The recent blog redesign made me think a bit of the differences – advantages and drawbacks – of Blogger (blogspot.com) vs. WordPress. Here are a few more comments. It is important to keep in mind that I am talking about WordPress.com, i.e. the free version of WordPress, hosted by WordPress (don’t confuse this with WordPress.org, which offers the same platform, but without the hosting). Also, I am not trying to make any exhaustive comparison, just a few comments.
Both WordPress and Blogger offer two excellent and completely free blogging platforms. Both can be “enhanced” if you pay a bit extra with e.g. personal domain names (url:s).
Perhaps the easiest thing to see in terms of differences is that it is easier to get a nice looking, well designed blog with WordPress (WordPress.com). This is mainly because in WordPress you have more themes to choose from and they are generally better designed than the Blogger ones. In Blogger most themes look rather terrible.
On the other hand, you have much more flexibility in Blogger to customize a theme once you’ve installed it, changing colours, fonts etc. WordPress does not allow you to tinker with the themes.
One of the things I discovered in my Wine Picture Blog redesign project was that it wasn’t actually all that difficult to install a new, nice-looking theme (I was almost going to say WordPress-looking) theme. In Blogger you can install new themes, either from Blogger, or ones that you’ve done yourself, or from a third party. You can’t do that in WordPress. This, in my view, overcomes one of the main disadvantages with Blogger (the sometimes childish built-in theme collection).
Another big difference is that with WordPress you can build sites, not just blogs. Perhaps you can do that with Blogger too, but I have not seen it. This means that a WordPress blog/site doesn’t have to look like a blog with new posts in a time chronology. You can build a site with static pages and a menu structure without it looking the least like a blog. Or you can do a mix of the two. This is a very good way of building a simple site. It does take some figuring out to understand exactly how to do the static pages and the front page, but once you’ve done that it is really easy to build the site. Here are two sites I’ve done in WordPress:
- Vine Growing and Wine Making Update: moved to here in new design: The Creation of a wine
- Languedoc Wines Update: moved to here in new design: Languedoc, wines and winemakers
This is also reflected in that WordPress has a very different “back office” or management and admin pages than Blogger.
In WordPress you get some built-in stats. It has its own statistics package that is part of their control panel. But it’s very basic. On the other hand, there’s no such thing at all in Blogger (of course, they want you to use Google Analytics instead). But what you really should do, both in WordPress and in Blogger is install a separate statistics solution. I use two which are both very good: StatCounter, which is free with a limited log history and costs a small amount if you want to store more logs; and Google Analytics, which is free but a bit more difficult to understand. I strongly recommend using a stats package so you can learn from who your visitors are.
There’s an annoying limitation in WordPress: it does not accept flash embeds. So you can’t pick up an “embed code” and put it on a WordPress blog. On this blog (Wine Pictures) all the photo slide shows are flash embeds (from my Photoshelter BKWine Photography site). They are impossible to use on WordPress.com. They say it is for security reasons. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it is a way to encourage you to upgrade to a paying service. One of the most common flash embeds today are YouTube videos. In principle you can’t embed those on WordPress either, but they’ve done a ‘fix’ so you can actually embed YouTube videos via a video module (that is built in). Quite an annoying limitation. Blogger has no such qualms about flash embeds.
Another big difference is what you can put in the side bars (the narrow column(s) to the left or right of the main column). Both Blogger and WordPress have some “standard” modules that you can put in the side bars. Blogger calls them gadgets. Some call them widgets. The choice is limited on WordPress but on Blogger you can basically put whatever you want in the side bars, in addition to the wide variety of standard ‘gadgets’. On this aspect Blogger is definitely a winner.
One more limitation in WordPress.com is that they don’t allow you to embed “commercial” links, for example product links to Amazon. So if you’re an Amazon associate you can’t publish product widget or links to the Amazon site. To do that on WordPress you have to pay extra.
If I would make some kind of conclusion it would be to recommend Blogger, since Blogger is easier to use for the novice but it also lets the code-savvy person do much more sophisticated things with it (e.g. it gives you total access to the template code and css).
On the other hand, if you are looking for something that lets you build more of a “site” than a blog then I’d suggest WordPress.com is for you.
But what is really the best option is to try both and see what you like best. Both are free, both give you the possibility to do unlimited testing and see if it turns out the way you want it.
What do you think? What advantages and drawbacks do you see in the Blogger and WordPress?