Selecting a blog platform – Part 4: Ease-of-use and support
Now, let’s concentrate more on you, the blogger. Do you want to concentrate on writing posts, without spending too much time on fiddling with layouts, widgets, plug-ins? Or when you want to change some basic features on your blog, do you need to read twenty manuals and follow 15 web development courses?
However you twist it, the ease-of-use is one of the most important selection criteria for a serious blogger.
Let’s look at the different web platforms.
With its “easy to clip stuff from other sites”, Tumblr is the simplest to use by far. It has a slightly quirky dashboard function, is very limited in its blog functionality, but easy to use. Posting is a breeze, and posting is pretty much all you can do, within going “the hacking way”.
Officially, Tumblr offers free technical support, but my experience with their support is a bit varied. Sometimes I get immediate response, sometimes I never get an answer. Some issues never got resolved.
What I really regret about Tumblr, however, is the lack of an active discussion forum for the users, making social crowd sourced support non-existent. A real pity.
Blogger used to be a close second in ease-of-use. Most people start using Blogger in no time, without knowing much about the what and how. I did not know one bit of HTML before I started my first Blogger-blog 32 months ago, and it took me just a few hours to start. Nowadays, I can start a Blogger blog one in a minute flat. I can write a post in 30 seconds.
But Blogger has some argh-“features”!! Blog editing sometimes makes my pull out my hair. The editor window is small, the WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) features are clumsy, and their preview function sucks. Switching templates is a nightmare.
Worse of all: since the two and a half years I have been using Blogger, I have not seen many changes nor efforts to make it all easier for the users. Blogger is today what it was 32 months ago. Not a big surprise as it seems to be a trademark of all web applications owned by Google…
Blogger’s support is totally non-existent, but their large user community is self-supported through an active discussion forum. However if you get into real trouble, you will be stuck. There are some horror stories on the discussion forums of people loosing their blog overnight, never to be seen again. And Blogger… they kept silent…
When I first looked at WordPress (.com and .org alike), two years ago, I found it was not much easier to use than Blogger. Since then they overhauled the user interface completely and added many new features. Today, WordPress is really easy to use, beating Blogger by far.
Editing is easy, with a perfect preview function. Switching templates, integrating and upgrading widgets and plug-ins is a breeze, even on the self-hosted version (WordPress.org).
WordPress has a very loyal and dedicated user community which will help you with just about anything through several active discussion forums. The single instance where I needed technical help for one of my test blogs on WordPress.com, their support was fast, and to the point.
WordPress.org, the selfhosted brother offers no technical support unless if you pay for it.
Just like WordPress, Typepad has made a lot of progress in terms of ease-of-use. Many put TypePad’s user interface second to none. Some of Dave’s clients are business people already spending 60-80 hours per week running their companies, and have little time to learn a blogging tool.. All of them comment on how easy Typepad is to write blogposts.
One feature Typepad has (and WordPress does not), is ‘TypeLists’, which give you the ability to create blocks of sidebar content that can be used across multiple blogs under the same account.
Typepad’s support is excellent. They even monitor Twitter and often respond to users on Twitter within minutes. Typepad’s support staff is knowledgeable and the depth of their knowledge is deep. They offer a series of free webinars (live and pre-recorded) on topics such as blog design, social media, using a blog as a website, SEO, etc).
Movable Type unfortunately lacks many of Typepad’s ease-of-use features. Even though Typepad was born out of Movable Type, both products have gone their own way, to the decrement of Movable Type’s user interface.
If you download the open-source Movable Type version, free support is available through their knowledge base and the user forums. If you purchase Movable Type, one year of support is included at no extra charge.
Typepad and WordPress are definitively leaders in the category of ease-of-use and support. Both have active discussion forums which form a solid support base. I would think the choice between the two platforms is a personal preference, though in general people report that WordPress is evolving much faster than Typepad/Movable Type.
Blogger definitely gets a minus on ease of use and support. I would advise a serious blogger only to look at Blogger if they have a solid technical knowledge, if they don’t mind experimenting, and want to spend time on the discussion forum when they run into problems.
As Tumblr only has limited functionality, and limited support with no active discussion forums, use it only if you want to do simple and easy stuff. I don’t consider Tumblr for a “professional blogger” or to be used for an organisation blog.
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.