Sharing the various blog platforms I’ve used, my thoughts on each of them, and my overall recommendations for both “newbie” and “committed” bloggers.
In 2022, there are now so many options for bloggers to choose from when it comes to blogging platforms. This is both empowering (yay, choice 🤗), but it can also be overwhelming (gosh, so much choice 😑).
Since I started blogging nearly 7 years ago, I’ve used a bunch of different platforms, from old-timers like Wordpress and Squarespace, to new kids on the block like Substack and Write.As.
In this piece I’m going to share:
- the things I look for when considering a blogging platform - a little breakdown of the options out there, and my take on them - my recommended blog platform choices for “newbie” and “committed” bloggers
Every platform I’ve summarised or mentioned in this list is a platform I’ve personally used, and this ist just me sharing my honest experience with said platforms. I am not affiliated with or sponsored by any of these platforms, and I’ve not mentioned any platform that I’ve not used personally.
Okay? Cool. Let’s get started 😊
Some factors to consider
To kick things off, here are the things I personally think about when considering a blogging platform, and ones that you might also wish to think about when it comes to choosing a blogging platform:
1. Ease of blogging
For me, this is the #1 most important thing. I want a platform that lets me easily ‘write and publish’, with a friendly interface. This is why I have sought-out more minimal blogging platforms of late. If its easy for me to write, and it offers a good, clear design(s) for my readers, this is a big win for me.
2. Malleable design
Speaking of design, having a pretty design is more important to some folks than others, and it is a double-edged sword. Let me explain… if you are not a web developer/coder (which I’m guessing is most people reading this), and you want a really-pretty-looking website, you’ll have to pay a little more to have a really-pretty-looking website (e.g. on Squarespace).
I learnt this over time. I started out on Wordpress, and quickly realised that design my pretty-looking blog with exact specifications with my lack of HTML/CSS knowledge was… tricky. I ended up going for a really minimal black & white theme and, from that point onwards, I have settled for minimal-looking blogs, which are easy to set up and write to (see point #1).
To summarise: for the average, non-technical person, minimal blogging platforms provides a way of keeping design clean and simple, whereas other platforms allow you to customize your blog and make it look prettier.
Some platforms are well-established and have been around for longer, others (like the platform I host this very blog on) less so. That being said, every platform I mention in this list is one I have used at some point or another, and which I personally deem to be ‘legit’, whether it’s a platform that’s been around for a while, or one that has emerged more recently.
This isn’t the most important thing to consider, but some platforms are certainly more cost-effective than others, especially when you’re starting out a blog that will only be costing you money, and not making you money (i.e. as was the case for me for the first 4 years of my blogging). All of the options I’ve chosen are reasonably-priced, with Squarespace being a little more than the others.
Each blog platform has its own way of cultivating community there. This is a ‘nice to have’ for you to be able to read others’ blogs and get to know other bloggers.
It might be through commenting, a forum, live events, or a combination.
In general, it’s nice to have a place you can write to, and lets you dip in and out of the community there as you wish to.
note: be mindful that the community doesn’t distract you from actually posting to your own blog. [cough Jas may fallen into this trap before 🙄 cough]
All of these platforms have a support team, though some offer a more friendly, personal touch and/or are speedier than others.
The blog platforms
WORDPRESS | wordpress.org
Wordpress is the longest-running, established platform out there used by lots of bloggers and website owners. According to a Google search I just ran, more than 455 million websites were using Wordpress as of 2021. Gosh.
Pros: the longest-running, most established platform out there (used by 450 million+ websites on the web). Loads of themes (for design) and plug-ins (for utility) to choose from. Lots of bloggers & blogs to discover, comment on & follow via the handy Discover feature; because there are so many Wordpress blogs, the community there doesn’t feel like the most tight-knit.
That said, Wordpress was where I hosted my first blog and where I first connected with fellow bloggers through their blogs and then on twitter). Starts at $4 a month.
Tip: When you’re starting out or running a blog that isn’t making money, hosting on Wordpress simple on Wordpress.com will be just fine (i.e. there’s no need to complicate things and use a managed host like Bluehost).
Cons: even with lots of nice-looking themes, to get yourself set up with a theme you like the look of, and is easy for you to ‘figure out how to use’ can be tricky. The dashboard/backend (i.e. the bit you login to) can be a little overwhelming.
One more thing: if you’re considering Wordpress, you might also wish to look at Ghost, which felt a little more user-friendly in its design the last time I used it. You can also host with Ghost from $9, and it might be a way for you to choose a nice-looking theme without having to know coding, and not breaking the bank whilst you’re starting out and have less than 500 subscribers.
Thumbs up on:
Ease of blogging 👍
SQUARESPACE | squarespace.com
Pros: A solution for those who still want a pretty-looking blog, but with templates which make things much easier to choose a layout that looks good and is easy to get your head around (you can easily insert and drag-and-drop blocks of text, images, etc).
Cons: At $12 a month, slightly on the pricier end of the spectrum. It also feels quite ‘brand & businessy’. Lots of Squarespace users are running a blog or online shop they’re making money from, but if you’re a non-techie solopreneur this might be just the ticket.
Thumbs up on:
Malleable design 👍
Ease of blogging 👍
SUBSTACK | substack.com
Pros: Completely free for blogs without paid subscriptions (though $50 to connect your own domain). Very easy to write and publish it. You can discover & comment on Substack blogs via the homepage, and they run events for writers too. It’s an all-in-one blog and newsletter, and Substack is also the easiest way to start a paid newsletter.
Cons: Even though you can connect a domain you own, you still have to host the blog itself on Substack’s own platform. This is a pretty major downside for me as you are not in complete control of your own blog and platform (going against the key requirement of being an independent writer), though if you’re a newbie blogger this is likely less of a concern. Like I’ve mentioned Substack it makes it very easy to start a paid newsletter, but if you don’t want to do that you might find you’re under pressure to do so at some point, so just be aware of that.
A tip: With ‘independence’ in mind, if you do decide you want a paid newsletter, you might wish to host/self-host on your own platform, like Ghost.
Thumbs up on:
Ease of blogging 👍
WRITE.AS | write.as
Pros: Easy to set up, built for writers of all kinds to ‘write and publish freely’. There are a handful of themes available for you to install with a ‘copy and paste’ of text, all with simple, minimal design. Reasonably priced too. Full diclosure: my current platform of choice - and where I host this very blog. Community-wise, there’s a helpful forum and native commenting is soon-to-be released, which I think will be significant when it comes to discovery of other bloggers/blogs on the Write.As platform, and fostering a closer sense of community (like I’ve experienced in the past with bloggers I connected with via Wordpress). Write.As also offers email newsletters, allowing you to publish your post ‘as an email’ to your email list (i.e. like Substack, you can use Write.As as an all-in-one blog and newsletter)
Cons: the only thing that might be a downside is the team is lean. I’ve not personally had an issue thus far - I’ve always gotten a response from emailing support, or from a helpful user/Matt himself on the Write.As forum. However, Write.As doesn’t have the established infrastructure (i.e. big support team) some of the other platforms in this list have. There have also been some minor formatting niggles in published posts, which have all been resolved so far, and I do feel that these are being ironed out. Again, I’m encouraged by Matt’s committed to Write.As, and the updates I’ve seen to the platform (like newsletters, something I requested and was able to do soon after).
Thumbs up on:
Ease of blogging 👍
MICRO.BLOG | Micro.blog
Pros: Another platform worth a mention, given it is both affordable ($5/month), simple and easy to set up & write to (#minimal), and a friendly community of fellow bloggers and delightful blogs. Micro.Blog also has its own Community Manager in the form of Jean MacDonald, which is a big plus. Amongst other things, Jean runs a little podcast (‘microcast’) — Micro Monday — where she has friendly litte chats with Micro.blog users, little challenges for the community, and the inaugural Micro.Camp was great fun too.
Possibly the friendliest place I have come across online. And, like with Write.As, you have the ability to publish your posts to an email list (either _a_ll of your posts, or just your longer, titled blog posts).
Cons: at time of writing this, Micro.blog users tend to share solely shorter posts (less than 280 characters), or a combination of shorter posts and longer ones, so it’s not a pure ‘blogging’ platform so to speak - it’s somewhere between a (micro)blog and a friendly social platform.
Thumbs up on:
Ease of blogging* 👍
*Yep, Micro.blog is the only platform in this post with FOUR thumbs-up, rather than just the three. It’s real easy for anyone to use as a basic blog. As a standard you get an ‘about page’, ‘archive page’ and ‘photos page’ (and a ‘replies’ page, if you want replies from the community to appear). You’ll also get two little sites: the place where you login (mine: micro.blog/jasraj), and a place that’s more like a digital home (mine: jasraj.micro.blog).
The platform I currently use
for my main blog:
📔 write.as/jas (_aka indiewriter.net)
Write.As is my platform of choice for my main blog, for the following reasons:
- the ease of set-up and writing
- it has a simple, minimal backend (for bloggers) and design (for readers)
- Matt’s mission & wider vision for Write.As as a writing platform
- the ability to send out newsletters as blog posts
- a friendly Forum community, and forthcoming native commenting
- the How-to guides are great.
- supporting an ‘indie platform’ was a plus for me
- I love the ‘human touch’ and ethos that runs through Write.As
Last year when I was considering a couple of blogging platforms to host this very blog on, I reached out to Matt and a video call we had really clinched it for me. I believe in Matt, what he is building, and the state of Write.As in the present and going into the future.
There are other simple blogging platforms out there, like Proseful for example, but Write.As is being worked on full-time by Matt, with an active and growing community, constant updates & improvements, and is a company Matt has stated he never wants to sell. You can also tell that Matt cares about blogging (check him out on twitter, and he also writes to his own write.as blog)
All of that to say, as someone who knows I want to be blogging on my blog years from now, Write.As has my head and my heart and is my platform of choice for The Indie Writer.
for my secondary blog:
📝 micro.blog/jasraj or jasraj.micro.blog
I personally use Micro.blog as a sort of digital scrapbook / little journal.
If a community is important to you, you might wish to check out micro.blog. Though do bear in mind, being part ‘social’ and part ‘blog platform’, this might be a distraction for you. Many people use micro.blog to post 280-character blog posts or less, rather than longer-form blog posts. How you use the platform is up to you, but the main reason I have chosen Write.As for my main blog is that is is more of a ‘pure’ long-form blogging platform, rather than a ‘micro’ blogging one.
PS. Something else to note is that micro.blog and write.as are both independent platforms (run by Manton Reece and Matt Baer respectively), created with the ‘indie web’ and owning your own content in mind. These things are important to me. Find more about the values behind these platforms here: about Write.As | about Micro.blog.
My recommendations for you
For the purposes of the recommendations you’re about to read:
- a “newbie blogger” mean you simply want to try out blogging for say 1, 2 or 3 months without any commitment, whether you’ve blogged before or not. i.e. blogging is a short-term experiment for you
- a “committed blogger” means that you reckon you want to start a blog and intend to be posting to it for at least a period of 6 months. i.e. blogging is a medium-long term thing for you.
If you are dipping your toe into blogging…
and you want to dip your toe into blogging with a simple platform + supportive community -> I would recommend Micro.blog
and you want to dip your toe into blogging with purely a simple platform, without the community part -> I would recommend Write.As
If you are ready to commit to a blog…
and you want a pretty-looking blog with all the bells-n-whistles -> I would recommend either Wordpress or Squarespace
and you want a minimal blogging platform -> I would recommend either Micro.blog or Write.As
My overall choice
As you have noticed, one of the blog platforms features four thumbs-up, and appears in my recommendations for both newbie and committed bloggers…
My overall winner is Micro.blog, for its simplicity and friendly community in the form of easy commenting, and discovery of delightful new blogs via micro.blog/discover (and you can even hone in on ‘discovering’ folks blogging about podcasts, or books, sports, etcetera). It also has several themes that are easy for non-techies to install.
If you’re looking for another minimal option, and would just rather focus on writing and publishing rather than a community, Write.As is the way to go.
(Both platforms allow you to activate email subscriptions, by automatically sending out posts when you publish, so they are also somewhat ‘future proof’ if you might wish to do this further down the line).
whether you have a blog already, have had one before, or are looking at these platforms as a newbie blogger with fresh eyes… I would go with the one you feel the happiest about. I feel that’s the most important thing, after all.
📝 Originally published on The Indie Writer blog