It used to be said that everyone has a book in them. These days, it might be more appropriate to argue everyone has infinite tweets, snarky Facebook updates, and semi-random comments in them. But plenty of people retain a thirst for more thoughtful writing, and also a desire to share it as widely as possible – and these are the best blogging platforms to go about doing that.
Blogs might have fallen out of fashion a touch, due to the onslaught of social networks, but there’s something about having a space that’s properly yours, potentially free from the distractions of a billion adverts and countless competing status updates. And the best thing is, there are a load of free blogs out there to get you started.
If HTML5 matters to you then Wix is well worth a look; it claims to be the only drag-and-drop site building platform with HTML5 capabilities. On top of that you’ll find over 500 designer-made templates as well as plenty of additional features and apps, along with top-grade hosting so you can rest assured your site will be there when you need it.
You get 500MB storage and 1GB bandwidth with a free Wix account; if you need more – plus other features like your own domain and Google Analytics – then take a look at their premium plans.
Yola limits you a bit if you have grand plans for your blog – you can only have two sites and three web pages with its free plan – but the upside is a healthy 1GB of both storage and bandwidth, and your site won’t be littered with unsightly third-party ads.
Getting started is easy, with dozens of customisable templates to choose from, a straightforward site builder for putting everything together, flexible layouts and drag-and-drop widgets, and if you have the skills then you can edit your CSS in order to fine-tune your site’s looks.
No one knows how they’re going to want to display their articles a few years down the line, so Contentful provides a way to separate your content from your design. It calls this an “API-first” approach, so your content is stored on their servers and you can call it into any design or platform as you like. So if you want to build a completely different site in a few years time, it’s easy to bring everything in as it’s set up to be portable from the start.
Jekyll takes your raw text files, which may be written in Markdown, if you like, and turns them into a robust static site to host wherever you want. It’s the engine behind GitHub Pages, which means you can host your blog on there for free.
Making your blog with Jekyll avoids the need to work with technicalities such as databases, upgrades and so on, so there are fewer things to go wrong, and you can build something completely from scratch.
If the folks over at WordPress are to be believed (and they seem suitably trustworthy sorts), it now ‘powers’ over a fifth of the internet.
It’s easy to see why: on WordPress.com, you can rapidly create a new blog entirely for free, with a reasonable amount of customisation; alternatively, most web hosts provide WordPress as a free single-click install, and more info on what’s possible there can be found at WordPress.org.
Newcomers might find WordPress a touch bewildering initially, but it’s the best free option for anyone wanting a great mix of power, customisation and usability.
To some extent, Tumblr feels a bit like a half-way house between WordPress and Twitter. It offers more scope than the latter, but tends to favour rather more succinct output than the former.
Decent mobile apps make it easy to submit content to a Tumblr blog from anywhere, though, and it’s reasonably easy to customise your theme to make it your own.
Tumblr also has a strong social undercurrent, via a following model combined with notes and favourites. Although be mindful that the service has quite a few porn bots lumbering about, which may give the faint-of-heart a bit of a shock should they check every favourite off of their posts.
You’d hope with a name like ‘Blogger’ that Blogger would be a decent free service for blogging. Fortunately, it is. Sign in with your Google ID, and you can have a blog up and running in seconds, which can then be customised with new themes. It is, however, a Google service, and so be a touch wary, given how abruptly that company sometimes shuts things down that millions of people were happily using.
Medium is the brainchild of Twitter’s founders, and appears to be their attempt to do for ‘longreads’ what they once did for microblogging. The result is a socially-oriented place that emphasises writing, although within an extremely locked-down set-up. It’s a place to blog if you want your words to be taken seriously, and if you favour a polished, streamlined experience. But if you’re big on customisation and control, look elsewhere.
Describing itself as a “blogging platform designed to help you think”, Svbtle is fairly similar to Medium in approach. It again strips everything right back, resulting in a bold, stylish experience that pushes words to the fore. It could easily become your favourite blogging platform for the act of writing, but it again relies on you also wanting something extremely simple and not caring a jot about customisation.
One of the veterans of this list, LiveJournal (like Blogger) started life in 1999. Perhaps because of its age, it rather blurs the lines (the site says “wilfully”) between blogging and social networking.
The result is more of a community that affords you your own space, but that also very much encourages communal interaction. It is possible to fashion something more private, but to get the most out of LiveJournal, you need to be prepared to delve into discussion as much as writing.