Checking Out WordPress Alternatives

April started with WordPress.com quietly pushing new unwelcome plans with all-or-nothing pricing. Like many others, I’ve written about it (here and there). Besides causing much consternation, the change also caused me to start seeking another blogging platform just in case — still no word on the new a la carte options said to be coming. I’ve been sampling other blog host providers and will share where I’m at. But first, a general word on paying for services.


There’s a notion that paying for an app or service is better than using it for free. One reason is that paying helps ensure the app or service won’t disappear — “free” is not a sustainable business model. For example, I donate money to Wikipedia because I value the free service and don’t want it to go away. A related example, I have long paid for WordPress because it is was a great CMS for blogging.

Somewhere along the way, I mistakenly thought paying for WordPress ensured it would never change, disappear, or regress. I was wrong. Though I’ve subscribed for years, it changed for the worse, not better. And while I can keep my current legacy plan as-is for the foreseeable future, I don’t know if that will eventually change. Despite paying money for WordPress, I now have uncertainty about it.

The instability has me seeking solid ground in other blogging services. If I move somewhere else, I’ll take with me the lesson learned: just because you pay for a service doesn’t mean it will remain the same long-term. Paying may help ensure a service is more likely to remain viable, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything. I’m not saying a service should never change, but when it does, it should be better for both the customer and the provider. The new plans aren’t better for the legion of hobby bloggers.

Bloggers deserve a better blogging platform.


Wix

I signed up to try a free Wix account but didn’t like the interface or dashboard. The whole service didn’t feel right, but that’s probably just because I’m so used to WordPress. The thing is, I want a simple blogging platform, not a website builder. And the costly plans aren’t better than what WordPress now offers.

No thanks.

Ghost

For publishing text — not building a website — Ghost looks excellent. You can literally play with Ghost just to try it out. I was very impressed with its dashboard and user interface. It’s simple and elegant yet provides the core functionality a blogger needs. Most impressive is how seamless and easy it is to give your readers newsletters and tailor your blog to gaining new members or subscribers. If you want to offer “Premium” content on your blog, Ghost looks best. The pricing structure isn’t great — there’s no free tier — but it seems reasonable for a hobby blogger with hopes to gain some income. The company appears solid with sound values and principles, and the site has lots of info about content publishing in general.

There’s a lot to like about Ghost; it’s one of the top contenders for a WordPress replacement.

Write.as

This blogging platform is intriguing with its super minimal appearance. Like WordPress, there’s an open-source, self-hosted version — write freely — and there’s a hosted version — write.as. The hosted version has a Pro plan that’s the most affordable of the WordPress alternatives so far. Unfortunately, the Free plan is now closed. The Pro plan has a 14 day free trial but I’ve not used it yet. I appreciate its “less is more” feeling, but I think write.as doesn’t offer enough blogging goodness at its Pro plan cost — though it does have a newsletter for email subscribers. After watching a few basic YouTube videos for how the service works, I think it’s over-simplified, and I’d rather not use markdown to format posts. On top of that, it favors Chrome or Firefox through an extension for easy photo uploading, but I don’t use those browsers.

I hesitate to write this one off, but I don’t think it’s for me. 

Blogger

I love Blogger and am now using it privately for cross-posting. To this day, it remains super simple yet has all the basic blogging features I love. It’s easier to use than WordPress and I prefer some of its widgets. I even like its classic themes with custom HTML and CSS for free! These traits combined with nostalgia tempt me to return, but my rational brain might get the better of me. You see, Blogger is free — nice, but I’d pay for it — and owned by Google, which means Google could kill it at any moment. In fact, some of its most basic features (like subscribe by email) have been deprecated in recent years and it feels neglected if not abandoned (yet somehow it remains). While I might be willing to live without some things, it makes Blogger’s future more uncertain. 

Blogger is best for simply blogging. But it may not be around for long. I’m torn.

WordPress

This brings me back to WordPress. I’m already here and paying for a good plan I can keep…but for how long? I decided it’s time to try the new Full Site Editing with blocks, so I’m testing it out. I hope to customize my test site to my liking, but so far the interface and nomenclature get a thumbs-down from me. It’s not very intuitive, though you’d think it should be since it’s based on blocks.

This brings me to the fact that, while powerful and sometimes easy, I dislike the overall block interface paradigm. Everything feels janky, like cobbling together a bunch of spare parts. There are settings everywhere, with buttons, drop-downs, sidebars, options… there’s a lot going on just to write a blog post or tweak a theme. Widgets customization is also cumbersome. I’m one who likes to tweak a blog theme, but I don’t like the new way of doing it on WordPress.com. I prefer a traditional WYSIWYG text editor. And I miss some of the classic but obsolete WordPress themes (like Writr), and “legacy” widgets seem to be going away.

Here’s an idea: along with WordPress.org and WordPress.com, there should be WordPress.blog, a new hosted service dedicated to classic and simple blogging rather than website building. And yes, I’ve considered self-hosting but dislike the overhead.

WordPress went from publishing platform to website builder.

Others

Maybe I should try Tumblr? I don’t think so…

I might try Medium as a way to syndicate my posts and gain readers to my blog. I doubt it, though, since it would mean paying more.


Conclusion

I don’t think WordPress.com is the best place for a hobby blogger anymore. That said, there are things I like about WP: the Reader, a robust ecosystem, room for growth, long-term viability overall, strength in numbers of users, a support system, and a good blogging community. These all create much value. I still have plenty of time to shop around and do more research, and I’m eager to check out the pending WordPress a la carte add-ons that are said to be coming. Time will tell what I end up doing.

Are you looking for a WordPress alternative?

23 thoughts on “Checking Out WordPress Alternatives

  1. Well, one thing is for sure, no matter where you go things will change sooner or later.

    I had a WP.org site for years and switched to WP.com a couple of years ago for its simplified set-up and hosting. Maybe it’s time I consider .org again(?) I’d hate to leave WordPress, but if widgets are going away then I may have no choice. Do you know what widgets are going away?

    Have you looked at Substack?

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    1. Hey Brad, you’re right. Things eventually change wherever one goes. Hopefully for the better, not worse.

      I have not looked at substack, I’m not familiar with it. And I haven’t really considered Squarespace either but will probably look in that one later as I’m somewhat familiar with it; it seems geared more towards selling products though.

      I may also consider wp.org or self hosting elsewhere. Maybe.

      Widgets on wp are not going away in general, but several are now labeled as “legacy” which concerns me as I think they will eventually be phased out in favor of the newer block-based widgets. And some of the block-based widgets seem able to replicate some of the “legacy” widgets but not all. So it makes me think we might lose some widget functionality. There doesn’t seem to be a new block-based widget for something as simple as the “legacy” Top-Posts widget for example.

      Bottom line here might be that WP is changing more than just plans/prices. They’re moving more to blocks and leaving old themes and likely some widgets behind. The change overall is not easy to adapt to, and some of the specific changes seem worse in some ways, like less functional, but I might be overlooking how some old capabilities are done differently now.

      The things is, I don’t see how the old way was broken or bad; it worked well and I was used to it. Maybe this is partly a symptom of my aging?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I’ve been on the block editor for some time now and it’s been going well. I’m used to it. I did message someone at WP and they assured me that as long as I have my account active it won’t go away. Additionally, they said no widgets were gong away. That said, I don’t know how things look on the traditional editor, but the block editor has everything I need.

        Regarding WP.org: At the end of the day if you’re still a bit usure of WP.com maybe .org is the way to go. With the new price point for WP.com Pro it’s actually cheaper to go with self-hosting.

        Lastly, I’m also a fan of Blogger. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but that’s where I started many years ago and it may stick around for some time now. I mean, it’s outlasted all of Google’s social media attempts and plenty of other products…

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        1. Thanks Brad, I appreciate your input here. Yeah, on Blogger, I’ve considered that Google is unlikely to kill it anytime soon because, as old and old-school as it is, Google has had plenty of time to wind it down, phase it out, or just kill it, yet they still haven’t. That gives me some hope for it, however small. And from the little info I have found regarding this, I’ve read Blogger is big in India and Brazil, such that Google would be reluctant to kill it.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I may see you over there one day. I just don’t want to go through the whole WP.org hosting thing again. It’s almost like too much control is given to the user and I’m guilty of messing with the themes too much! I just like simple and Blogger may do just that in the future for me. I can’t see going to .org unless I’ve started a business or something.

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          2. Sounds like WP.org wouldn’t be worth my time/effort. I keep posting to my Blogger blog (private) first and then to WP.com. I still marvel at how nice and simple Blogger is. I even posted one today with a photo 99% from my iPhone via Safari (no app on iOS). I was surprised how well it worked. No doubt, I like Blogger a lot and hope it never dies…but I’ll keep taking some time to check things out. Simple, less is more, yes…for that reason, one might prefer write.as, but for me it seems oversimplified.

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          3. WP.org isn’t too complicated but it’s just a bit much for a hobby blog. Everyone that swears by it is motivated about building a profitable business.

            I was thinking the same about Blogger. It seems like the best choice and after rooting around so many businesses use it and I’m sure it makes Google some money with ads.

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  2. 🤔 I have been planning to upgrade my WordPress.com plan for quite some time (All of that changed when they came out with the ridiculous WordPress Pro Plan).

    On a positive note, WordPress.com has the Reader feature; which is something that the other blogging platforms do not have.

    I suggest waiting a while longer to see if WordPress.com will introduce new plans.

    If WordPress.com fails to meet your needs, there is always the option of jumping on the Ghost bandwagon.

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      1. Yes! I noticed that too. You can add any sites with a feed I think.

        Aside: once upon a time, the blogosphere had zero feeds, no aggregation. Blogs were simply linked together with…links, like in blogrolls. Early on, there were not comments either, so how would you comment/converse? You would publish a new blog post with your commentary and link back to the source… sounds primitive, but it worked.

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  3. The thing about other platforms is that you’ll have to do your own marketing. WordPress.com has the Reader, which allows for organic discovery.

    With the recent changes in pricing, the overheads might significantly increase though, but because of the Reader alone, I still don’t think I’ll migrate over to self-hosting.

    At the end of the day, the one platform that’s the most stable (that will never change and will always be yours) is e-mail. So that’s something you could look at.

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    1. Thanks, Stuart, for your input. 🙂

      I didn’t know self-hosted WP lacked the Reader, but I guess that makes sense. Good to know.

      And for sure, organic discovery is something I consider.

      E-mail is also “decentralized” or “federated” I think, not locked behind a walled-garden. I do prefer to have email subscribers to my blog. But frankly, I doubt I’ll ever be good or popular enough with my casual blog-style writing and topics that more than a handful of people would care to subscribe to my blog anyways. I mostly blog for the process of thinking/writing itself. But it’s nice to meet like-minded people and have some conversation with them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hope you don’t mind if I share this:

    Tumblr sounds like a good option for a simple blog and, if I remember well, you can add a custom domain. I spent years (since 2004) on a self-hosted WordPress and was great to play with code but at some point in my life I move to WP.com (first to a personal plan, way cheaper that my former hosting) to simplify all things related to my blog/portfolio. My current plan cost me the same as a self-hosted WP and includes some Jetpack services that cost more $$$ on a self-hosted blog.

    A hosting company charges a discounted price (with a domain name for free) for the first year… and then the regular price (plus domain name $$$ and plug-ins $$$) for additional years. At the end a good and reliable hosting could cost more than the “old” premium WP.com plan, or probably less (or the same) as the new Pro plan.

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    1. Thanks, Renato. Of those 7 sites, I’d only heard of the first one, write.as. So I might check those out.

      Your comment makes me think of the fact that, in general, there are several options for blogging, but all was well before, until WP radically changed their plans. It seems unecessary and is unwelcome. With that and the push towards Full Site Editing and website building, I’m frustrated. I need simple blogging.

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      1. Yes, when I see you mention Write.as I remember that tweet! I like WordPress and it recent changes, since I already pay a couple of years in advance I will keep my site at WP.com but is good to know alternatives to create a blog, tumblelog or microblog site.

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  5. I tried WordPress but the block editing makes it a real pain just to write. So I went back to Blogger/Blogspot which I love. It’s format is simple and easy to use. Plus it’s free which is great. If Blogger/Blogspot should ever go away then I’ll be done with blogging. I’ve tried Wix,Square Space,Weebly, and some others. None of them really appealed to me. The ⏰ is ticking on my love for blogging. I’m just waiting for the alarm to go off. Sadly.✌️

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    1. Thanks for sharing that, RT1959. Good to know you’ve tried several other CMS services yet have stuck with Blogger. Yes, I really like Blogger a lot…it’s my #2 choice next to WordPress – it’s almost a tie.

      But I’m sad to hear if Blogger discontinues, then so will your blogging. I would hope you’d keep your personal blog alive somewhere…totally up to you. I like to encourage personal blogging in general though.

      Take care 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I started my latest blog in July and I’m really loving it. It’s a lot of work but I wouldn’t have it no other way. Hopefully I won’t give up on blogging. I’ve always loved it. Thanks for your response and you take care as well.

        Liked by 1 person

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