Wednesday, 30 September, 2020

Google Blogger - Part 1: What's to Like?

The first in a series of articles. Part 1 explains why Google Blogger is neat, what you should use it for and when Blogger isn’t what you want or need.

What Is Google Blogger?

It’s a free blog service provided by Google since around 2003. The blogs, which are essentially simple websites, are hosted and managed by Google. You can think of it as Software as a Service.

Who Should Use Blogger?

If you’re looking for simple, robust, fully-managed hosting – meaning you won’t have to tinker with the computer infrastructure serving your website to the web – then Blogger very well may be for you.

It really is a wonderful platform. You just sign up for a Google account (if you’re one of the few people who doesn’t have one yet), create a new blog, install a theme, and feed it content. All free of charge.

That’s it, your website is live, hosted on Google’s infrastructure – which is fantastically reliable and fast – and automatically hooked up to the world’s number one search engine.

What’s not to like?!

I Need a Website, Not a Blog.

Don’t let the name fool you. Although Blogger is primarily aimed at bloggers, it’s perfectly capable of managing other kinds of websites too.To a certain extent, you can think of it as a CMS, like WordPress or Umbraco, to a certain extent.

It’s good for all kinds of things, other than Blogs, including:

  • Brochure websites.
  • Product websites.
  • Authors’ websites.
  • Notice Boards1.
  • Project websites1.
  • Community Groups1.
  • Simple catalogue websites2.

1 Including websites requiring private restricted access.
2 For photographers, product catalogues, recipes, for example.

I Need to Customise My Website

That's easy too. You can modify the code directly, install off-the-shelf themes or develop your own custom theme.  There are also a whole host of official, 3rd party and community widgets (plugins) which you can install for special requirements.

I Need Cool, Complicated Things With All Kinds of Bells and Whistles

Be in no doubt, Blogger can do complicated, cool things.

You can probably achieve what you want using:

  • Themes and Widgets - a bespoke custom or off-the-shelf theme or widget.
  • JavaScript – to perform computations and tasks on the client device or to call 3rd party libraries or APIs.
  • Links - keep files or services on another server and sign-post users to them.
  • The Blogger API -  interacting with Blogger's REST API. Tweaking and modifying content as required.
  • 3rd party services - IFTTT, for example, can automatically trigger events and actions.

What Are Blogger's Limitations?

Well, firstly, the use of Blogger is governed by Google's Terms of Service, Content Policy and Privacy Policy. You can find find links to these from Blogger's control panel.

Reviewing the Terms of Service documentation I can't find a specific reference to Blogger, neither can I find any limitations or restrictions listed on Blogger's support pages.

However, Wikipedia records some usage limitations. These are listed below. I have stricken-out limitations I know or strongly suspect to be wrong:

  • Blog description – 500 characters max; Hyper Text Markup Language not supported. 
  • Number of blogs – 100 blogs per account
  • Number of labels – 5,000 unique labels per blog (an increase from the original 2,000), 20 unique labels per post (with at most 200 characters)
  • Number of pictures – Ordinarily, up to 1 GB of total storage, shared with Picasa Web. If you've upgraded to Google+, your photos will be stored in Google Photos, where you have 15 GB of storage space shared with Gmail and Drive. However, if one has signed up for Google+ account, images less than 16 megapixels (4920 × 3264)[34] would not be counted to this storage limit. For users not signed up for Google+, 800 × 800 pixels and below images would not be included in this storage space.
  • Number of posts – There is no limit on the number of posts one can have in one blog. However, only 50 posts can be published per day before a user is required to go through a check process.
  • Size of pages – Individual pages (the main page of a blog or archive pages) are limited to 1 MB
  • Size of pictures – If posted via Blogger Mobile, limited 250 KB per picture; posted pictures are scaled to 1600px.
  • Number of pages – There is no limit on the number of pages you can have on one blog
  • Team members (those who can write to a blog) – 100 invitations per blog
  • Favicon – Any square image less than 100 KB
  • Account suspension: if a site is violating any terms of service, it may be suspended by Blogger without any notice. Repeated violations may lead to Google account suspension.

I’m Power Mad, I Need Full Control

Blogger may not be for you.

There comes at point a which doing something in Blogger is either too clumsy or simply not possible.

If you need to install or configure software on the Server, that's the point at which your requirements go past what Blogger has to offer.

Blogger can manage text, images, video, labels, categories, and tags; but if you need to store other files types, such as Audio or Data, or if you need to perform specialist processing on those files, then you probably need a more flexible hosting solution.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know?

This has been a lightweight overview.

The key points to take away is that Google Blogger removes much of the pain and hassle involved in managing and running your own website. For example:

  • You don’t have to install or update anything;
  • Cookie notifications are shown by default;
  • Protection against malicious attacks and hacking exploits is built in.

The flip side is the loss of control and configuration. You must work within the confines of the Blogger infrastructure and follow Google's terms and conditions.

In my experience Google have always been a reliable and thoughtful service provider, giving clear notification of changes to their services well ahead of time, but it’s clearly something which needs to be taken in to account when assessing acceptable risk - Google could decide to end the Blogger service in future.

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