WordPress is probably the best known of all the blogging tools. To set up a basic blog is completely free and this includes taking advantage of the professionally designed templates and having your blog hosted. For an upgrade price of $99 a year – around £5 per month – you also get your own domain name, 10GB rather than 3GB of Web space, the removal of ads which help fund the free version, the ability to design a custom blog from scratch and VideoPress, Automattic’s video player. See Group test: what's the best web-design software?

There’s a fair selection of well-designed templates, though being a blog, they are essentially quite simple. Most things are customisable but, unlike the website services, there’s very little in-place editing. Nearly all operations take place on separate screens so, for example, when you edit text it appears in a separate text editor with simple formatting controls. You edit the text and republish to have it appear in your blog post. Take a look at Adobe Dreamweaver CS5.5 too.

This lack of WYSIWYG updating is more disconcerting than it may sound. It's fine if you write all your text in one go and add all the necessary images before publication, but if you prefer to tweak your copy and photos as you go, it's quite long-winded to have to keep previewing and applying changes. For making minor changes, it's something you'll live with.

The photo editor enables all the basics, such as resizing, rotation, flipping and simple positioning left, right or centred, but there's little else and any more in-depth photo treatment needs to be done in separate software.

At the top of a blog, the default pages are Home and About, though you can add others, mainly for static information. Using this facility it’s fairly easy to set up a website that isn’t a blog, though the one missing feature is e-commerce. You can add PayPal buttons, but there’s no payment cart facility. A page can include feedback and comments, though, and polls to gauge visitor opinion.

WordPress provides links to Twitter and Facebook and automatically lists recent posts, your archives and metadata down the right-hand side of your blog page. It also selects appropriate ads for the subject matter in your blog if you go for the free version.

Automattic WordPress: Specs

  • Number of pages: Unlimited
  • Number of templates: 205
  • Mobile optimisation: Yes, automatic
  • Image editor or optimisation: Basic image editor
  • Photo galleries: No
  • Widgets: Can include HTML for PayPal buttons and more
  • SEO details: Auto generated XML sitemaps sent to search engines on new posts
  • SHOP
  • Number of items: Not applicable
  • Support for categories / sizes: Not applicable
  • Checkout options (e.g PayPal/Google): PayPal and Wufoo buttons available for bloggers' product sales
  • HOSTING FEATURES
  • Domain name included: No, available as upgrade
  • Storage space: 3GB
  • Bandwidth/month: N/A
  • No of email accounts: None
  • MySQL databases: N/A
  • Number of pages: Unlimited
  • Number of templates: 205
  • Mobile optimisation: Yes, automatic
  • Image editor or optimisation: Basic image editor
  • Photo galleries: No
  • Widgets: Can include HTML for PayPal buttons and more
  • SEO details: Auto generated XML sitemaps sent to search engines on new posts
  • SHOP
  • Number of items: Not applicable
  • Support for categories / sizes: Not applicable
  • Checkout options (e.g PayPal/Google): PayPal and Wufoo buttons available for bloggers' product sales
  • HOSTING FEATURES
  • Domain name included: No, available as upgrade
  • Storage space: 3GB
  • Bandwidth/month: N/A
  • No of email accounts: None
  • MySQL databases: N/A

OUR VERDICT

If you're planning to set up a blog, WordPress is probably all you need. While it's not as easy to use as a dedicated web design service, it's also very much cheaper than most and can be used to make sites that aren't blogs as well. It could do with a more hands-on approach to editing, but its very popularity suggests that most people don't find this much of a problem.

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