Tumblr and Blogger – Free CSS and Template Customization

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    Let me start off by saying that I am a huge fan of WordPress. I love it from the bottom of my heart.

    Now, on to the point:
    I have been looking around and discovered that there are several blog(ish) sites that allow extensive customization of the blog’s layout and presentation FOR FREE. Both the ones mentioned above even offer HTML customization.

    I know that the price to pay for WordPress CSS customization is a small one, but really, I am thinking about switching to another service (like Tumblr or Blogger). At the end of the day, both core services do the same things, but one lets me do more for free, while one lets me do less.

    I am suggesting that the WordPress team make the CSS editing feature free. This will place it on par with other big name blogs, plus you get the great WordPress service. Because to a shopper, at first glance, it’s just going to look like this service is stingy with its features, while another is not. Most people aren’t going to care about WordPress’ great track-record or elegant design. They are going to care about features, and make their decisions based on that.

    We have all seen the companies that continue to insist on charging for things that other companies offer for free–they die. Almost every time. It’s the natural order of progress: things that were once a novelty become common-place, making way for new novelties.

    I do think that there are some things that WordPress can validly charge for; I just don’t think that CSS is one of them any longer. Think of some really killer features to charge for, not something the other guys are offering for free.

    Long live WordPress.



    if you download the wordpress software (for free) you can do all of this (for free).



    You’ve got your web history backwards. Free CSS came well before paid CSS; in fact, WordPress.com is the only blogging platform I know of right now that charges for it. They can. Look at the limitations of Tumblr (and I have a Tumblr blog) and you’ll see the difference in the offer.

    In a free market for free blogs, people will gravitate to what’s most appropriate for them. I was given the CSS upgrade as a gift, and very happy to use it, but I wouldn’t have gone out of my way for it before. If it’s important to you and you don’t want to pay, there are, as you and diss pointed out, plenty of other opportunities. Only you can decide which one is right for you.



    You and I both know that that is not a solution to the problem I have presented. It’s a meaningless crutch to lean on that I have heard several times on WordPress.com.



    Oh, hang on. You said, “both core services do the same things, but one lets me do more for free, while one lets me do less.” THIS IS NOT TRUE.

    Did you know Tumblr doesn’t allow comments? And there’s nothing you can do to change that, either. That fundamentally changes the nature of the blog.



    Sorry, that last reply was aimed at dissfunktional.

    I think WordPress should strive to exceed their competitors offers, not just meet them, or parry them with comparable trade-offs. If the other services really are so limited, then wouldn’t it be all the better for WordPress to beat them at their own game?



    This topic is concerning CSS and customization, not comments. That is a valid point, but for another conversation. It doesn’t deal with the problem presented.

    I am not attacking WordPress; I love WordPress. This post is out of concern that they may be falling behind in some areas (like customization of presentation). One of the reasons I love WordPress is because they are largely ahead of the curve in many other areas, but I hate to see their leadership not be holistic. Especially when it’s a simple matter of making a pay-service free.



    <b>Why? </b>

    It seems to me you have a strategic plan for WordPress.com which is in opposition to the strategic plan that Automattic has for it. Let me explain.

    They have WordPress.org for intermediate-advanced users and WordPress.com for beginners. The .com is limited in specific ways which substantially reduce the demand on staff to maintain it. Only people with skin in the game, for instance, can muck up their CSS and when they do, they’ve been warned they’re on their own. It’s relatively obvious to me that they expect people to move from here to .org as their skill set progresses.

    If you hang around Blogger for any length of time (where I have three blogs) you’ll know that the customer support there makes this look like spoon feeding. The forums? Relatively unresponsive. We get complaints here about the customer support over there all the time, and by limiting the number of things you can even TRY here, Automattic limits the number of things you can complain about, too. Smart, in my opinion.

    WordPress is probably the fastest-growing segment of the blogging platform market. I’ve met people who design Drupal blogs for a living who recommend WordPress.com.



    <i>Oops</i> goddam techie stuff.



    They aren’t falling behind. They started on a different track altogether. As I tried to explain, CSS-alterable platforms predate WordPress.com by a long shot.



    Again, all good points, but they still don’t address what I am talking about.

    Saying that Automattic has a different plan in mind than I think is prudent is all but concisely summing up my original post.

    Again, this is not about customer service, it’s about CSS customization. Though it’s not hard for me to believe that blogger has less-than-stellar customer service.

    And, frankly, it’s not clear that users of WordPress who are advanced should move on to WordPress.org. There is quite a large gap there–including purchasing a domain name and hosting service, installing and setting up WordPress.org (though Fantastico can help with this quite a bit), and consequently updating and managing the entire thing on your own.

    I am simply observing that CSS customization seems to be a given now with free, hosted, blogging services with the exception of WordPress.com, and my recommendation is that WordPress have free CSS editing.

    We can talk all day about comments, customer service, and all the other things WordPress.com does well (or that the other guys don’t do well), but it doesn’t change the fact that WordPress.com doesn’t offer significant customization for free, while the other guys do. That’s all I am saying.



    Saying that the other guys had free CSS editing before WordPress.com even came into being doesn’t help your case even a little bit.



    Oh, I’m not disagreeing with you there. I’m just saying it’s part of their plan.

    I am one person who came here at least in part because there was no CSS customization. I’ve been on platforms before where people concentrated on the look of their blogs to the point of not really putting anything interesting in them. The forums were dominated by “Look at my new header! I’ve got a sidebar you would NOT believe” and I wanted to be somewhere I didn’t feel like a second-class citizen for not being some sort of graphic designer wannabe.



    My last remark was not directed towards your last remark at all. You must stop saying “Talk to the hand” or “That doesn’t help.” These are logical points I am making and they deserve a logical response.



    I think raincoaster really does make a valid point linking the CSS customization and the support. One of the things that makes blogging here so great is the helpful forums. The more that you let people mess around with CSS, the more problems there will be and the less people able to help. The CSS forum is one of the least active here – precisely because many requests go unanswered. I think WP.com know what they’re doing in restricting CSS access by making people pay for it, and letting them use the free preview first. A lot of people will look at the preview, realise they haven’t got a clue how to use it and then walk away. Much better than having a free for all with the resultant whining.

    Anyway, you’re entitled to your opinion, but if you’re serious about it, you’ll need to send a note to staff, not just make a comment here in the forum.



    Most people aren’t going to care about WordPress’ great track-record or elegant design. They are going to care about features, and make their decisions based on that.

    With respect, I disagree. As rain mentioned about beginners here and more advanced bloggers self-hosted with software from wp.org, I think most people — not most geeks, most people from the population as a whole — are looking for ease of use. And that’s here, hands down, imo.

    And if you really think wp is not striving to beat the competition, there might be a bit of naivte there.



    For the record, I have been a paying CSS customer in the past. Not sure if that adds anything to the conversation, but it seems pertinent.

    Sorry for the long delay, life happens.

    I didn’t say any of your points were stupid or senseless, they just didn’t deal with the issue that I brought up. They were all good points, and worth considering. I am simply trying to keep the thread on-topic, and I apologize if I gave you the “talk to the hand” impression.

    That being said, you can’t say that WordPress should not have something that most major blogs have simply because WordPress is better than those other Blogs in other areas. WordPress is better than most Blogging apps. Hands down. The exception being customization of appearance.

    The support issue is the most valid of your points, but could be dealt with in another way other than paying for it. In my opinion, if they are going to make you pay for CSS, there should be a robust support system in place for the paying customers. On the other hand, I think that a detailed system of “activating” CSS editing, which makes it clear that this is for advanced users only and no great amount of support will be given to those who run into problems, could stem some of the tide of novice users trying out CSS and “breaking” their blogs.

    rosclarke and raincoaster:
    In the end, I am not convinced that Automattic implemented paying for CSS to avoid a massive influx of inane support questions. I think it’s a feature that’s in demand, and they knew they could make some money off of it (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). The support issue is a positive by-product, nothing more.

    I wasn’t aware that I could submit a formal request to the staff. Thanks for pointing this out.

    With respect, I disagree. WordPress is not terribly easy to use for the beginner. I love WordPress, let me just reiterate that again, but it is not the easiest thing for a beginner to pick up and use. The back-end could benefit from some reorganization.

    I think when people come to WordPress, they are looking for a solid blogging application, which WordPress is. It’s full-featured, elegant in it’s design and code output, and widely accepted and supported. It’s probably the best blogging application out there, but it’s not that easy to use.

    I never said WordPress was not striving to beat the competition, I was just pointing out an area where they appear to have fallen behind in the “feature list,” which unfortunately becomes the deciding factor when people choose a product. Often the “feature list” has nothing to do with user experience, stability, elegance, etc.



    If I may throw my $15 into the fray.
    I used to belong to several former blog platforms.
    Modblog had all the bells and whistles you could ever ask for. More than Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress combined. The problem was cash flow and infrastructure meltdown. The service grew too quickly and it began to break down and suffered a slow and agonizing death.

    What does that have to do with CSS and customization on WordPress? the answer is everything. WordPress IMO has their (ship) together. WP is moving at their own pace. Making sure that what they offer they can afford. They also maintain a high level of security to avoid server attacks and loss of service that no one enjoys.

    I would much rather blog here at WP knowing that the service is up and operational 99.9% of the time and that my content is being backed up on multiple servers across the country to insure zero loss of content.

    The alternatives are running your own website. Been there, did that. For two years. It’s a lot of hard word for a novice coder as myself.

    Or go to Blogger where there are millions of users, but no real community. I have been on blogger since 2003 and have had 300,000 page views there. On WP since October 2007, just over 6 months, I have over 400,000 page views. And tons of comments.

    To me, that is the difference in a blog service. Community and friendship.

    But getting back to CSS and charging. If WP were to offer CSS for free, imagine the thousands upon thousands forum questions asking for help. (My blog went blank! My blog font is huge! Comments are gone! Widgets are gone!) WP would have to add more staff to help and that costs money.

    $15 is not a lot to ask for plenty of freedom for your blog. in fact, at Go Daddy.com, where my website was previously hosted, the price was roughly $45.00 per year including domain name and private registration. I’m saving $30.00 a year on WP and I have unlimited bandwidth, (Not that it will ever become an issue) and 3 gig of space for files. That’s a hell of a lot of photo’s. And WP does everything for me. All I have to do is concentrate on my blog content. Not the mechanics of what is going on the background.

    I think it’s a bargain. A stable blog platform with steady growth and a great community.

    Thanks WP.



    I’ve purchased several css upgrades and I’m very happy. I’m familiar with both the Tumblr and the Blogger service.

    I’ve got blogs hosted on my own dedicated servers, and blog networks.

    There is no community blogging service on the internet that is equal to wordpress.com. It’s an awesome platform. If only they had a service for around $200 per month where you could upload your own theme and have advertising – equivalent to a dedicated server.

    I would buy that service instantly even if it had zero support.

    I know they have a VIP services but you need 500,000 per month and I’m not quite there. That would solve a whole lot of problems for me. Running dedicated servers sucks.

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