Free blogging sites have come a long way in recent years, and it’s now easier than ever to create a professional-looking blog to share a hobby with likeminded people, express your opinions, and establish an online presence.
These free blogging sites are aimed at hobbyist bloggers – blogs are created and managed online, and hosted on the blogging platform’s own servers. If you want to create a self-hosted blog, the downloadable version of WordPress is an excellent option, with total flexibility, support for third-party plugins, and as much storage as your hosting plan allows.
If you’re interested in making a static website rather than an online journal, take a look at our guide to the best free website builders.
With advanced features, plugins and a generous storage allowance, WordPress is the best free platform for starting your first blog
Powerful and highly customizable, WordPress is a brilliant platform for blogs of any size, and bloggers of any level of experience.
Creating your first blog is very straightforward, with a simple wizard that guides you through the process of choosing a name and suitable theme. You can leave it there and begin writing posts immediately, but the real fun lies in the more advanced editor, which lets you customize virtually every aspect of your blog’s appearance.
Unlike some blogging sites, WordPress isn’t a drag-and-drop affair, and you’ll have to familiarize yourself with its system of menus. It’s well worth the effort, though, and enables you to create something truly personal. The editor also lets you create static pages – like a writer’s biography, for example.
The post-writing interface is much like an ordinary desktop word processor (though some options are presented in a toolbar at the top, while others are in a menu at the side, which can be a little confusing at first). Again, time spent getting to know the interface is rewarded with advanced features like customizable social media sharing buttons, geotagging, and the ability to pick a custom style for individual posts. Sometimes you might want to create a photo gallery, for example, and other times a more text-focused style would be more appropriate. You can also view and edit the HTML source.
As your blog grows, WordPress lets you track its stats, including page views, visitors, likes and comments over time. You can also see how readers reach your site, which content they viewed, and where are were in the world, so you can tailor your content accordingly.
Your site is hosted on WordPress’s servers, with an address in the format yoursite.wordpress.com. Users of the free service don’t get email or live chart support, but the WordPress community forums are very active and questions are usually answered within a few minutes.
WordPress displays ads on free blogs, but provided you can live with that, it’s undoubtedly the best free blogging site around.
Try it online: WordPress
A free web platform with mobile-friendly features and Google app integration
Blogger is another superb blogging platform. It’s not quite as powerful as WordPress, but more accessible for new users, which comes as no surprise when you learn that it’s owned by Google.
Blogger offers an excellent selection of templates, all of which include mobile versions optimized for smaller screens – a very sensible addition with so many people accessing online content through smartphones.
Blogger’s post-editing tool is much like WordPress’s, but offers fewer options. As a result, its toolbars are less confusing – a trade-off between power and usability.
One of Blogger’s best features is its integration with other Google apps and services. For example, it uses your Google Drive account to store images and other files for your blog. Google Drive gives you 15GB of space free, so Blogger is a good choice if you’re planning to share a lot of high-res photos.
Spam comments are a big problem on blogs, so Blogger’s automatic spam filter can help save your sanity. You can monitor comments via Blogger’s dashboard, which also lets you see visitor stats. There are some handy visualizations here, including a world map to show the global distribution of your readers.
Your blog will have an address in the format yoursite.blogger.com, and, like all Google services, will include ads. Support is available through the Blogger user forum, which is very active but has a strange layout that can be a little off-putting.
In all other respects, Blogger is brilliant – one of the best free blogging sites if you prioritize ease of use over flexibility and are a fan of the Google ecosystem.
Try it online: Blogger
A great free blogging site for completely new users, with two quick and convenient editors, plus free stock photos to get you started
Wix is our favorite general-purpose free website builder, and is great for creating stylish blogs too. Its chief drawback is storage – you have just 500MB for your files and data traffic is restricted to 500MB per month, so you’ll need to upgrade to a premium plan if your blog really takes off.
Once you’ve created an account, select ‘blog’ from the list of categories, then choose either Wix Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) or Wix Editor. Wix ADI asks a series of very simple questions, then builds a site around your answers – ideal if you’ve never created a site before and find the idea intimidating. Wix Editor is very straightforward too (simpler than Blogger or WordPress), but is much more flexible than ADI and will be a better choice for most users.
One of Wix’s best features is its choice of image sources, including your hard drive, social media, free images from Wix itself, and pictures from its partner stock photography site Bigstock. If your blog posts are text-heavy, these free images are a great way to make it look more appealing.
On the downside, your custom wix.com URL will include a string of not-too-snappy letters and numbers that might make it hard to memorize.
That aside, its resources and friendly approach mean Wix just pips Weebly to third place. Free Wix sites include a tiny ad for the company in the top right and another at the bottom, but these won’t spoil the look for your blog.
Try it online: Wix
Weebly’s flexible editor lets you drag and drop your way to a smart looking blog
Weebly takes a modular approach to blog-building, with a drag-and-drop editor that lets you choose which elements to add to your site, and where.
Pick a basic template, then plonk various types of content onto the page, including social media links, text, images, maps, and sections of code. It’s a refreshingly simple way to build a blog that feels unique to you, but doesn’t require any messing about with menus. It’s worth noting, however, that certain content blocks can only be positioned in certain areas; it isn’t a total free-for-all. This makes sense – forcing you to stick within the confines of your chosen template stops the page looking messy – but you might find it limiting.
Blog posts are made in the same way – drag text boxes, picture frames, buttons and page breaks into position, then click to edit them. One particularly nice feature is the ‘secret draft link’, which lets you preview your unpublished post, and even share it with others via email before releasing it into the wild.
Weebly has some other interesting tricks up its sleeve too, including an area for pasting in Google Analytics tracking code (though it doesn’t offer analytics itself).
As with Wix, you’re only given 500MB for uploaded content, so photographers might want to look elsewhere. Weebly puts an ad in your site’s footer, but it doesn’t obscure any of your content.
Try it online: Weebly
Keep it secret, keep it safe with a secure journal for your private thoughts
Whereas the other free blogging sites are designed to get as many eyeballs on your posts as possible, Penzu is the equivalent of a locked diary stashed in a safe.
Penzu is a journal platform that makes your posts private by default and locks them down with at least one password (even after you’re logged in, you need a second one to read or edit your posts). That’s because it’s designed for private thoughts and personal reflection. There are free apps for iOS and Android that enable you to update your Penzu diary anywhere, but the contents are for your eyes only.
Penzu isn’t a tool for self-promotion, so although it’s far from ugly, it understandably focuses on function rather than looks. Custom colors and backgrounds come at a price – currently US$10 (about £8, AU$13) per year.
It’s a shame that 128-bit AES encryption is also limited to the paid-for version, and there’s a fair amount of pressure to upgrade. Extra options are often dangled under your nose then yanked away, but the core offering is a good one and if you simply want a place to record your thoughts and practise writing, Penzu could be just what you need.