I’ve written previously about my decision to go with Blogware and specifically with BlogHarbor – see Blogware Trial Going Well.
In a discussion group I belong to there’s been a thread running on blogging, or more specifically on what blogging tool, service or platform, as in Typepad, Blogger, Blogware, BlogHarbor, WordPress etc, is ‘best’. I joined in and offered some thoughts. Various people pitched firmly for the service they preferred. Which prompted this blog, to bring my thoughts on the matter up to date.
Maybe that conversation on the forum is a bit like having a conversation about which brand or type of motor vehicle is ‘best’. Someone who needs a pickup truck, or as we say in Australia a utility or ‘ute’, will not be interested in a sedan. But I’m sure there are people who, like me, want to have a professional looking blog without having to become an expert in coding, and who want intelligent, responsive support and all at a manageable price. Those were the key factors in my choosing Blogware as delivered by BlogHarbor.
Whether others choose BlogHarbor or not won’t affect me. My hope is that this review will be seen by people who, like me, have been frustrated by some of the options and that the review will help them shorten the learning curve and enable them to move faster to blogging regularly and happily, without having to worry too much about learning and managing the tools or the platform.
Unlike some others whose comments I’ve read, on the web and in forums, about the competing merits of different blogging platforms, I am not a techie or a programmer, even on an amateur basis. And unlike some of my colleagues I do not get much joy out of tinkering with the software: I find it an unsatisfying and often unproductive use of my time. My desire has been and is to have a blogging system that works for me immediately, and works the way my word processing software works for me, i.e. without my having to think about it. And I want a system that I can be pretty sure I will still be using in 2 or 3 years time.
I’ve been blogging now for one and three quarter years and I’ve tried a lot of blogging platforms, including ones where I really tried to learn and apply, but without much success, what I had been assured were ‘easy’ programming skills.
I wrote about all this as guest blogger on Andy Wibbels’ Easy Bake Weblogs – see Blogging Platform Junkie ‘Fesses Up – and the one I wrote shortly after – Blogging Platform Junkie Settles Down – the latter one being basically about the fact that I chose BlogHarbor. BlogHarbor uses the Blogware technology and adds a truly impressive and personal support to that, at a very reasonable price. And there are amazingly good stats, much more informative than Typepad (which is in itself an excellent platform but for me has serious limitations).
Blogger? Well, it’s free, which is a good price. And you can’t complain if it doesn’t work for you, can you?
I have to say that I have found, through very time consuming and often deeply frustrating experience, that a number of people who recommend different platforms assume that the world shares their knowledge base – “Doesn’t everyone know how to handle CSS, PHP (insert your bit of techie jargon/acronym)? It’s so easy!” Well, no.
And some people love WordPress, and have told me it’s “really easy” – for me, it ain’t.
Another BlogHarbor user, who was very helpful to me when I was trying to make up my mind, is T L Pakii Pierce, who has a very informative blog at How to Blog for Fun and Profit! – he’s so helpful I thought he must be a coach and then I found out he is! In a podcast he has on site (and he explains podcasts!) he comments on Blogger and he also makes a very good point (among several very good points), which is that if you are blogging for business it is worth making a very good decision about the right platform or software for you at an early stage, because there is a cost in switching. For example, I have a Google Page Ranking (PR) of 3/10, which is nice, on my Typepad-based site – Original Thinking Home Business – but I have better visitor stats on this new one at BlogHarbor. I would love to be able to switch the page rank to this new site but I can’t and I’m not updating the one that has the good ranking. I was effectively mirroring the sites for a while – duplicating the content – but I’m told that could be counter-productive with Google, and anyway it’s time consuming and inconvenient to do the mirroring exercise. So in effect, for a longer term benefit I am giving up an existing asset.
That’s all part of the learning process I’ve had to go through, and I agree absolutely with my colleague Andy Wibbels when he encourages people to get started with something, but just get started. Andy recommends Typepad, for a lot of good reasons, and he uses Typepad as the basic tool for his excellent blogging course.
Nevertheless, I have to say that from my point of view BlogHarbor delivers all that Typepad does and more, and at a competitive price. And from my hard-won experience I am convinced that it’s a smart idea to move as quickly as you can to set up on the platform that delivers the service you want for the longer haul, assuming you have some idea what you want to do or achieve with your blog. When people as smart and as experienced as T L Pakii Pierce and Kathleen Gilroy choose Blogware as their preferred platform, I feel reassured. And both Thomas and Kathleen evidently have the programming skills to have a much wider choice of platforms than I do. Kathleen’s comparison of Typepad and Blogware was a boon to me in my investigative phase.
There will always be people who will want different functionality or features from whatever product one or other person recommends, which is fine. What I’m saying in this review, in case it’s not clear by now, is that with the benefit of a lot of testing of other platforms and the perspective of a non-technical person looking for a robust and well featured business blogging tool, I am personally happy with Blogware, as delivered by BlogHarbor, and I have no hesitation recommending it.
For anyone who has tried any of the blogging solutions, BlogHarbor might look a little daunting at first, but that’s because there are so many features. I just treat the control panel a bit like the dashboard of a new car – lots of features and I’ll get around to them but first I’ll drive it. For example, I’d been using the service for a few weeks before I found the tab for statistics and was amazed at the extent and precision of the stats.
Just as with Blogger or Typepad, you can be up and running with BlogHarbor in fifteen minutes and then you can customise it progressively. There are excellent templates and in my view more customisable options and easier to use than for Typepad.
With Typepad and Blogger, I never really worked out how to use my own domain name for my blog. With BlogHarbor it was extremely easy and fast.
One of the particularly attractive features for newbies and experienced bloggers alike is that you can check out BlogHarbor for a month without paying. And yes, that means without handing over your credit card details, with the risk that is seen by many to entail. But in fact I had only used BlogHarbor for about a week before I upgraded to the paid version, so that I could use my own domain straight away.
Blogware through BlogHarbor also meets a desired requirement of mine, to combine most of what I want from a website with the features of a blog. In that respect, the BlogHarbor solution looks like a great basis for a sophisticated, responsive knowledge management system.
Of course there are quirks, as with any template based product, and there are still some things I’m trying to figure out. But so far I’ve been able to do most of the things I want to do, like putting ads and affiliate links onsite for some products I’m recommending – anathema to some bloggers, I know, but hey! I’m in blogging for business as well as fun.
Blogware is sold through resellers/distributors who provide the backup service. I did spend some hours checking out the various resellers of Blogware. My first choice of a reseller looked promising because it seemed that there was a real live human being running that and I thought there was a users’ forum. But I found that the support was not to my liking and the forum not functioning. That’s when I got onto BlogHarbor, through T L Pakii Pierce’s recommendation. And I found that not only is there a more up to date manual onsite than I’d seen previously, and a functioning forum actively managed by the BlogHarbor man, John Keegan, but that John is very quick to respond to support questions and is very clear and helpful in his responses.
BlogHarbor with Blogware gets top marks from me.