Okay, so you’ve made the decision to set the world on fire with your new food blog. One of your first important decisions (after choosing a hosting company, in most cases) will be to choose which blogging software, or platform, you are going to get set up on. While there are many options for self-publishing a blog on the Internet, in my mind there are only three major options: WordPress (either hosted or self-hosted), Typepad, and Blogger. Let’s take a look at each of these options, and consider their pros and cons
If you want to start your new food blog with as much potential for forward-compatibility as possible (that is, to make sure that your blog will be able to continue growing and changing, without the need for a major technology overhaul), there’s really only one choice: WordPress. There’s a reason WordPress is the most popular blogging software in the world, with more than 55 million WordPress-powered websites currently on the web. What began as just another method for publishing an online journal has evolved into one of the best content management systems available, with people making whole careers out of developing new features, providing support, and extending the software’s core features to make it possible to build almost any kind of website you can think of. Food blogs are just the beginning. WordPress can be used to power Yahoo Answers-style websites, online classified ad boards, real estate websites, online portfolios, and much more. WordPress does it all, using an easy-to-use interface that makes administering your new site easy. The software can be customized into infinity, and you’ll never be limited by the software when it comes to adding custom functions to your site.
There are two main options for getting WordPress up and running on your site. You can choose the hosted version of WordPress, or you can download it for use on your own site, with your own hosting and domain name. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry: it’s not. Installing WordPress yourself on your own server is only a little trickier than using the hosted version (the software prides itself on how few clicks it takes to get installed), and offers the maximum opportunity for customization as your site’s needs begin to change. The investment in learning to get the software running on your own server is worth it; with more of the web continuing to be powered by WordPress, learning the basics now is vital to your continued ability to publish online. Having an understand of WordPress means that as the needs of your site change, you will never be left behind. Almost without exception, I believe that the self-hosted version of WordPress is the best possible choice for anyone starting a new food blog.
If the two preceding paragraphs are already making your head spin, though, Typepad can be a good way to start on food blogging, while you decide if its a hobby you want to pursue. Typepad allows you to start your site immediately on their hosted blogging platform, they feature gorgeous website design templates (including a few food blogger-specific options), and you can have your new site live on the web almost as quickly as you think of a concept. With Typepad, blogging is as simple as typing. You don’t have to worry about anything else; their software handles everything else. If you decide food blogging is for you, and you want to personalize your site with your own custom domain name, Typepad will handle everything for you. They also offer a surprisingly advanced and powerful theme editor, stat tracking tools, and options to monetize your new site and get it generating revenue.
Tumblr is a popular choice for many bloggers, offering many of the same features as Typepad. I’m particularly interested in the way Tumblr functions more like a social network; starting your food blog on Tumblr virtually guarantees an audience, as readers “follow” your blog, “like” your posts so that their friends can see them, share, and re-blog your posts on their own Tumblr sites. This kind of viral activity means your best posts can receive a lot of attention quickly. In fact, Tumblr’s “follow” feature is one of the reasons we even include it as a contender. When you get food writer’s block, it’s handy to have things that interest you at your fingertips to reblog if you want to.
New food bloggers seem to continue to be starting their sites on Blogger, for reasons I don’t particularly understand. Though Blogger has its loyal fans, I don’t recommend it for most food bloggers, for several reasons. Though it may be easy to get a new blog established with Blogger, the lack of customization options are frustrating. Most Blogger blogs LOOK like Blogger blogs, and putting together a customized look for your site is much more complicated than with other platforms. Such basic features as getting your domain name to point to your blog are needlessly complicated and annoying. The biggest sign that screams “STAY AWAY” for me, though, is in the platform’s terms of service. With Blogger, you never really “own” your blog; Blogger can, at any time, shut your blog down, seizing the content that you have worked so hard on.
Though other options may present slightly easier setup routines, WordPress continues to dominate the blogging world. The ease of customization, armies of support staff and developers, and endless plugins and themes make it the perfect choice for anyone determined to start a successful food blog. Other platforms may have some cool social features (though many of these can also be achieved on WordPress using plugins), but there simply isn’t a more powerful option than WordPress. It powers most of your favorite websites (including the one you are reading right now), and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone, regardless of skill level or background, who wants to get started food blogging.
[Photo: Kristina B]