A closer look at the best free blogging websites

A blog gives you your own online space where you can tell stories about your life, share insights and opinions about a topic in which you have expertise, incite laughter with great photos and videos, or inform clients about your business successes. Blogging has become a pastime for some and a way to make money or enhance a business for others.

If you've been thinking about joining the online blogging community or are a veteran blogger looking to switch to a better service, you need to know what differentiates one free blogging tool from another. So with that in mind, we’re going to introduce you to three of our most favourite popular blogging platforms in this article.

All these platforms are completely online, although they also let you post from a mobile device – and some even let you post via text message. Signing up for a blog on any of these sites requires little more than a username and password.

Two blogging platforms really stand out from the pack: Wordpress.com and Blogger. Both systems may take some getting used to if you're an inexperienced blogger, but more seasoned content creators will find they get deep control over their sites, posts, and comments with either of these platforms. Choosing between Blogger and Wordpress.com largely comes down to personal preference.

Wordpress.com, with its serious looking dashboard and well-organised suite of tools, appeals to the more left-brained or type A personalities, while Blogger's colourful and more designed interface seems more attractive to people whose eyes sparkle at the word "intuitive."

Less experienced bloggers may prefer a tool that will get them completely set up with a personal site in seconds, although anyone who's truly committed to maintaining a long-term blog should take the time learn one of the more customisable solutions.

Whether you're completely new to blogging and don't know where to start, or you’re a veteran thinking about switching platforms, one of these three platforms could easily become the new host of your site.

If you're serious about starting a blog but don't know much about hosting a website or coding HTML, Google's Blogger is the best free tool you'll find. In terms of design, Blogger lets you customise plenty of details, such as fonts, colours, page widths, and background images. A rich text editor lets you write and format text with simple tools and buttons rather than code. Other Google tools, like Analytics, integrate seamlessly and are available right from the main dashboard.

Wordpress.com (see the next entry) is better at importing an existing blog from another blog site, but both have different strengths, so it's more a matter of personal preference regarding which interface you prefer. Wordpress.com's interface can seem slightly more intimidating to non-tech savvy folks, but it gives you slightly more control than Blogger's more pared down dashboard.

WordPress.com, a free blogging platform and hosting service which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, is ideal for bloggers at all levels of experience, provided they're willing to invest a little time upfront to learn the ins and outs of the system. It takes a few weeks to learn about (and find) all the tools in Wordpress.com's comprehensive suite, but experienced bloggers who want full and deep control over their sites need look no further. Google's Blogger provides many of the same tools, but in a fashion that may seem less intimidating to learn for less technical people.

Wordpress.com is also well-suited for new bloggers who plan to invest in their blogs long term – you'll learn more as you go, while still being able to lay your foundation immediately. With numerous templates to choose from, you won't be at a loss for design options, although you can't fully customise a template (the way you can in Blogger) without paying a small fee. Like Blogger, Wordpress has its own analytics system built right into the dashboard.

Popular among visual bloggers (those who post artwork, photography, and design-themed content, and are light on text), Tumblr is a decent place for beginners and microbloggers to get their feet wet and post rapidly. An overly graphical interface may slow down anyone who's new to the site, and lack of fine controls will frustrate more experienced bloggers. Tumblr aims to get new bloggers up and running very quickly – within minutes – and it simplifies the process of designing and maintaining a blog for real newbies. If you want to rid your site of the tumblr.com domain name, you'll have to take care of the details yourself elsewhere, as Tumblr won't do it for you – as opposed to the above two services which can sell you your own domain name.

For more on blogging, see our piece on how to clean up your blog.