Which web service to choose for blogging?

As I have already mentioned before, my mother is very interested in blogging. She is about to start blogging herself. I am helping her to find the proper tool and get used to the idea. I think it is important to remind here that she is not by any means an advanced computer user.

Features that she needs:

  • Web interface. As easy as possible.
  • Few security levels for posts. She needs to be able to write public articles (viewable by everyone), “friends”-only articles (viewable by a number of people selected by her), and private articles (viewable only by her).
  • Categories for posts. She needs to create several categories for her posts, similar to the way I have it.
  • Searching. Searching for posts that she wrote previously is an absolute must.
  • Comment control. She must be able to switch comments on and off and to limit comments to “friends”-only.
  • Image galleries. She wants to post images from her travelling and day-to-day life. Organization of images, annotations, and comments are all considered and advantage.
  • Favourite links on the main page. She wants to maintain a number of links to her favourite sites and other blogs (like mine) on the main page. In other words: blogroll.
  • Free. She is not yet totally convinced that she wants to blog, thus paying any money for this functionality is not an issue.

After talking to her for a couple of hours yesterday, I realized that she sees my blog as an ideal example. I would have, of course, installed a copy of Nucleus CMS for her on my server, but I am not so sure about the user friendlyness of it. I mean I can easily modify HTML and PHP code as needed for my blog. This is not an option with my mom.

So far I have inspected the following web services:

None of the above services fully satisfy the requirements. Out of all these, Blog.com has most of the features. It has an a very easy to use interface, themable blogs, multiple blogs per one account, categories for posts, image hosting and photo albums, comments control and much more. It even offers easy blogrolling, linking, syndication, and book lists. Surprisingly, the service is free. There are a few limitations though:

  • Disk space. Free account is limited to 10 MBytes. This is more than enough for any beginner who plans on writing text only. With photo albums and image hosting functionality it is pretty easy to run out of though.
  • Bandwidth. Free account is limited to 250 MBytes per month. Again, this is more than enough for a blogging newbie, but can be ran out of easily with lots of images or mild popularity.
  • Advertising. Free accounts will have a mandatory, but small Google Adsense advertising. I don’t see it as a big problem. This is much nicer than banner ad programs that websites used to have long time ago.
  • Minor functionality limitations. Few features are not available with the free account. Most noticably, access statistics are locked, so you won’t be able to see who comes to your blog, from where they come, and what do they want. Also, private blogs (limited to the owner or selected group of people) are also not available.

I personally see these limitations as minor ones. Most people use web services which don’t even offer half the features Blog.com does, so few cut offs are an OK in my book. In case there is a need for more disk space or bandwidth, or if those limited features are all you need, Blog.com offers a really nice pricing scheme.

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