I was mucking around in the design of this blog, when I realized that TypePad is far more powerful than I’d originally realized. Now, you wouldn’t know it from my blog but I’m a pretty techie person – I’ve been a computer addict since I was 12 and had a Commodore Vic-20. I used to work in tech support for ReportSmith, a database reporting and query tool, as well as in Software Quality Assurance (i.e., finding bugs in products – hopefully before the products ship, ha ha) – yet somehow I was really late to realize the importance of blogs. I thought they were something people were just using to write public diary entries (which, in fact, is what a lot of blogs are – witness LiveJournal). But blogs can be a content management system – and TypePad’s advanced template editing options allow you to easily do such things as customize your index page. Usually people expect to see a listing of entries that are sorted by date when they visit a site created by TypePad. And yes, that’s the default setting. But you can make your own index page and have it look like whatever you want – a listing of posts by category, just the categories and post titles, whatever.
If you’re looking for the flat out easiest way to get started blogging, you’re going to have to go with what’s known as a ‘hosted’ solution. That means, you don’t need to have your own webserver, know HTML or how to FTP (if you do, you can consider additional options such as WordPress and MovableType – check out my original article comparing blogging tools). This brings us down to two main options: Blogger vs TypePad
Ease of post creation:
Both Blogger and TypePad provide both a WYSIWYG method of composing posts (like a word processor – what you see is what you get) as well as the ability to edit the HTML directly if one so chooses.
Blogger’s user interface for WYSIWYG post creation has more options, allowing users to change fonts midpost as well as center text (or align it any way you want) without having to switch to the HTML.
On the other hand, TypePad’s edit box is Rich Text compatible, so if you copy and paste something from your browser or word processor into the compose post area, TypePad preserves the formatting (and linking structure) from what you’ve pasted. That’s a big plus. TypePad also gives you the ability to underline, strikethrough, insert files, and create an easy mailto link. Blogger also has only 70 colors to choose from for font color changes without html editing, whereas TypePad gives you a couple hundred to choose from (they look to be all of the standard web-safe colors)
Winner: TypePad has the slight upper hand here
Blogger is free, TypePad isn’t. In my opinion, the nominal cost of TypePad is worth it, but if all you’re looking at cost than the winner here is easily Blogger.
FYI – I use the tzpepad Pro version, and pay for it by the year (instead of monthly) to save a little extra money. There are two coupon codes for TypePad that I know of thus far. The first is ‘movable’, which gives you a free 90 day trial of the Plus version (rather than 30 days). The other is ‘LAUNCH’ (which I haven’t tested), which is reported to give you a 10% discount on pricing should you decide to continue with TypePad.
ALSO, there is a free version of TypePad – sort of. You can only access it from a Friendster account (also free), and it requires you to have ads on your blog and has a much more limited set of templates, customizability, etc. When I tried using it to create a blog, I got repeated error msgs when attempting to do basic things (like enter a description for my blog!) so I gave up – this ‘free typepad’ is a buggy beta at best and not even worth the trouble at this point in the game. If free is where you gotta be, you’d best be using Blogger.
TypePad supports them, Blogger doesn’t. Trackback’s are a critical way of spreading the word about your blog, as well as letting other bloggers know you’ve referenced them in your posts. You can use a third-party tool to kluge trackback support into Blogger, but TypePad wins this category hands down. All you have to do is paste the Trackback URL into the ‘Send a trackback to these addresses’ field and you’re done. Third party tools such as WhizBang and HaloScan entail much more effort – you’ve got to enter your URL, their trackback URL, your blog name, your post title, and an excerpt from your post. To me, that’s tedious even the first time I tried it. I’m way to lazy to even consider having to do those extra steps for each and every trackback I need to send (but maybe that’s just me – I’m a bit of an efficiency freak and have a pet peeve towards doing extra steps that can be avoided).
Update – typepad does not handle trackback spam very well, so I’m going to need to write a post soon comparing tzpepad to wordpress, which is awesome for handling trackback and comment spam
Again, TypePad supports them and Blogger doesn’t. Come on, Google – I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it until you implement these features in Blogger – Blogger cannot be considered a true competitive blogging tool without TrackBacks and Categories. Again, winner is TypePad. (Anyone care to start a pool on how long until Google brings Categories to Blogger?)
Neither site allows you to customize the list of where you want to ping (a way of letting the world know you’ve updated your blog — see my comprehensive list of where to ping for more info). TypePad will ping blo.gs andYou can workaround it in TypePad by pasting ping URLs into the edit box for Trackbacks, but tools like MovableType and WordPress allow the user to customize your ping list so you don’t have to go and paste that list each time you post. Nonetheless, this particular review is limited to Blogger vs TypePad, so the winner is TypePad.
Searching of your blog by your sites visitors
Search is built into Blogger’s navbar, which is not surprising since they’re owned by Google. TypePad has no built in method which allows visitors to search your blog, so even though they have Categories, a large blog can easily become hard to navigate. Fortunately, I figured out how to add search to your TypePad blog, but as far as having the functionality built-in, the obvious winner here is Blogger.
Adding images to your blog
Super easy to do with TypePad- they’ll even let you upload a zip file of images if you have a lot you want to add at once. Impossible with Blogger unless you either A) use Hello BloggerBot (and even then, it publishes each image as an individual post, rather than allowing you to incorporate images within your post) or B) know HTML and have a webserver where your images are hosted – in which case, why are you even bothering with Blogger?
Typepad is the clear winner here.
Update – Andrew from Blogging on the Free Web wrote up a great commentary on this post, and recommends using Flickr for hosting and posting of images to Blogger. I just checked it out, and I actually think Hello BloggerBot is better to use if you’re going to try to post images to Blogger (the main reason being that you can host an unlimited number of images, whereas Flickr’s free account only allows you 10MB of bandwidth transfer per month, and that includes uploads! If you have to pay a monthly fee, may as well plunk it down for TypePad, in my humble opinion).
Display of images/photos in your blog
Again, TypePad is the clear winner here. Not only do they host your images for you, but when you upload your image, you can easily customize the settings to chose whether or not to wrap text (with the image on the left or the right), create a thumbnail (smaller version of your image) to display with the width you specify, either in pixels or percentage, and allow you to link to the full size version of the image in a popup window. Furthermore, TypePad even has a Photo Album feature, and templates which are designed specifically for those with a lot of images. AND, you can have multiple photos within a single post. Blogger makes each picture its own post. Blogger is a BIG loser in this category.
Blogger has a very limited set of templates, all of which are two column designs. If you want to make any modifications to the template you have to edit the raw HTML and you’ve got no WYSIWYG interface for examinging the changes you’re making.
TypePad has more templates (all of which are easier to modify), a slicker look, and various options of how your blog will display, including the option of three column layouts, mixed media based templates and more.
Winner – TypePad by a mile
Customization of how your blog displays
If you’re not comfortable mucking around in code, you can forget about making any changes to how your Blogger blog appears, beyond switching amongst the few predefined templates that are provided.
TypePad, on the other hand, let’s you fully (and easily!) customize the look and feel of your blog, allowing you to change the color and font of each element of your template, as well as what content (archives, categories, about me, link lists, etc) you want to appear AND in what order (with a drag and drop interface, no less). Customizing your templates to get your blog to look exactly how you want is a piece of cake – and no need to know HTML to do it. TypePad has a ‘design’ tab in the control panel that let’s you customize every element of your blog template – from font and color used for posts to the size and color of a headlline to the border style (if you want one) for any particular section, etc. It is extremely user friendly and intuitive to use. Furthermore, the ‘layout’ tab allows you to drag and drop where you want your blog elements to go (Archives, Categories, TypeLists, etc). This is a really nice touch. And if you do want to get into the nitty gritty of the html for the templates, you can modify not only that of your index page, but also of your individual post archive pages, category archives, etc.
Once again, TypePad wins this category hands down.
Email your posts to friends
Well what do you know – Blogger actually has a feature that TypePad sorely needs! In the Blogger interface, click ‘Settings’, and then select the Basic tab (default). Choose ‘Yes’ in the checkbox for ‘Show Email Post Links’. This allows your blogs visitors to easily email posts from your blog to your friends. TypePad has no such built in function.
Winner – Blogger
Archiving of Posts
With Blogger, you get one choice: no archive, daily, weekly, OR monthly.
With TypePad, you can choose any of the above AND you also can archive by Category.
Winner – TypePad
Blogger has none (yes, none!) – there’s no way without using an outside tracking tool to even know if ANYONE has viewed your blog. How fun (not) is that? Now, you can use third party tools to implement free stats for your blog, and Andrew pointed out that, ‘Blogger Help points to a bunch of stats add-ons. I’m using StatCounter, which was simple to add to this blog and is working fine.’
TypePad keeps a running list of how many hits your blog has received, how many visitors you’ve received in the past 24 hours, which pages those folks looked at, as well as the referring URLs so you know how they found your site. While I’d like more than 24 hours worth of referral logs to look at, 24 hours is better than nothing. But again, I could also use StatCounter (or similar) to get more detailed stats if I wanted to use a third-party.
Winner – TypePad
Both tools provide you the option of being notified by email when someone new comments on a post.
Both provide you the option of turning off commenting in your blog, or on a post by post basis.
My Blogger blogs haven’t gotten much traffic or comments, so they haven’t attracted any comment spammers yet so I don’t know how Blogger handles Comment Spam, but I CAN say that TypePad gets rid of my Comment Spam almost as fast as the spammers post it.
Winner – TypePad
Number of Blogs
This is an area I forgot to address initially. As Andrew pointed out, ‘Blogger lets you have as many blogs as you want. Basic TypePad restricts you to one, and Plus to three. You have to go to TypePad Pro to get unlimited blogs.’
If the main hurdle preventing folks from switching over to TypePad is cost, a bunch of bloggers could conceivably band together and share a single TypePad Pro account where you can have unlimited blogs and unlimited authors, thereby drastically cutting out of pocket expenses. (But then you’d all have to settle for your blog URL being a subdirectory rather than having your own domain or subdomain, and coordinating payment would be a hassle, even if you chose the cheaper method of paying once annually.)
I’ll have to continue work on this article at a later time, but as you can probably guess, my choice for the best blogging system that is hosted for you (meaning, all you need is a web browser and you can be blogging away) is TYPEPAD
It’s been a while since I played around with Blogger, so I created another new account where I could post all of the truly funny pictures, stories, etc that get forwarded to me so that I could share them with everyone w/o clogging up folks’ inboxes (warning – some of these jokes are dirty or political in ways that some might find offensive instead of funny – visit at your own risk as your sense of humor may different from mine).
Much to my surprise, when I clicked the button to post a picture, I got the following message:
Blogger does not directly provide image hosting, although you are welcome to include any images in your blog if you have them stored online elsewhere. However:
- Windows users can also use the Hello BloggerBot to post pictures directly to their blogs.
- Mac users (and anybody else, for that matter!) can use Flickr to photoblog; see this article for details.
Once you have an image online, you can include it in either your template or in a specific post by typing in the following tag:
. Just replace the URL here with the actual URL of your image.
My first reaction was — what?!?!? How can Blogger not host images? Yes, some blogs are text only, but most people are going to want to add photos to their blogs. And since Blogger is targeted towards those who aren’t necessarily the most tech-savvy out there, asking them to type in HTML tags and find a place to store their images is just ridiculous.
But then I checked out Hello BloggerBot – and while it’s still nowhere near as simple or elegant as adding images to TypePad is, it’s a workaround that’ll have to do for now – and, like Blogger, it’s free. Problem is, you have to provide a caption for each and every photo, and upload them one at a time to Blogger. And each photo is considered its own post. Not exactly what I was going for.
UPDATE: I gave up on using Blogger to host my Funny Pictures blog, and moved it to TypePad. Ahhh…much better
OK, I still haven’t had an opportunity to install WordPress 1.5 (I’m still on 1.2). Why haven’t I made it a priority? Because as easy as it was to install WordPress 1.2, it was ridiculously difficult to modify the templates it used. There are lots of other people’s pre-built templates that you can easily download and use. But they’re almost all two-column layouts. And from what I’ve been reading about 1.5, there still doesn’t exist a good template set for three column layouts. Update – I’ve installed WordPress 1.5 (it’s just as easy as 1.2 and looks a lot nicer), and am putting together a list of all 3 column layout themes and templates that I can find for WordPress 1.5, so be sure to bookmark this page as it will be regularly updated as I find new three-column WordPress 1.5 themes.
WordPress is great because it is so customizable, but that’s also what makes it so difficult – and apparently, the more ‘plug-ins’ or hacks you’ve done with your install, the harder it is to upgrade. The steep learning curve has (for now) prevented me from dabbling more with WordPress and with customizing templates.
Does anyone know of a great three column layout theme/template for v1.5 of WordPress??? If so, please post a link to it in the comments section! Thanks
UPDATE: Neuro has updated Root’s Trident 3-column layout for WordPress 1.5 themes – thanks Neuro!
Update 3/15/04: From Alex King’s WordPress 1.5 Themes contest, a few more three column layouts:
update 3/17: I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of over 615+ WordPress 1.5 and 2.0 themes that I found by hunting around the blogosphere, so if you’re looking for a new theme for your wordpress site, be sure to check out that post, which I’ll be updating it regularly as new themes become available.
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UPDATE: 7/3/05: So much for good handling of TrackBack spam – some jerk has been bombarding me with hundreds of really offensive trackback spams across all of my TypePad blogs and I’ve had to manually delete them all (and keep doing it every 10 minutes). What happened TypePad guys???
Just wanted to note how impressed I’ve been with how TypePad has been handling Comment and TrackBack spam. I’ve got my blog set to email me whenever there is a new comment or trackback, and every time I get a notification of a new comment/trackback which is clearly spam, by the time I’ve logged into TypePad, the spam has already been automatically removed from my blog. Very nice.