My great experiment with reviving an old blogging website is over, and now I’m back to this one. I think. The problem is, there is no perfect website, especially when you’re using a free one. All you can really do is compare the different features and pick the one that best suits your purposes. And frequently, by the time you make a decision, things have changed, and you have to start researching it all over again.
Years ago, when I first tried out Blogger, it didn’t seem that user friendly nor was there much flexibility in customizing it. But I had been hearing good things about all the great changes they’ve made. So I decided it was time to give them another chance. Besides that, there were certain things I didn’t like about WordPress.
The biggest drawback with WordPress is the inability to modify your template (unless you pay a yearly fee for the privilege). Even basic changes like using a different default font or font size for your website aren’t allowed. And most of the fonts for the free templates are quite small, especially their sidebar fonts. Another problem is that their post editor is sometimes challenging to work with. It doesn’t always do a good job of formatting pictures the way you want them and will also strip out some of your other formatting, especially things like extra line spacing you try to add for appearances.
Blogger allows you to modify the template. They have also become more user friendly, when it comes to making posts. But their biggest drawback for me is the inability to have sub-pages. You can have additional “static” pages (up to twenty), but they are all top pages. (The technical term for top pages are parent pages and sub-pages are either child or grandchild pages.) That means, if you have a bar-style navigation menu at the top of your website page (like I do), every single one of your pages will show up as an individual tab, rather than having some pages nested under a main tab.
With a straightforward blog, sub-pages may not be necessary. But I want to have static pages for general categories that I can then add sub-pages to, as I create more content. For instance, on this blog, I have a static Self-Publishing page with four sub-pages to share my experience with different aspects, such as choosing a paperback publisher and changing my formatting in order to publish it as a Kindle Book.
Another consideration is the way categories and tags are handled. I really like the way WordPress does it, which lets you choose general categories for each post, but then also lets you add tags to it that apply to that specific post. All Blogger has is a tag system to set up categories with. If you keep adding very specific tags to every post, you end up with too many categories. But if you don’t add the tags, it will be harder to find an individual post.
What I really want is a blog/website combination, so I also researched a third possibility—Weebly. Their service is intended mostly for regular websites, but you can use them for blogging, too. The primary advantages for using them are the ease in setting it up, the ability to modify templates, and the ability to have sub-pages. They’re very user-friendly and allow a great deal of flexibility. The main drawbacks are the somewhat basic blogging editor and a tag system for categories similar to Blogger. Since I tend to write long, complicated posts (even when I try to keep them simple and short), I like a somewhat more sophisticated editor than Weebly provides. I also ran into a page-size limitation when I tried to add a sub-page for a free short story that was just under 4,000 words. Although they supposedly have a way of displaying it, I had trouble making it work correctly (possibly because I had not yet published my website).
All three of these free website providers have pros and cons, so choosing one depends on what’s important to you, and that may involve features I didn’t take into consideration because they didn’t matter to me. For example, Weebly and Blogger are more open to different types of commercial activity, while WordPress is very restrictive. But generally, if your primary purpose for setting up a website is for blogging, then either Blogger or WordPress is probably better than Weebly. If you want a regular website with multiple pages and sub-pages, filled with pictures and even embedded videos, with only short, pithy posts or updates, then Weebly might be your best choice.
For my purposes, I want a blogging website with sub-pages. So I came back to WordPress and searched through their free templates until I found one with fonts that were a tiny bit larger and more readable than most of the others. The other features available for this template (Twenty Eleven) are mostly satisfactory, although definitely not as good as my original choice (Coraline, the one we use for our group blog, Boomers and Books). Of course, I seem to enjoy running around, setting up multiple websites (which is not recommended if you’re a serious author trying to create a presence on the Internet and build up a following). So I may use this one mostly for my writing stuff and also set up a secondary Weebly website, just for all my other unrelated whimsical ventures.