Since I’ve moved my blog to TypePad, a number of iBlog users have asked me about the advantages (and disadvantages) of TypePad over iBlog. Here, I will try to describe my experience of migrating from iBlog to TypePad and the good and bad of the new service after nearly two weeks.
Update: I forgot to mention something rather important in the original post. Thanks Greg!
The sign up process was a breeze. I was able to sign up and started setting up the blog’s style and layout within 10 minutes. If you have bought online before, you can do this with your eyes close. TypePad offers three levels of packages; Basic, Plus, and Pro. I chose the Plus package since it offers most of the capability I want but not as expensive as the Pro package. There are some restriction on how much control I have on the style and template and I will discuss this later.
TypePad’s features were what attracted me to switch from iBlog in the first place so let’s talk about what they offer.
iBlog, being a desktop application, can’t offer server-side features by nature. Thus, iBlog users have to use third party services to provide commenting, trackback, media listing, blog rolling, photo album, etc.
TypePad provides all these by default and it makes integration easy. For example, comments and trackbacks can be switch on and off on a per post basis. Book list and DVD list can be easily setup by using ISBN and ASIN and TypePad will find the image, title, author, and link to Amazon automatically for you. The photo album feature is very similar to what .mac offers. You pick a template style, upload the photos, and publish. The easy part comes when you want to link the album on your blog. In TypePad you just click on a checkbox and drag its position around to determine its position on your blog. No entering URL or manually editing template like in iBlog.
Of course all these features are going to cost money. The Plus package that I chose costs $89.95/year. This is very similar to what .mac offers, but TypePad does not include any email addresses. On the other hand, it does offer domain mapping which .mac current does not. So if you have not already signed up with .mac (like myself) then this is pretty attractive deal. But if you already have .mac then this is an extra cost that should influence your decision.
The configuring and setting up of the blog is done via a series of web pages. They are largely structured logically but there are a few pages here and there that don’t make sense to me.
I was able to replicate my old iBlog style using TypePad’s two columns template and set all the colours right from the iBlog stylesheet. This took around an hour but I did have to learn to navigate between TypePad’s menu system. Here I came across the first TypePad restriction. Because I can’t edit the template and stylesheet directly I have to rely on TypePad’s web interface to set the blog’s style. This mean I am restricted to what are made available by TypePad.
So, I can’t set custom fonts in stylesheet for my Mac visitors who will have fonts such as Lucida Grande. Also I can’t control how the list style turns out. I don’t have problem with it, it is just that I don’t have fine control over it. One major upshot of this is the TypePad generated HTML is 100% XHTML transitional compliant! And the CSS is also CSS 2.0 compliant!
One more important feature is that TypePad generates RSS1.0 compliant XML. So now my site is syndicated at Syndic8.com! Not possible with iBlog’s RSS.
TypePad provides a straightforward way of importing my iBlog entries, along with comments. However, since iBlog does not export the data in any controllable ways, I ended up manually cutting and pasting each entry, URL, and comments into a TypePad/MovableType recognizable format text file. Once imported, I then had to upload each photo and inserted into the post individually. Do take note that this is not TypePad specific issue as I will encounter this problem with any server-based solution.
Posting to the blog is very easy. You can do it via TypePad’s web interface, or setup a bookmarklet, or use a MovableType XML-RPC API compatible application such as NetNewsWire to post. Generally I post from the web but I’ve also setup bookmarklet and NetNewsWire or NewzCrawler in case I read interesting article on the web or RSS and then I can post right there.
HTML can be inserted directly into the post and TypePad provides a very seamless way of uploading files or photos. After the photo is uploaded, it asks whether you want to generate HTML for full size or thumbnailed HTML, and whether you want it embedded or pop-up. You take your pick and out pop the HTML ready to be inserted into your post. Sound easy? It is.
TypePad even allows moblogging (or mobile blogging) from email. This can be done from computer, mobile phones, or PDA as long as you can send email to TypePad! I have not tried this yet but I may set it up just to try it out. It may come in handy next year when I have the P900 🙂
TypePad allows you to open tickets right from the web interface and lets you track all the tickets (new, open, or closed) at the same screen. Response time is very good, I got mine within a day on both cases and both time the issues were resolved. From my personal experience, this is similar to the level of support Sarat offers with iBlog.
So after all what do I like and dislike most about TypePad?
– Versatility. I can blog in multiple ways. On the web, from NetNewsWire/NewzCrawler, or even email!
– Server-based solution. I can change the style and template without having to re-publish the whole blog. On the occasion that I changed the content or the layout and required re-publishing, it took less than 30 seconds for TypePad to re-publish every page of my blog.
– No need for third party services (almost). Everything is provided, apart from polls.
– Standard compliance for XHTML, CSS, and RSS.
– Lots of screens and options. This can be good and bad. The screens are largely well layout and designed so the learning curve is not that steep. But that depends on your level of skills.
– Lack of complete control over style and template. This directly relates to the package I chose. If I upgrade to the Pro package, I will be able to edit the template and CSS directly.
– Site stats is lacking. The stats TypePad provides are rudimentary at best and nothing like the amount of information provided by free service such as SiteMeter.
– Cost. You have to pay for extra, on top of your ISP cost.
– Lack of file management tool for files that are uploaded.