Blogger

Pros and Cons on using Blogger as a noob

It is possible that there has never been a better time to be alive when it comes to the proliferation of platforms out there that can be used to blog: WordPress, Movable Type, Typo, Livejournal, Myspace, tumblelogs like Tumblr and Content Management System platforms like Drupal and Joomla. Firmly nestled in amongst these platforms is the much maligned yet often adopted Blogger.

What I hope to provide here is a simple balanced argument as to the merits and otherwise of what is still one of the most popular ways to publish a blog – Google’s Blogger.

I am not going to attempt to answer the question: “With so much choice available, why do people still use Blogger?” As someone who maintains and contributes to several Blogger blogs, I do have my own opinion on that which I will save for another time. I am also not going to enter into a WordPress vs Blogger or any other [insert platform of choice] flame war. I simply do not have enough experience in the wide range of options to make an informed choice.

With the formalities out of the way, I present to you the pros and cons of using Blogger as newbie blog writer.

The Pros – why Blogger is good for newbies

  • It is simple to use with a what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface that allows anyone familiar with a word processor to navigate the Dashboard and get started. It is unintimidating and provides little to no barriers to entry.
  • It is part of the Google stable of products and integrates very smoothly with a number of complimentary free Google owned and/or branded products that are perfect for blogging such as Feedburner (to monitor statistics on readers of your news feed), Google Analytics (to monitor statistics on visitors to your blog) and Picasaweb for hosting pictures for your blog. Having said that, there is nothing at all stopping you from using these tools with non-Blogger sites.
  • Speaking of Picasaweb, using Blogger gives you access to up to 1GB of space to use just for pictures. There are other options such as Yahoo’s Flickr (which provides free unlimited storage with other usage restrictions or a paid Pro account), but Picasaweb (and Picasa on the desktop) works seamlessly with Blogger in a way even your Grandmother could work out. You also have the ability to upload your video direct to your blog and the video is hosted on Google’s servers.
  • Blogger provides free domain name hosting for all blogs. If you don’t have a name, it will hold your hand through the process of acquiring one. This is a very nice added feature.
  • The might of Google is squarely behind the development and maintenance of the product. One benefit that might not be high on the list of newbie bloggers (but probably should be) is that Blogger is hosted on Google’s own servers, making it almost impervious to Digg and Slashdot like effects where sudden high levels of traffic can bring other servers to their knees in seconds flat.

The Cons – why Blogger is bad for newbies

  • The low barrier to entry encourages mediocrity. This might sound harsh but it is true to some extent. I’m not advocating that everyone should return to hand coding their blog by candlelight, but I have found in my own experience and in talking to other bloggers that when you have to put some effort in to make a post, you are more likely to make a considered post rather than just rapping off some words to fill the space.
  • It is a locked platform and it can be difficult to move your content off Blogger if you decide in the future to move to another platform. The onus has shifted to other platforms to work out ways to import Blogger content rather Blogger providing an easy to export content (eg allow all posts to be exported in an XML file).
  • It lacks many “add on” features enjoyed by other platforms such as strong theme development communities, plug-ins and trackback capability. These are all things that other platforms such as WordPress take for granted. You may find the greatly reduced number of options a liberating constraint, but if you are like me and many others, you will find yourself hitting the limits sooner rather than later, which can be a very frustrating process.
  • The small numbers of the Google development team can never hope to compete with the many thousands of interested weekend hackers who work to further develop and extend the open source platforms like WordPress or Drupal (and soon, the latest version of Movable Type).

Conclusion – a zero sum game?

It’s not easy to declare that newbie bloggers should or shouldn’t use Blogger. While Blogger is frowned upon by “serious” bloggers, it does have some significant benefits in free hosting, 1GB of free storage for images, storage for video and industrial strength armour-plated servers that can survive most any traffic burst. Free domain name hosting also goes some way to counteracting the snide remarks and indignant sniffs whenever a blogspot.com domain name enters the picture.

On the other hand, Blogger has a limited feature set that will restrict the serious blogger as they begin to mature and adopt loftier aims (and if you’re reading this on Performancing, no doubt this includes you!).

While it comes down to personal preference, the above is my contribution to helping newbie bloggers do something I didn’t do when I started – make an informed choice.

WTF NOOB originally uploaded to Flickr by gws. Used under a Creative Commons By Attribution Sharealike 2.0 licence.

Author: smperris

10 thoughts on “Pros and Cons on using Blogger as a noob

  1. I’d never considered the benefit of picture space, but that’s a great point.

    As far as blog snobbery or profiling (whatever ya call it), I know plenty of people who do well on a free blogging server. I agree that a domain name is best for a professional image, but I don’t think it would break a personal blog not to have a domain name. Just my opinion.

  2. It’s funny but in some subject areas blogspot is a distraction.

    In others, where the subject area is so specialized or the reader assumes that the writer has better things to do than install software on a server, it’s not that big of a deal. Blogspot is very big in the food writing community – these are folks who’d rather spend their time tinkering with recipes or taking photos of mounds of ingredients than figuring out Askimet … and that’s okay!

    The key is to have a blog that’s READABLE first, and then have something worth reading. A stable system and easy to use software means that for many bloggers their posts get on their blogger faster and without as many distractions.

    Consider, however, pointing a domain there – it makes it easy to remember and say in person and put on cards and if you do end up moving, you take it with you.

  3. It’s a reputation thing – it’s similar to racial profiling, except that you’re profiling a blog hosting service instead of based on skin color.

    Blogger is restricted but quite good – similar to how the wordpress.com service restricts you but is quite good as well. However, like Blogger, even WordPress.com users get lambasted for not owing their own domain name.

    Therefore, no matter what ‘platform’ you use, get your domain name.

    Also, you can hack the design to remove telltale traces of what the platform is like (most people don’t know that soccerlens.com is a WP blog), and yes, you can do that with Blogger as well.

    It’s not snobbery – it’s just habitual for people to trust businesses with their own domain names, and overexposure to certain design elements in Blogger and WP standard themes have made people wary of dealing with a site that can’t afford to get a custom design.

  4. So that explains why no one ever answers my questions when I visit these ‘pro-blogging’ sites…I have a blogger address. (actually I do have my own domain but I am afraid to switch due to my lack of knowledge on this topic). Anyway, I was very disheartened to read about platform snobbery. I love blogger for all the reasons listed…I also agree…the more dedicated I have become to improving my blog..the more restrictions I am finding with it. However, to discount the blogs of others because of a ‘blogspot.com’ address frustrates me. I have learned much from visiting the sites of these ‘platform snobs’ and to think that I have been ‘dismissed’ when I comment on their sites…well that leaves me feeling small and insignificant. Do I really want to visit these sites that treat people this way? Thanks for the heads up.

  5. I basically agree with what each of you have said. I hope I didn’t come across as a platform-snob because that wasn’t my intention.

    Blogger is stable and robust and the templates of “new” Blogger are much better than the old version. Add a domain name (fair or not, a lot of people I know see a blogspot.com domain name and use that as an excuse not to read it) and it provides a solid foundation for creating good content. When people interested in blogging for the first time ask me what I think, I generally refer them to Blogger (unless they have specific things they want that may not be met by Blogger’s feature set).

    However, in my own experience there comes a time for some people where they want more control over layout or templates etc or want to host it on their own and Blogger makes this more difficult than other platforms.

    Feature for feature though, I think Blogger is the best free hosted solution for beginners. Most of my blogs are on Blogger at the moment, but that will probably change as my own needs change.

    Andy, I experienced a lot of problems in IE 6 trying to see any content on your site. The header and sidebar load but none of the posts do. Just a heads up.

    Shane

  6. I think blogger is great. I don’t use it for my major blogs, but I often set them up for other people. It’s easy to add contributors, easy for them to understand and it’s nice to have a simple place to remember to log in.

    I also found exporting from blogger to be pretty easy.

    The only drawback I find with it is the commenting controls. I’d like to know IP addresses to catch some of the sockpuppets I find and a way to ban. But there are third party solutions that take care of this.

    Which is a nice thing to point out, many of the failings of blogger have been fixed by other people with simple plug ins and codes.

  7. My preference is for WordPress, for sure. But for the beginner I think Blogger is an excellent platform. It’s very user friendly, you can use custom templates, you can feature ads on your blogs and if you don’t have to commit to your own domain. Later on, when you’re more experienced, the move to WordPress is a piece of cake. Sure, the beginning blogger can also use the freebie version of WordPress, but there’s not a whole lot you can do with it. At least with Blogger noobs can play around with Adsense and other forms of revenue, if they’re so inclined.

    While my blogs are all hosted on WordPress, I did start out using blogger for all of the ones I own. I have no regrets and recommend Blogger to everyone starting out.

  8. Blogger,

    I’ve been using blogger for just over a 2 years and get 25 Million+ hits per year and I don’t think I would ever move off Blogger.

    It’s robust, my 20+ Digg stories that made it to the front page have never crashed the server, my audience love it, I don’t feel I miss out on any of the “add-ons”. Adding bells and whistles is just fluff, I’ve never seen any wordpress or other add-on that I thought “Boy, how I wish I was not on Blogger”.

    There is a lot of blog snobbery when so called pro bloggers tell you to get off Blogger and over to wordpress or whatever and then I look at their page hits/audience and they get less than 1000 page hits per day.. It makes me chuckle

    People should stop this worrying trend of of widgets, gizmoes, addons and start focusing on CONTENT.

    _________________________
    Cheers

    Andy (aka DarkUFO)
    http://darkufo.blogspot.com
    http://spoilertv.blogspot.com

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