Most technologically minded people will have heard of both Wordpress and Tumblr as blogging platforms. They'll probably know already which suits their needs better, but to a new blogger, setting up their site can be a complete minefield. To help bloggers old and new, I've decided to compare the two platforms to expose where both excel and fail, and to show which platforms are better for which users. For clarity, I'm talking about the WordPress.com platform, not WordPress.org, which is a different product altogether.
Both platforms are fairly similar in set up. They ask for what you'd expect: name, email and the like. Once your account is activated, WordPress allows you to set your blog name and theme and create your first post, getting you blogging super-fast. Tumblr's walkthrough differs a bit, in that you have to follow five blogs before continuing. This is great if you want to use Tumblr both to receive news and post to your blog, but if you're looking for something just to blog with it's a little frustrating.
Despite the similarities in set-ups, I actually found the Tumblr set up much more comfortable than WordPress. The modern looks and big fonts on WordPress are attractive, but there is a lot of information in one place which makes the set up drag a bit. Tumblr's, in contrast is made up of a small box where you enter a few bits of information and just click go. It's completely painless. All in all, WordPress feels very important and grown up, whereas Tumblr feels quick and simple.
This is where the simplicity of Tumblr really comes out. The seven post-types (text, photo, link, quote, chat, audio, video) are immediately obvious and it's dead easy to get going, or just browse through the blogs you follow.
Wordpress feels far more complicated. Though, in essence, the two function in extremely similar ways, the initial dashboard makes you feel plain lost. Daunting widgets and numbers take up most of the screen, and whilst it's easy to post from it's not as clear as Tumblr. The long sidebar too makes new users feel in the deep end, and whilst it's not hard to learn, learning takes up time when you could be blogging!
For power-bloggers though, Tumblr is too simple. Site Stats are not easily visible in Tumblr, but a click away in WordPress. The comment functionality in Wordpress is also immediately obvious, whereas Tumblr does not support traditional comments. All in all, if you want to take your blogging seriously and learn quickly, WordPress is a fantastic tool. If it's just a bit of fun, then Tumblr is where to go.
Posting from the two web-interfaces is quite different.
In WordPress, you get a rich-text editor, with the ability to easily format your text and images to your heart's desire. You can also change the post type from standard to gallery, image, quote or status. Categories and tags are also easily added for organisation and discovery. All in all, it's easy to use, and perfectly functional.
With Tumblr, you decide your post type before you start posting. This approach means that you can optimise your posting for different content, because (depending on your theme), different post types will be displayed in different ways. The text editor is extremely similar to the WordPress one, but doesn't have a "distraction free" mode, so probably isn't as good for writing long posts in. It does support Markdown though, so if you prefer working in a native text editor, you can copy and paste your Markdown in no problem.
If you want to post on the move, both WordPress and Tumblr have apps for iOS and Android. It's hard to draw a clear winner here because of the different focus on the apps. The WordPress app is definitely designed for content creation, and the editor is really easy to use. You can embed images or videos in a post, and preview the result on your blog. It's also really simple to schedule your posts. There is also an extended keyboard row which makes it easy to format your text into bold, italic and add links.
The Tumblr app on the other hand is more focussed on browsing through the blogs you follow, with the ability to post on top of that. The UI is extremely polished, more so than the WordPress app, and posting is easy. That said, there is no keyboard extension, so formatting your text is tricky unless you know HTML or Markdown. If you post mainly photos though, the Tumblr app is perfect.
Tumblr and WordPress both have a large selection of themes available, some free and some premium. The premium themes on WordPress are generally more expensive than Tumblr, and Tumblr has a much much larger selection.
This is because WordPress.com doesn't support uploading your own custom theme. If you want to write your own theme in HTML, you're going to have to go down the WordPress.org route and set up a hosted site. Unless you're and HTML wizz, this isn't the easiest thing in the world, and you'll have to stick with the themes WordPress.com supplies. There are customisation options (and more if you pay), but these are generally quite limited.
With Tumblr, you can directly edit the HTML of any theme, and alter it for your own use. You can also use your own entirely custom theme, which I've found particularly useful for testing my own knowledge of HTML and CSS. The pre-packaged themes also come with lots of customisation options, making it easy to make your Tumblr look just how you like it.
It's hard to find a clear winner here. If you want a super-customisable blog that's easy to set up and post to, then Tumblr is probably for you. If you want more control over your posts, and more feedback on your blog, then you're probably more suited to WordPress. If your willing to part with a little money, then WordPress is definitely where to go, because some of the premium themes are truly great.
Many would also say that WordPress.com is a good stepping stone to your own hosted blog, but I'd disagree. Because you can add your own custom HTML to Tumblr, even though the theming process is slightly different, you can test out your own ideas for free before parting with any money.