PROS / The dashboard and design tools are crisp-looking and top of the line.
CONS / You will most likely want to buy a premium theme or host your own site, making the experience no longer free.
VERDICT / WordPress provides hundreds of widgets and plug-ins but keeps the experience easy enough to run a professional-looking blog.
Blogs and blog hosting platforms abound on the internet. If you're looking to start a basic blog with minimal features, you have your pick of several blog services. However, if you want to take blogging seriously, you'll end up importing your entire blog to WordPress in the long run. It may be easier to just start with the service that will fit your needs best.
While WordPress.org is a completely free posting service, its companion site, WordPress.com, is a blog hosting site. You still have the option of posting for free, yet you will more than likely want to upgrade or get a premium theme to take advantage of every feature WordPress has to offer. For years, every one of WordPress's competitors has raised their standards to meet the services that this blog platform offers.
With WordPress and other blogs, you can amuse, inform, promote or rant to your heart's content with ease. Whether you're an experienced blogger or new to this electronic expression of your thoughts, you'll find every feature you'd ever need from traffic tracking, widget addition and even spell check. As it has been for the past few years, WordPress still deserves the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for the best blog sites.
While WordPress is designed to be simple enough for non-coders, it does allow you to customize templates. There are many open source templates out there for you to choose from, or if you like (and you have knowledge of CSS), you can alter your own to fit your needs. If you'd prefer to stick to standard WordPress templates, you still have hundreds to choose from, so you won't be limited in designing your blog. You can customize the templates with your own header image, font color, sidebar widgets, plugins and more. Once again, if you are new to blogging, you can go with a standard setup in your chosen theme and it will look great. WordPress leaves it up to your experience when it comes to appearance and customization.
The posting box is easy to operate and can be used in either text or HTML mode. The standard text box operates a lot like a word processor with similar controls. For instance, there are buttons and fields that allow you to change fonts, increase font size, bold text, change text colors and perform many other standard formatting options. The WordPress posting box also has a spell check and a preview. You can easily add links, videos and images to each post. While it may be a non-issue, the images do need to be in .jpg format.
The HTML-based posting box is for people who both know HTML and prefer more exact control over their content. The WordPress apps fully support embedding video, podcast and music players in your blog by simply copying the embed code into the HTML viewing pane.
Another benefit of using WordPress is the wide variety of plugins and widgets that you can use on your blog. WordPress is very popular, so many people have created additional plugins to increase functionality. These widgets and plug-ins can be whatever you want them to be. You can add an archive list, add a list of your top posts on the sidebar and even show recent comments on the blog.
As you can see, WordPress does a good job of catering to people that need simplicity as well as those that prefer advanced options and functionality.
The problem with many blog sites is that they place ads on your blog posts to justify the fact that they're providing a free service. WordPress allows you to place ads on your own site, but the only person benefiting would be you. You can run banner ads, Google ads or affiliate links in as many widgets as you like. For the clutter-free approach, you also have the option to leave the ads off entirely.
A feature we love about WordPress is the ability to moderate comments. You can choose to turn the comments off. However, if feedback is important to you, there are discussion settings available to allow you to see and approve every comment before it's officially uploaded. We chose to let comments automatically be approved if the commenter was previously approved. These discussion settings give you a clear view of the spam that would overtake your comments section if you didn't have strict settings.
Once you've posted a video or image into your blog, your media library will carry that file forever. This will help you if you reuse certain images or need to look for family pictures, such as if you run a "mommy blog."
WordPress.com sends your blog information to Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines, and it allows readers to subscribe to RSS or Atom feeds. We found our sample blog on Google within a day.
One of the most incredible features of WordPress is the quality of traffic stats available; especially considering it's a free service. It keeps track of views for individual posts, both daily and all-time views, and overall page view numbers for your entire blog by day, week and month. There is also a list of the top referring sites, the top keywords that brought people to your blog and the links that people clicked on while visiting your blog. The average user looking to create a personal blog will probably only be concerned with how many people visit, but if you want to create a following or report on a particular industry, the other stats will prove quite useful in monitoring growth and finding out how people have found your blog.
WordPress has the edge over many blogging sites by allowing you to incorporate your website name without including the awkward ".wordpress.com" after. Owning your own site name does require you to pay services like bluehost.com or godaddy.com, but you can hardly find a better site creator than a simple WordPress template.
Help & Support
While you may never need to refer to any support channel while using a WordPress theme, the fact that there are several resources out there is good insurance. The help section directs you to a knowledgebase where you will deal with the majority of your problems, the dashboard. There are also expansive community forums, where there's a good chance that others have run into the same problems as you.
You'll also find troubleshooting tips and FAQs. If there's one problem with WordPress, it's that there are so many customization options that you may get overwhelmed. We found that the FAQs and the WordPress advice blog cleared up common problems.
If you want to eventually make money just by writing a personal or business blog, WordPress is the best place to start. They offer free blog hosting, but you will quickly be tempted into spending a few dollars more to get a premium theme or to host your own site using the WordPress dashboard. We highly recommend this blog service to new and experienced bloggers looking to maximize and capitalize on their site traffic.