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.