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If you’re creating a new blog, one of the biggest problems you’ll run into is choosing which blogging platform to use. Well, there isn’t one answer for everyone, but I’ll try and cover 99% of bloggers.
One of the most popular CMS’s out there, running a whopping 30%+ of the internet, it’s easy to blindly choose WordPress over the alternatives. But, it’s by no means the best answer for everyone.
WordPress is designed not just for blogging, but for pretty much any type of website possible. This means, that while it is highly flexible, it can also get quite confusing, especially for non-techy bloggers.
Further adding to the complexity is the price of running a WordPress website. Since WordPress is just software, you need to purchase a domain name and hosting. A domain name will cost around $15 a year, and you can get shared hosting for around $30 a year. And that’s for the low-end hosting; once your website grows, you’ll probably need to upgrade your hosting to something more expensive, such as VPS($20+ a month) or even Dedicated($30+ a month) hosting.
With the complexity and price in mind, WordPress is by far one of the most customizable CMS’s out there. With tens of thousands of free plugins and themes, you can make sure your blog looks unique, and has the features you’ll ever need. If you’re a bit more techy, then you can build your own themes and plugins, which isn’t that hard if you know a bit of PHP.
At the end of the day, WordPress is a popular and customizable CMS, with the cost being, well, a higher operating cost. I run a few WordPress sites, and it’s never let me down, but I do sometimes wish I stuck with a simpler CMS, as it’s not that easy to move from WordPress to other platforms.
Ghost tries to fix WordPress’s problems, by being a platform purely for blogging. It’s written in node.js, as opposed to WordPress’s PHP, and performs quite well.
Ghost is much easier to use than WordPress. It’s 100% a blogging platform, and it intends to stay that way. All you have is the minimum required to create a blog, and that’s it. However, this does mean you’ll have to rely on a third-party service for things such as commenting.
That being said, it does have a lot built-in. There are build-in tools to collect email addresses, all posts automatically have AMP(Accelerated Mobile Pages) versions, and SEO is taken care of for you.
The price to running a Ghost blog is actually a bit higher than WordPress’s. You still need a domain and hosting, but there isn’t really shared Ghost hosting, which leaves you with two options: Ghost(Pro), and running it on your own VPS. Ghost(Pro) is easier to use, but getting your own VPS is much cheaper(around $5 a month).
It is worth noting that using Ghost(Pro) also provides funding for the Ghost project, so it’s not like some company is making a bunch of money off of you.
Being such a simple platform, Ghost is rather limited in terms of customization. There are a few free themes to choose from, but I haven’t had much luck looking for a free and maintained one. Similar to WordPress, you can make your own theme, but there aren’t really plugins at this point.
If you want a self-hosted platform that’s simpler than WordPress, Ghost may work for you. But, it has a much smaller community than WordPress, and customization is rather limited. However, as time goes on and Ghost gets more advanced, it will probably become a better solution.
Jekyll is a static site generator that’s “blog aware”. There’s no database to deal with; all your posts are in a
_posts folder, and written in markdown. Being static means that Jekyll is blazing fast, and full site delivery via a CDN is made possible because pages are static, just like the other assets a CDN usually serves.
Surprisingly, Jekyll may actually be the easiest to use on this list, that is if you host your site on GitHub. You can also host Jekyll yourself, or on any web host that can serve HTML(you can generate the site locally, then upload it to a server). Even if you do decide to host it yourself, it’s not that bad. All it takes are a few commands, and you can start blogging.
Another thing to not is that Jekyll, being static, does not have a built-in commenting system. Many people choose to outsource comments to a tool like Disqus, although there are self-hosted options available.
Jekyll can be as cheap or as expensive as you decide to make it. You can host it on a dedicated server, and have a rather high cost. On the other hand, you can host it for free on GitHub pages. If you go the GitHub pages route, you get a free subdomain, but you can use your own domain if you decide to. That means your only cost is $15 a year for the domain.
I’ve had better luck finding high-quality and free Jekyll themes than I’ve had with Ghost. There are a ton of free themes to choose from, and customizing themes is extremely easy. You can create your own layouts to selectively override the theme defaults if you want to. As opposed to Ghost, Jekyll does has plugins that you can use to extend it’s functionality.
If you want a low-cost, flexible, and rather easy to learn CMS, then Jekyll will work for you. Being able to host it for free on GitHub is a huge plus, and many people choose to take that route.
Last, but definitely not least, is Medium. Medium is the ultimate mix between a blogging platform, and a social one.
There is none. Medium has by far the nicest post editor, and everything is taken care of for you. You don’t even need to sign up for an account! All you need is to login with Google, Facebook, or Twitter, and you can start blogging. Furthermore, comments, sharing, and SEO are all taken care of for you.
There is none. Medium is 100% free to write on. You don’t need a domain, and you don’t need hosting. Everything is included in the low, low cost of $0 a month(for writing, anyways).
Unfortunately, just like the price, there really is no customization. The most customized you can get is choosing the color scheme of your publication, which currently can’t even live on your own domain. You can choose which posts to display, and a few other minor changes, but you can’t choose themes or add plugins. You’re stuck with what Medium has chosen to give you.
Now, they do give you quite a bit, and there are many successful bloggers on Medium. Making money is easy through the Medium Partner Program, which pays you based on engagement, not from ads.
For the absolute simplest platform, that’s designed from the ground up to connect readers and writers, choose Medium. Yes, you give up a bit of control, and yes, it sucks that you can’t get your own domain. But in exchange, you get a platform that wants you to succeed.
Now, you can use Medium along with your own website, which a lot of people choose to do. You can have your main website on WordPress, for example, and import your best posts into Medium.
If I could go back in time, I likely would have chosen to be exclusively on Medium. But, once you choose another platform, there isn’t really a way to move to Medium, so think carefully before you choose another platform.