Selecting a blog platform – Part 6: Customizability
To make a solid choice which blog platform to use, we looked at factors like selfhosting your blog or not, what functionality you demand, ease of use and support as well as design, layout and navigation features.
Some bloggers are very particular about their tools, and want it just the way they like it, in looks and functionality. How do the different popular blog platforms compare on that criteria? How flexible are each of the software packages we looked at?
Tumblr’s template is a free-for-all playground, which you can customize all you want. The negative thing is the lack of features as part of their core functionality, so you can not do much more than tweak the layout.
Blogger is highly customizable for those who have the technical knowledge. Over the past 20 months, I hacked my way through my personal blog’s template and what I have nowadays does not resemble the original anymore.
The way Blogger opened up its template for customizations, and documented the features is definitively a plus. On top of that, Blogger allows you to do whatever you want in HTML, Java scripting or CSS within widgets and posts. But… you need the technical know-how.
You can recognize a WordPress.com blog – the hosted version of the WordPress twins – from afar. They feature more widgets and plug-ins than Blogger but they still… look pretty standard. Customization, unless if you pay extra for that privilege, is pretty much out of the question.
Not so for its bigger -and selfhosted- brother, WordPress.org, which allows you to do anything you want. And with the active user community being one of the strong points of the WordPress family, you can turn your blog into the look and feel of a professional website.
A few third-party providers of WordPress themes have protected their code so that certain portions are encrypted and cannot be modified, though this is rarer these days.
… offers just as much customization as WordPress.org, with the same level of complexity. The two are about even here. Co-author Dave sets up blogs for a living and notes it is almost never necessary to modify the Typepad templates. Typepad also offers simple CSS customizations.
Selfhosted Movable Type offers just as much customization as WordPress.org, but is a little more bothersome due to the complexity of the underlying template architecture.
I recommend to go for Blogger only if you want to experiment.
Go for Movable Type or WordPress.org if you want to tweak your blog as you would do with a professional Content Management System (CMS), and if you have the knowledge. Even if you don’t, the out-of-the-box features are diverse and well-supported.
WordPress.com is the runner-up with a lot of features built-in, but with less customizability.
Tumblr offers you room to customize, but with only few featured building blocks.
Writing this series, I got significant help from Dave Barnhart, who filled in the blanks on Typepad and Movable Type.
Dave is a social media strategy consultant, founder of Business Blogging Pros, and a gourmet chef. He and his firm have been helping companies use social media since 2005.
He blogs at Business Blogging Pros and Fumbling Foodie. Check out some of the blogs he has created.