Are you planning to start a blog or create a web site? Here are some important things you should consider when choosing a blog platform or choosing a home for your web site.
1. Who owns the content?
This might seem obvious but, unfortunately, it's not. If you're the one creating the content, make sure you own the content even after you publish it in your blog or on your homepages. Read the terms of service.
2. Does the platform have a future?
If you invest time (= money) in your blog you want to make sure that your blog stays online. You don't want to post hundreds or thousands of posts and build your online brand just see the blog closed down because the owners were unable to raise another round or were unable to come up with a business model.
No one can afford to build their digital identity on a free service.
3. Does the platform have a reputation of taking sites down without a warning?
This has happened a couple of times in Tumblr and also in Blogger. This is something you should consider. Terms of service may change and all of a sudden your content might be against the owners' wishes or the wishes of the biggest advertisers on the platform.
4. How much time maintaining the blog takes?
If you host your own site you should consider how much time it takes to keep the server and blog software up to date.
Tinkering with software and servers is nice but having security alerts popup when you're trying to write a blog post isn't. What seems like fun in the beginning may become a chore in the long run.
5. How much money does the service cost and has the pricing changed in the past?
You should consider how much money you are willing to pay and what you get for the money. It's also worth noting, that the price of hardware falls down all the time along the lines of Moore's Law. If the price you pay increases often might be a sign that the company behind the platform is doing something wrong and is probably relying too much on plain human effort.
6. What do you get for the money?
There's no such thing as a free lunch or a free web site platform. If you don't pay for the product, you are the product.
Even if you pay for the platform the level of service may vary significantly. Is the platform reliable, is it scalable? Do they have an official Service Level Agreement? If they have an SLA, do they offer compensation if they don't meet the SLA? It's surprisingly common to have amazing SLA's but don't offer any compensation if the SLA is not met. There's something a bit fishy in situations like this.
7. Can you export the site?
What happens to the content if you find a better place to host your site? Are you able to export all the data or, even better, export the full site? Transferring a Wordpress site from one host to another is pretty simple, but moving a Tumblr blog is a lot more difficult.
8. Is there any risk of vendor lock-in?
This is a big issue but, unfortunately, it usually doesn't get much attention.
One of the best things of open source software is the total control you have. For example, with Wordpress there's basically zero risk of vendor lock-in. You can export your site and host it from somewhere else.
With proprietary software things are not always as rosy. In a worst case scenario you might find yourself copy pasting your site content into a new platform when you want to change your service provider.
Choosing the right platform for you is difficult. First, you should know what you are looking for and what you need.
Many providers offer free trials and that's something you should definitely try out. If a platform supports exporting that's even better. You could easily try out a service and export all the content as you move on to the next one.