Blogging is more popular than ever, but the sheer number of websites offering to host your blog can make it hard to choose one. There's no shortage of free options which will provide homes for your words of wisdom, replete with powerful design tools to tailor the site to your aesthetic whim. One that has risen to prominence in the last few years is Tumblr.
Whereas classic blogs have always focussed on writing, Tumblr has a more visual approach which makes the site immediately attractive for visitors. Blog entries are often pictures, videos, or artwork accompanied by short explanations of why they were posted, but of course you’re free to write in the more traditional manner if you prefer.
In some respects, Tumblr is similar to Pinterest (see our guide to Pinterest) but it's more akin to Twitter.The real focus of the site is to enable you to share interesting things with interested people as quickly as you can. The dashboard gives you buttons for different types of posts - text, photo, video, link, quote, audio, and there’s even a chat option where you can ask a question that anyone can answer.
You can follow blogs and see their feeds appear in a descending list on your dashboard. There’s also the option to re-blog, favourite, or comment on the ones you like. This social nature is an important part of Tumblr’s appeal. Although many of its features appear on other social networks such as Google+, Pinterest, and Facebook, their combination in a beautiful, clean package is what makes Tumblr such an attractive proposition.
Finding blogs to read is also very easy since they're arranged into categories by Tags. This means that when you click on the Explore Tumblr button on the dashboard you’re taken to a convenient menu with all the top subjects listed. Interested in fashion? Click on the relevant box and all the current trend-setting blogs are presented in a Twitter-style chronological feed. This also helps you know which tags to use if you want to get your own site noticed.
Tumblr’s image-centred style means that it’s an ideal way to blog from a mobile phone. Simply download the app for your platform, snap a picture on your camera, add some comments, then post your thoughts for the world to see. When the site launched in 2007, its tagline was Blogging Made Easy, and that still holds true today.
Alternatives to Tumblr
If Tumblr’s visual focus isn’t quite what you’re looking for then there's a wealth of other options available to the emerging blogger. WordPress is undoubtedly one of the most popular. This free-to-use site has some of the most powerful tools available, many of which can be adjusted or completely reshaped by the user.
Hundreds of free templates are available to download, and can transform your humble words into magazine style websites, image portfolios, or just a simple two-column affair with a picture of your cat in the background.
You can also add a WordPress widget in Facebook so that your new posts appear automatically on your Facebook timeline. WordPress provide detailed statistics of traffic to your blog, which may account for why 49% of the world’s top 100 blogs choose the platform.
If you’re a Google fan then the Google-owned Blogger site is a fine choice. Much like WordPress there are plenty of free templates on offer but the real jewel in the crown is its integration with other Google services such as G+. Once set up, you can have your blog automatically appear on Google's social media site.
Plus, if you were so inclined you could use Google's Adsense to try and generate some income from your hard work by placing ads on your pages. Facebook widgets also allow you to link your blog directly to the social media behemoth.
Next page: First steps with Tumblr
How to get started with Tumblr
Step 1: Go to www.tumblr.com and click on the Sign Up button to create a free account. You’ll need to enter an email address, password, and unique username. Due to the millions of people who use Tumblr you might have to try a few different names until you find one that isn’t already taken. Then you’re all set.
Step 2: Tumblr's dashboard is simple to use. Across the top of the screen are a set of icons with their descriptions below. Select the appropriate one for the style of post you want to create. The main area below the icons displays any new posts from your blog or others you subscribe to.
Step 3: After you’ve chosen the style of post you’re taken to a screen with the relevant layout. Here we've chosen ‘Quote’ and are presented with a space to write our pithy remark and another space below to enter the source of the quote. On the right you can set when you want the post to appear and choose the all-important tags.
Step 4: Clicking on the Preview button opens a new tab showing how the post will appear to readers. You can change anything by simply closing the window, adjusting the text on the previous screen, then posting when you’re happy. Currently the blog name is ‘Untitled’ and the user icon is a generic picture. We'll address this now.
Step 5: Back on the dashboard screen we can click the ‘Pick Avatar’ option under the profile icon to change the picture. Next click on the ‘Unititled’ tab in the top right corner, which will select that blog’s page. Then select the ‘Customize Theme’ option, with which you can set about personalising the blog.
Step 6: The menu shows the current theme you’re using and information about the blog. In the box with ‘Title’ and ‘Description’ you can set the name of the blog and its tagline. You can also link to your Facebook and Twitter accounts in the box below. Clicking on ‘Themes’ in the top-left corner displays the many stylish options available, so dig in and have fun!