Assuming you haven’t got loads of capital to pay a freelancer to build your blog for you. You’re most likely going to be building a blog yourself, through a website builder.
Choosing the right website builder is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your blog. Get it wrong and it’ll cost you big time in the future. Get it right and you’ll have successfully passed the first of many tests to owning a successful blog!
My Own Experience
I have been building websites for some time (including this one!) and have tried pretty much all of the different web building platforms. This article is largely based off of my own experiences with each of them.
Hopefully, it provides you with some knowledge as to what sort of experience you can expect building and maintaining your site.
We’re going to cover the main options in this article.
Bear in mind that I am writing this from the point of view of starting a travel blog. So, if you are wanting advice as a blogger in a different niche, this article may not perfectly apply to your needs. Although it should still be useful.
Firstly, which sites shouldn’t you use?
There are so many web builders out there these days that deciding which one to use can be a bit overwhelming.
That’s why I’m going to help you out straight away by advising you against a fair few of them! All website builders will allow you to create a blog in some form or another. But if you want to turn your blog into more than just something for family and friends, then in my opinion there’s only really a few options:
- WordPress.org (self-hosting)
The other options (Weebly, WordPress.com, Ghost etc.) cannot compete with the other 3 listed. So, I’m not even going to bother talking about them.
Do remember though this is just my opinion, and if you wish to read reviews of these sites then a quick google will give hundreds of results.
My Favourite 3 (In no particular order)
One of the oldest and biggest website builders. Wix is, in my opinion the best all rounder. You can choose from hundreds of nice templates and start building your site right away.
Their website building software is a fantastic drag-and-drop platform and has improved a lot over the last few years. Literally anyone can build a nice website through Wix with no issues.
Their hosting is pretty good, there’s plenty of options with regards to customising, you can set up a custom email, design a logo, add a shop, the list is endless.
If you’re looking for the easiest option that can give you a pretty good blog, then Wix will do a good job for you.
Some Issues to Consider with Wix
That said, there are some issues with Wix that you should consider. For example, the free plan with Wix doesn’t remove ads which can be really annoying for your viewers. Plus, if you’re really creative, the drag-and-drop design can limit your creativity.
They have made strides to improve SEO recently, such as moving away from being a Flash-based website builder, and allowing you to customise your meta titles and descriptions. Although these cons are still something to consider.
Other issues are in my opinion, just issues that come with all generic website builders. To read a comprehensive review on wix, check out this article.
Wix pricing goes from £0 per month for the most basic site with ads, all the way up to £22 per month for business VIP. A business site probably isn’t necessary for a new travel blog though.
Squarespace is a website builder in the same style as Wix. It’s also very easy to use due to the drag-and-drop, and can provide surprisingly powerful hosting.
The big advantage for us (travel bloggers) is that the theme designs are really beautiful and put a lot of emphasis on photography. Most travel bloggers would agree that a large part of a good travel article is the photography, and so having a website that properly showcases your pictures is extremely important.
My experience with Squarespace isn’t particularly extensive, as I used to use Wix more often. Although, I really like the platform and it can produce some great results with very little effort.
It’s definitely something I would consider using in the future.
Some Issues to Consider with SquareSpace
As with Wix and all generic website builders, there are always potential issues. For me, the issue is pricing. SquareSpace is more expensive than both Wix and WordPress. Another issue is with the SEO and growth of your site. The SEO options are present but they take a bit of time to workaround the site to get the right meta descriptions in place.
It also isn’t quite as easy to use as Wix (although this is just opinion and it’s still pretty easy really).
Hosting prices depend on your own needs, and range from £10-30 per month.
It’s important to remember I am talking about wordpress.org NOT wordpress.com. These are two completely different systems.
WordPress.com is more a competitor for wix.com. It’s easy to use but really isn’t anywhere as good as wix and so shouldn’t be considered.
While Wix and Squarespace do have advantages, if you want to take blogging seriously I would strongly recommend setting up your blog with self-hosted WordPress, and following this step by step guide to do so!
WordPress.org is different to Wix and Squarespace, in that your website is self-hosted. That means that you have to actually find a server to host your site rather than have it all done for you. This puts some people off the idea because they envisage this to be really difficult to do. In actual fact it’s extremely easy and actually rather cheap.
Advantages of Self-Hosted Sites
The advantage of using self-hosted WordPress, is the sheer number of options that you have for your blog. There are thousands of free and premium themes for you to choose from, and plugins available for just about anything.
If you want your site to have a shop, add a plugin. If you want an email form, add a plug in. Pretty much anything that you want done to a website, there’s a plugin for that!
This combined with the self-hosting means that you can continuously build and improve your blog without reaching a limit (such as with wix). For example if your site grows to the point its’ receiving so much traffic that it’s slowing your site down, you can just upgrade your server!
Some of the biggest websites in the world are built through self-hosted WordPress, whereas the same cannot be said for wix etc.
Some Issues to Consider with WordPress
As much as I love WordPress, the updates you need to do are constant. Also, some of the custom designs are a tad difficult to navigate around. But mainly, it’s just a bit of a learning curve that pays off in the end.
WordPress.org itself is completely free. All you need to pay for is the self-hosting, which with Bluehost, this starts from just $2.95 a month, to $5.45 a month for prime.
Obviously, if you want premium themes as opposed to the free ones these are extra, but you’re only looking at a one off fee.
Website Building Platforms Have Improved
I remember when I was researching which options were best, and the pros and cons of each building platform. It essentially came down to, wix is easy but not as powerful, and wordpress is hard but very powerful. This was quite some time ago mind you, and these days I don’t fully agree with this.
Wix has improved a lot and I don’t think WordPress is anywhere as difficult to use as people make out.
Yes, WordPress can be a bit of a learning curve at times, but it really isn’t much of an issue. There’s so much help online these days and you can guarantee any problems you encounter will have been faced by thousands of people before you.
Some people also try to insist that you need to know how to code or something to use wordpress.org. This is completely not true at all.
Take this website as an example. I built peopleoftheplanet.com through self-hosted wordpress and have absolutely no coding knowledge whatsoever!
Decide Which is Best for You
Truthfully, it’s difficult to say which platform is best out of the 3 because it depends on your own needs. My advice would be that if you want a pretty good result achieved really easily and quickly, then use wix or squarespace.
Of the 2, the best all rounder is wix, yet the one that will produce the most beautiful website is arguably Squarepace.
If you are willing to put in some time, and have a small budget (we’re not talking hundreds of £$) to buy some premium plugins/theme, then you should use self-hosted WordPress. You will have the opportunity to turn your website into whatever you want it to be.
Once you get your website up and running, make sure it runs fast to stop your readers from getting inpatient and going somewhere else! It could also be worth your while finding some good quality images to make it look attractive to your audience.
I’d love to hear about your own experiences with using any of these, so please either email us with your thoughts or leave a comment!
One half of People of the Planet. Sharing our adventures, best travel tips and travel photography! We created People of the Planet to provide a place for all travellers to learn, explore and find travel inspiration.