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New Blog

Blogs have been around since the earliest days of the internet, so most people have a pretty solid idea of what one is—even if they’ve never really thought to spell it out. Here’s how I think about it: a blog is a website, maybe with a few other pages, but the most important part is the feed of blog posts in reverse chronological order. 

There’s a thin line between the software you need to create a blog and the kind of content management systems (CMS) used by large companies to power their websites. Many tools like WordPress and Drupal can be used to both build a blog or power a regular website. 

When I was putting together this list, I used two criteria to decide on the essential blog-iness of the tools I was testing. They had to make it quick and easy to set up a real blog, and the backend where you write blog posts had to be nice to use and fully-featured. Squarespace, for example, is a great website builder that makes it possible to build a blog, but it’s not particularly intuitive to set up, and the backend is awful to use. Drupal is an incredible CMS, but it’s just too hard for non-developers to get started with to really be considered a universal blogging platform. I’ve tried it—it’s just not worth the hassle for most people. WordPress, on the other hand, is both quick and easy for a regular human to launch a blog—and the backend is intuitive and great to use. 

So, on this list, you’ll only find tools that pass the essential blog-iness test. But that wasn’t enough. I also required all the blogging tools to be:

  • Customizable. A big part of blogging is having a customized site, rather than just another generic Instagram account. I wanted tools that would allow you to choose your own theme and create your own branded blog. The easier it was to do, the better.
  • Well supported. While I wanted the tools on this list to be as easy to use as possible, when you’re setting up a website, you’ll almost always encounter some weird technical stuff. I required these tools to have either a community of users writing tutorials and helping people solve problems or a dedicated customer care team. (Which support option you have to rely on generally comes down to how much you’re prepared to pay per month.)
  • Affordable. This isn’t a list of the cheapest blogging platforms, but affordability and value for money were still key criteria. There are free blogging platforms that you can use to start a blog, but if you expect a large amount of traffic or want premium levels of support, you will have to pay something. 

I’ve been a tech writer for over a decade—which is to say, I’ve been a blogger. To pick the best blog sites, I started with a list of around 25 potential blogging platforms, the vast majority of which I’d already tried out, reviewed, or used over the course of my career. A few good CMSes, website builders, and newsletter services were quickly cut for being too hard to set up or not having enough focus on blogging, and a few other options were too small to readily recommend or seemed to be discontinued.

That left me with around 10 options to test in full—and these are the five best. I’d love to say there are some undiscovered gems in there, but really, when it comes to something as crucial as powering a secure, fully-featured blog on the open internet, you really need to go with one of the big players.