ

Tumblr is a micro blogging platform where again like Medium, you don’t get the SEO juice that a self hosted platform offers, but it does provide an incredibly simple blogging platform that allows you to quickly share small snippets - which can be in the form of photos, gifs, video or otherwise. It allows you to repost other content, so in essence a micro blogging version of twitter.

Userbase/Audience

Wide but popular with hipsters, young subcultures and surprisingly widespread in Brazil - the majority of offline meetups appear to take place there.

Pros

  • Free
  • Easy to set up
  • Allows you to customise the look & feel more than Medium

Cons

  • Content doesn’t belong to you
  • Seems to be lagging behind Medium these days in terms of new functionality

Recommendations

Tumblr allows you to point your own domain or subdomain (blog.yourdomain.com) there as oppose to Medium (although Medium have plans to move in that direction too)


There are more I could have mentioned - svbtle for instance, (Maptia) (essentially Medium for non-profits & travel bloggers/photogprahers), (blogger), typepad (where Seth Godin’s blog is hosted) and countless others.

At the end of the day, it comes down to your intended audience, your preferred workflow and what you’re most comfortable working with - in my case I already had a homepage hosted on Github, wanted something I could eaily set up as a /blog subdirectory and liked the facility that Jekyll offered of offline blogging so that was the easy choice.