[Blogging Platforms Review] WordPress – a professional, multi-purpose blogging platform

WordPress Blogging Platform Review
WordPress is an open source blogging platform. It is available freely hosted at wordpress.com, where you can create a blog right away (with some restrictions), and the platform software is available for download at wordpress.org, which is its development site. If you are well versed with PHP, MySQL and Web server administration, you can roll your own WordPress blog by downloading the WordPress setup files from WordPress.org, and uploading them to a Web server. WordPress is free for non-commercial use; the rest can use the freely hosted version at wordpress.com. While the blog platform is not feature limited, the blog host has limitations for the free version. What follows is the review of the features of WordPress as it is available at wordpress.com. To be able to try WordPress (WP), you need to signup for a free account at wordpress.com. After signing up and selecting a unique name for the blog, you are taken to the blog’s dashboard. Here you can see the various functions available for the blog. The blog statistics offers information about the visitors to your blog. The comments you made on another blog are tracked under the “My comments” link.

The Client
The contents under the write tab effectively form the WP client. On offer is a basic text editor, which also allows basic formatting. You can add a link to an online image from the editor itself. Above the editor is the file/media uploading box, which can be used to upload images, videos and other files like documents etc., to your blog. Video blogging, by using clips uploaded to YouTube and Google.com are also supported. The video clip is displayed on the WP blog page, even though the data is transferred from YouTube or Google.com. The free service only allows 50MB storage space for all non-text data. For more, you need to get a paid account. Categorization is important as it allows the visitors to easily access related posts. WP also allows you to create special pages that are not part of the blog. These pages appear as links on the right hand side of the blog page. Under the manage tab, the previous posts and pages can be modified. You can also manage the various non-textual data that you have uploaded here. Of special interest in this tab is the Import Tab. Here you can import your posts from blogs written in other blogging platforms like Moveable Type, TypePad, LiveJournal and the older version of Blogger.com, besides WP itself. Under the export tab you can prepare your blog contents for export to another or WP blog.

Wordpress Post Editor
WordPress Post Editor

The Platform
A look at the menu and you can correctly conclude that WordPress offers more customization options and features than Blogger. For starters, there are 53 themes to choose from under the Presentation tab. For those knowing CSS, the paid version of WP allows the use of a custom CSS file. Free service users cannot use a custom CSS file, but the effects can be previewed. Editing the HTML is not allowed, though. So adding external code in the form of ads or scripts cannot be achieved. Selection of a template will influence certain aspects of the layout, most notably Sidebars. Since widgets can only be added to sidebars (described later), if you intend to use them, choose a template which supports at least a two column layout. A brief template description follows every template. Under the Sidebar Widgets tab, the user can change the contents displayed on sidebar of the blog page. Available widgets include Calendar, Blog stats, RSS feeds, pictures from your Flickr account etc. All it takes to include widgets is a click and drag operation. Each of the widgets can be configured further by clicking on Configure. It needs to be noted that some of these widgets, like Flickr and del.icio.us, rely on external sites for their functionality.
For these widgets, proper configuration is imperative for flawless operation. Additionally, these add to the size of your blog page increasing the loading time, which may not be visitor friendly. The Calendar, Categories, Meta and Links widgets are recommended as they are relevant to the visitor. You can add users and administrators to your blog under the Users tab. Here, you can also send invites to any person to join your blog (or create their own blog). A word of caution: setting up someone as an admin grants him all the rights as enjoyed by the creator of the blog—including deleting other admins.
Under the Options tab, you have even more customization options. Under the General link, you can prevent visitors, who are not registered WP users, from commenting on your blog. Under the Reading link, you can choose the first page of your blog, either a static page or the latest post. Here you can also set the number of posts to be displayed on a page. You can set the number of posts to be sent when someone subscribes to the feed, and whether the entire post or just a summary should be sent. Under the Privacy options you can limit the visibility of the blog. If so desired, you can keep the blog private so that only you can read it. The Free version of WP limits the number of users that can view a blog to 35 users. Abstaining from getting listed in search engines does not make the blog private. People who know the URL can directly get to it. Under the Domain link you can setup a private domain to point to your WP blog. The free version does not allow this. This redirection is not the same as publishing on a different server, as is possible with blogger.com

Concluding Remarks
Wordpress has come a long way now, from a basic blog-platform to a full-fledged any-type, website-building framework. Considering the feature-set and functionalities WordPress offer, it is currently the platform of choice for professional bloggers. Not only for blogging, WordPress is now powering full-fledged ecommerce sites, big portals and all kind of other sites. This has been made possible by the continuous development of the platform and development of wonderful themes, plugins and extensions (like WooCommerce etc) from independent developer companies.
So if you are planning to create a professional blog then look no further, WordPress is the best option out there.

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