Thoughts on Blogspot

Recently, I noticed that blogspot/blogger had updated to give users a little more control over their blogs, because of that I decided to give it another shot after years of absence.┬áThere are a few advantages to blogspot in particular over hosting yourself or WordPress’ similar service.

First, unlike WordPress, you can actually post your own advertisements on your blog on blogspot which means it is a lot closer to your own hosted blog. You have a potential to actually make money (not that there is real money to be made on blogs anymore). Not only do they allow you to throw in your own ad links, they build in google adsense into it. This makes sense, after all Blogspot is owned by Google so why not? But this is a far cry from WordPress’ strict no advertising policy.

Second, just being on blogspot does tend to lead to new visitors coming to your site. This is something true of WordPress as well. Both of these sites have bars on the top of their blogs if you allow them that let visitors go from one blog to the next randomly. Like a grand link ring of old, and I must say these do actually work! Though they do make your site look uglier. I must admit that my daily visitor stats dropped dramatically since I was on WordPress and I believe this came from the loss of those random visitors.

Both also offer a bit of ease to managing your site. You no longer have to make sure that your theme or back-end software is up to date. And here lies a bit of the rub with these services traditionally. With this ease of management there is also far less customization. That is at least until recently on blogspot where they no let you dig directly into the html and css itself letting you customize your website to your heart’s content.

And so I gave it a shot for a couple of weeks on my other blog, What I found was that the software was adequate for my needs but not great. First of all, the import function didn’t seem to work. I tried exporting the blog from WordPress and importing the xml to blogspot with no success. I ended up having to copy and paste the contents back anyway.

Plugin support was weak at best as well. Google themselves made several really strong plug-ins which got a lot of basic functions. But functions like adding a box that has posts from previous years or even random posts from your blog were either non-existent or impossible to find. Their search function for the plug-ins seemed abnormally difficult to navigate. So this would have been something I needed to add in manually if I wanted to keep it at all. Not ideal.

There also seemed to be no tool to make post templates, which for the most part is ok, not great. But there also wasn’t an easy way to feature images easily for each post. Actually, for this one, I believe there probably was a way to do so but I was not able to find it. Because there were blog templates that allowed for the front page to consist of just the images from each post. A nice look but not what I am looking for and I didn’t know how to do it. There was likewise no way that I could tell to easily insert a picture into the top banner, nor randomize that banner with a group of pictures.

I also was overly annoyed by the inability for me to easily change the display name. This is partially a disappointment of Google Plus as well and its this attachment with Google Plus that i found the frustration. While I don’t mind that Google+ collects first and last name, I wish they would allow for true nicknames. After all, there are many people out there who are considered internet personalities who have only one name, I consider myself one of them and I don’t like having to fake it in order to try to get around the requirements. If for on other reason, it looks silly.

Overall, I feel that these were minor problems, but enough to warrant me from making a full fledged move at this time. I also find it surprising that though the system is very customizable, it is difficult to navigate. I find this surprising because Google is a company that enjoys ease of use. This site is clearly not there yet, but I do feel is on the way. Perhaps in a year from now it will finally be there, but for now I will continue to host my websites myself.