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21 June 2012

Blog Posting Comparison — Styles, Tools, and Ease of Use

The options that you have and the tools that you use while creating a post are very important. There are some interesting similarities and differences among Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress. The information that follows is based on the blog themes that I chose. There may be differences for other themes.

Post Styles

Blogger has one post style — a text box in which you can put whatever you want. The text box can be resized to the length of the page by dragging down on the little arrow, which is very useful for long posts. You can switch back and forth between Compose and HTML views.

Blogger Post Page

Tumblr has seven post styles — Text, Photo, Quote, Link, Chat, Audio, and Video. Each style has a different layout and fixed-size entry boxes, which can cause you to do a lot of scrolling when, for example, you're entering a long text post. Most of the styles give you access to the HTML, which pops up in a separate window.

Tumblr Add a Text Post Page Tumblr Add a Photo Post Page

Tumblr Add a Quote Post Page Tumblr Add a Link Post Page

Tumblr Add a Chat Post Page  Tumblr Audio Post Page
Tumblr Add a Video Post Page 

WordPress has one post style — a text box in which you can put whatever you want. It's a fixed size, but is quite long to keep scrolling to a minimum. You can switch back and forth between Visual and HTML views.

WordPress Add New Post Page

Posting Tools - Text View

All three sites have the following text tools: bold, italic, strikethrough, bullet list, numbered list, quote, insert link, insert More tag, and check spelling. (Of interest, Tumblr's spell checker supports 11 languages as of this writing.)

Blogger and WordPress also have the following tools: undo, redo, underline, paragraph alignment, text color, and remove formatting.

There are some differences in the way links are handled among the sites. Tumblr and WordPress use the Insert/edit link toolbar button for both inserting and editing a link, and a separate Unlink button for removing a link. You can choose to have the link open in a new window. Blogger has an Add or remove link button. Adding a link opens a window where you can enter a URL, test the link, and choose whether or not to add 'rel=nofollow' or have the link open in a new window. Clicking the button when a link is selected unlinks it. Clicking on an existing link causes a line of options to be displayed next to the link, where you can follow the link, make changes, or remove it.

There are even more differences in the way images are handled. Blogger has an Insert image button that lets you upload a file from a number of different places. Once an image is in a post, clicking on it causes a line of options to be displayed next to the image, where you can adjust the size of the image, arrange its position, add a caption, add a title, or remove it. Tumblr has an Insert/edit image button that you use to specify a URL, a description, an alignment, and alternative dimensions that you have to manually calculate and enter. To access a chooser for uploading an image, there's an Upload photo link above the toolbar which opens a file browser. WordPress has an Add Media button above the toolbar that allows you to find an image to be inserted. Once you have an image in your post, clicking on it causes two little icons to appear over the image — one for editing and one for deleting. Choosing to edit an image opens a window where you can adjust the image size, alignment, title, caption, URL, border, and various other properties.

Blogger's toolbar has the following unique tools: fonts (Arial, Courier, Georgia, Helvetica, Times, Trebuchet, Verdana), text size (smallest to largest), text type (heading, subheading, minor heading, normal), text background color, and insert video.

WordPress' toolbar has the following unique tools: toggle fullscreen mode, show/hide part of the toolbar, text format (paragraph, address, preformatted, heading 1, heading 2, heading 3, heading 4, heading 5, heading 6), paste as plain text, paste from Word, insert custom character, outdent, indent, and help. Above the toolbar there's also buttons to let you upload/insert a poll or a custom form. Of interest, most tools in the Visual toolbar have keyboard shortcuts.

Tumblr handles audio and video as separate post styles with their own functionality.

Posting Tools - HTML View

Blogger and WordPress display the HTML view of a post in the same text box as the text view, and they each have a few HTML toolbar buttons. Tumblr opens a new window for editing HTML which has no toolbar buttons.

Blogger's HTML toolbar contains buttons for bold, italic, strikethrough, adding a link, inserting an image, and quote.

WordPress' HTML toolbar allows you to quickly insert begin and end tags for strong, em, blockquote, del, ins, img, ul, ol, li, code, and more. The link button opens a window where you can enter a URL and a title. The lookup button opens a window where you can enter a word that you want the definition for. Entering a word causes another window to open on a web site that gives you the definition of the word. The close tags button inserts termination tags for all tags that have not been closed. The proofread button runs the spelling checker. The fullscreen button enters full screen editing mode.

Sidebar Functions

All three of the sites allow you to set search tags and schedule posts. Blogger and WordPress have extra labelling or categorization, whereas Tumblr does not. The other options are unique to each site.

Blogger's Post settings menu has the following functions:
  • Labels — Enter a comma-separated list of labels for this post. Similar to categories at other blog sites.
  • Schedule — Choose a date and time for the post to be published.
  • Location — Set a marker on a map to indicate a location for the post.
  • Search Description — Enter a comma-separated list of search tags.
  • Options — Allow or disallow reader comments, adjust compose mode for HTML, and choose how line breaks are entered.

Tumblr's sidebar options are:
  • Post to — Choose which blog the post is for. "My blog" is your main, default blog.
  • Publishing schedule — Set a publishing schedule. Options are: publish now, add to queue, publish on..., save as draft, private.
  • Post date — Set a date on which the post will be published.
  • Content source — Set a link to the page where the content quoted in this post was originally published, if relevant.
  • Tags — Enter a comma-separated list of search tags.
  • Set a custom post URL
  • Let people photo reply

Of interest, the Highlight this post checkbox at the bottom of the Tumblr post page will cause your post to stand out on your followers' Dashboards and can have a customized sticker for extra attention. It costs $2.

WordPress' sidebar options are:
  • Publish — Choose how the post will be reviewed, seen, and scheduled. Status can be Draft or Pending Review; Visibility can be Public, Password protected, or Private; Publish can be immediately or a specific date and time.
  • Format — Choose standard, gallery, or aside.
  • Categories — Create and select hierarchical categories under which to file the post.
  • Tags — Enter a comma-separated list of search tags.
  • Featured Image — Open a window where you can select an image file to be associated with this post.

Ease of Use

I found creating and editing posts on all three sites to be straightforward and generally easy. The only real difficulty I encountered was inserting images into a flow of text.

I'm usually able to coax Blogger into putting images where I want them, having to go back and forth between Compose and HTML views to get a post to look just right.

Tumblr is a bit more of a problem. Its interpretation of the HTML means it has a tendency to move images to places I don't want them and make text flow around them in a way I don't like. It also jams text right up next to images. Images next to text usually ends up not looking very good and there was one instance where I had to insert a line of underscores to separate two sets of text/images that it kept combining no matter how much white space I put between them.

WordPress can also be pretty obnoxious about images to the left or right of text. So far I've been able to force my posts to look the way I want them to, but every time I edit one of the sensitive ones, WordPress mangles it and I have to move stuff around again.

Also, since Tumblr and WordPress are annoying about putting images next to each other, WordPress more so than Tumblr, I've taken to using Gimp to arrange multiple images into one image and inserting the one image into a post centered on a line by itself.

I presume that if I knew CSS I could find a way to code text and image combination sections so that this wouldn't be a problem. In any case, this is the only usability problem that I've had.

Here's my ranking for the sites, based solely on my image insertion issues:

1 - Blogger
2 - Tumblr
3 - WordPress

And here's my ranking based on functionality:

1 - WordPress
2 - Blogger
3 - Tumblr

In summary, ignoring the image issues, I think all three sites are about equal in ease of use. Making a decision to choose one over the other would probably come down to which unique features of a given site you're interested in most.

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