Weblog Software Choices
February 11, 2005
What software should you use to add a blog to your business web site? Here are the top choices, along with some considerations regarding each.
Weblog Software Choices
If you plan to add a blog to your business site, your best bet is to stick to the most popular weblog software packages. The reason for this is that the blog landscape changes rapidly, and the more popular a weblog software package is, the faster you can expect updates and add-ons designed to keep your blog up-to-date. This is particularly important when it comes to tools designed to eliminate comment spam.
Please note that each of these packages are “scripts” that have to be added to your web site. You’ll want to check with your web host to make sure that they can support the package you are considering. Although these packages all offer very simple installation compared to other web site scripts, installing them does require some familiarity with technical aspects of your site and the server that it’s hosted on. Most web hosts will probably be able to install these for you for a minimal fee.
Once the package is installed, you will want to customize it to best fit the look and feel of your site. If you are familiar with HTML, you may want to consider doing this yourself, otherwise you will probably want to have your web developer customize it to your specifications.
Even though weblogs are a relatively new phenomenon, Movable Type is the grand-daddy of weblog software packages. It offers a sharp and sophisticated administrative interface, and pretty much every feature you’d want in a weblog package. Requires a server that supports Perl and PHP. Provides search engine friendly URLs, although at the expense of being able to do dynamic updates on some servers.
Pros: Movable Type is full featured, has rapid updates, and is highly customizable. The publishers (Six Apart) offer several levels of professional support.
Cons: Movable Type has had performance problems recently on some web hosts. The level of sophistication of the system is sometimes intimidating to new users, and full customization can require some extensive work.
Pricing: Commercial licenses start at $199, and go up depending on the number of people who will be authoring articles.
WordPress is an extremely popular Open Source weblog system. Although the basic system has fewer features than Movable Type, virtually all of the same functionality (and sometimes more) can be added with the vast array of freeware plug-ins available. WordPress also features a very simple “five minute install”. Requires a server that supports PHP.
Pros: WordPress’s customization facility makes it somewhat simpler to customize than Movable Type, due to everything being in one place. The administrative interface, although slightly dated compared to other packages, makes it simple for even a novice user to operate and run the system. Although out-of-the-box sophistication is not as high as Movable Type’s, a great deal of additional features may be added with plug-ins.
Cons: No professional support is available from the developers (there are many web developers who can provide third party support, however.). The administrative interface is somewhat dated and unsophisticated compared to other packages. Although the plug-in system allows for a number of features to be added, there is some risk of unexpected interactions between plug-ins from different authors. Search-engine friendly URLs are only supported on Unix/Linux based web hosts.
Last but not least, WordPress is in the middle of a major development cycle, with a major new version (1.5) due out soon as of the time of this writing. If you are interested in using WordPress, it may be worth waiting for the new version to be released rather than upgrade later, or risk using a pre-release of the new version and a (hopefully less disruptive) upgrade to the new version when released.
Update 2/15/05: WordPress 1.5 is now released, and I highly recommend it. This release of WordPress adds a number of new features that make it much easier to integrate into a small business web site. I will review these features in depth soon.
Expression Engine evolved from one of the first popular commercial weblog packages, pMachine. Expression Engine offers a lot of off-the-shelf features that other packages don’t, including an image gallery, mobile weblogging, and a sophisticated user management system that allows multiple authors in multiple sections with a great deal of control over who is allowed to draft, edit and publish articles. Requires a server that supports PHP.
Pros: Very professional administrative system, yet still relatively easy to use for day to day tasks. Offers a degree of sophistication regarding multiple authors that the other systems do not. Search engine friendly urls are supported on all platforms. Professional support available.
Cons: Does not evolve as rapidly as the others do, which can be frustrating when dealing with fast-moving issues such as comment spam. First level support is only through a web forum; direct support is offered as “last resort”. Does not play well currently with some client blogging packages such as Ecto.
Pricing: $199, unlimited weblogs and authors.