What’s the difference between a blog and a Web site?

In the beginning was HTML, and while it was rather ugly, it was good overall. It allowed anyone with a modicum of skill to create Web sites, producing both good content and attractive presentation of that content. Toss in a few <A HREF> links and you could even weave pages together into a comprehensive site.
The problem was that it was darn tedious, and to this day, it’s still fairly tedious to create Web sites, to take the skeleton or template of a page and customize it for a specific page of content, to update the navigational subsystem to ensure that the new page is known, and to maintain now-necessary features like a sitemap.
It’s no surprise that more and more sophisticated tools appeared on the scene, starting with FrontPage and self-referential Web-based Web page editors (think homepage builders) and evolving into the powerful Dreamweaver and GoLive expensive commercial solutions for managing Web content.
These tools allow you to create beautiful sites with compelling content, but they don’t allow neophytes or non-technical people to maintain content or add new content. And so even with these sophisticated tools, most Web sites are static creations, and most companies view their Web sites as digital brochures. Sure, it might be more sophisticated with a Flash navigational system, or might feature a discussion board or other community involvement element, but it’s very rare for a traditional Web site to be updated more frequently than once every month or two.


And if I had a dollar for each person who told me that he doesn’t update his Web site because he has to send his requests to a Webmaster, who then queues it up for weeks or months before actually making the change, I’d be a wealthy writer!

Meanwhile, in the Blogosphere

In parallel to the development of Web technologies and tools, the ability to interact with others was gaining popularity; the first widespread example is the now-crufty guestbook. You can still find zillions of these through Google, but they were only a stepping stone to more sophisticated online discussion systems. The next step was discussion boards, also known as bulletin board systems.
Meanwhile, some smart developers were realizing that the Web-based Web page editors coupled with guestbooks could create very nice tools for letting non-tech users add new content to their Web pages. Logically, this technique was first used as online diaries and journals, creating a system that time-stamped entries and showed them most commonly in a most-recent-first format. Perfect for teen angst, Web-based logs of entries–Weblogs–caught on in some circles and grew quickly.
As they became more popular, however, blogging tools also evolved at a breakneck pace, to where new entries (articles) would automatically be placed on their own standalone Web pages and also featured on the main page of the site until supplanted by newer material. This was an important evolution because it meant that Weblog tools had morphed, perhaps without anyone noticing, from diaries into true content-management systems.
Fast forward to the current generation of Weblog tools; they are indeed quite powerful and capable tools for managing even the largest and most complex Web sites. Further, because they’re quite flexible, working off page templates just as Dreamweaver and its ilk do, sites that use blogging tools as the back end can present their data using common blog conventions (which I’ll get to in a moment) or eschew all the standard approaches, using the tool as a way to simplify management of what appears to be a more traditional Web site.

The Essence of Blogging

The real value of blogging isn’t the capability of the tool, but the ability for each and every page on the site, each and every article, to invite and display feedback from readers–comments, as they’re called in the blogging world. This is a dramatic difference because it changes a monologue, a “brochure,” into a dialogue with readers or customers.
Indeed, often the most compelling reading on a Weblog are the comments that others leave and the debate that often ensues as people add their two cents and disagree with each other.
While there are no blog police and no laws stating that a site must have certain capabilities to truly be a Weblog, it is nonetheless true that most blogs allow comments, timestamp their articles, show them in newest-to-oldest order, and have an RSS feed–a rudimentary way for people to subscribe to the content of a Weblog in a specifically designed RSS aggregator, rather than forcing them to revisit the site with any sort of frequency.
Figure 1 shows an example, my popular Ask Dave Taylor site.

Ask Dave Taylor Tech Support, MySpace Help, PSP Help, and Much More

Figure 1: Ask Dave Taylor is a typical Weblog, with timestamps on articles, comments, and the newest material always shown at the top.

Notice in Figure 1 that more than one article is shown on this home page, each has a time stamp (although it’s probably a bit hard to read!) and each has an indication of how many comments have been added on the site. I won’t say that these are essential elements of a blog, because a blog is just a toolkit and content-management system, after all, but they’re certainly what I’d consider a best practice for getting the maximum value out of a Weblog system.

Behind the Scenes

Where blogging really shines is when you look behind the scenes at how blogging tools actually work. In a way that’s far more sophisticated than Web page development tools, blogs really let you separate the content from the presentation; if you want to focus on presentation, you can edit template files, but if you’re just interested in maintaining existing content or adding new content, you can focus on that, too.
Figure 2 shows a behind-the-scenes view of Ask Dave Taylor, running the popular Movable Type application.

Ask Dave Taylor Tech Support, MySpace Help, PSP Help, and Much More

Figure 2 Creating a new Web page is a breeze with a blogging tool as the back end. Notice here that it’s really no more difficult than composing a new email message in a Web-based mail system such as Hotmail or Gmail.

In my opinion, this separation of content from presentation is a wonderful reason to consider using a blog as the foundation of your entire Web site. Being able to focus on the words–on what you want to say, on your content–is not only a wonderful relief (no worrying about breaking HTML with an edit hiccup!) but lowers the barrier of entry for new Web site creators/bloggers to almost zero. If you can write an email message, you can bookmark a Weblog entry page, create content, and manage a Web site. Just add water!
There’s an even better reason why blogs are compelling replacements for Web sites: Search engines positively love Weblogs because they’re content-centric and because they’re typically updated with great frequency. Put those together and it’s true that organizations with Weblogs are far more findable than those with just a Web site.
Remember, if you aren’t updating your site, you’re gradually becoming harder to find as newer, more compelling, more up-to-date content is bubbling up in the Google search results.

Just Drink the Kool-Aid Already

Seriously, I now find myself in the situation where I’m far more focused on how I can ensure that the owners of a Web site have as much control as possible, without giving them the ability to break things. That’s hard to do with existing Web site tools, but remarkably easy with blogging tools. Even if you aren’t a devotee of blogging and believe it’s a fad (tip: it’s not), I still encourage you to learn more about blogs as a way to reinvent your Web site and make maintenance, updates, and adding new content far, far easier.
You can learn a lot more about Weblogs by reading my Ask Dave Taylor Weblog in the “blogging” category, and legal issues, best practices, and business considerations can be found on this site, the Intuitive Life Business Blog.


I originally published this article in the Web Design Reference Guide area of InformIT as Insider Tips to Better Blogging: What’s the Difference Between a Weblog and a Regular Web Site? It’s reprinted with permission and remains © 2006 by Dave Taylor.

51 comments on “What’s the difference between a blog and a Web site?

  1. I have very much enjoyed reading this article. For me it has ben an eye opener in a number of ways. Please send me more content on this subject.

  2. hi dear….
    nice work..i’m new to this blogging word and realising that the virtual world of blogging is much larger than the real world …since i’m a biginer and from the nontechnical stream of computer and engeniering and lerning day to day more about it…i reqest u indicate some thing which could able to learn me A to Z about blogging concern to earn somthing from this amaging tool…….i;m a student and want to earn some part time money ..will be thankful if u prvide me this kind of information….

  3. Over the last year or so, what are the pros and cons of using a blog vs a web site to produce the most favorable results when you are doing affiliate marketing
    thanx
    frank

  4. This surprisingly is a bigger world of webs and blogs than I ever imagined. I need to keep connected even after my present class because I dont want to be left out of this development. There also is no doubt that one needs to continue to train at whatever level to be up todate with webing and blogging.
    You and your likes are real great people. Please dont stop.

  5. I am trying to figure out how to build my own blog and customize it more than to just use blogger.com. I don’t know enough about computers to totally design one by myself, but I was wondering if the templates and tools that are used to build a website are the same ones that a rookie like me could use to build a blog. There is an easy website building program by Broaderbund, which I have used their products before, but I need to know if it will be able to build a blog too. Are they essentially the same? If they are can I take the html from the program and put it into the blogger.com site? I came upon this site, and hoped you could answer my question. Thanks in advance!

  6. You haven’t quite made something clear: A website is a unique name and address. I buy a virtual property, (a domain name) and then buy a building site to put it on and live in, (a website). What I don’t quite understand is: is a blogsite a sort of fully serviced appartment within an existing website address and if so, how do I choose which appartment block to live in?

  7. Actually, a *domain* is a unique name and address. A Web site is a condo and a blog is an apartment building. Both can exist at the property, and in fact you can have both there simultaneously. Just depends on what you want to build and where you want to live. Hope that clears things up.

  8. Hello Dave,
    I am starting a niche business and I am on a very low budget. I am using hostmonster.com to host my website. I also would like to have a Blog. My question is can you suggest a low budget website design software especially for dummies. I would like canned pages but professional.
    Thank you
    Gerry Gauthier

  9. I have an event promotions/management business and I wanted to know if there is anyone out there who can let me know which is better to use to get across to people the benefits of my business. With the ever changing cyber world I don’t have time to constantly update both (nless it’s necessary)so I need a simpler solution please help which one is better you can view both my sites and leave comments on what you think.
    – evolutionevents08.com (website)
    – evolutioneventsllc.blogspot.com (blog)

  10. Recently the brokerage I am affiliated with advised us to write blogs right on our websites, our c. late 1990’s websites, rather than on Blogger.com or another blogging site.
    My blog such as it is, is on WordPress.org I went searching via Google for the question of What is the difference between a blog and a website and ended up here. I have been blogging since 2005 so I thought it was odd advice. No perma links, no track backs, but mostly no comments… and although I don’t understand what PHP and MySQAL are or need to. Love “In the beginning was HTML”

  11. Dear Dave, thanks for the great article on blogging.
    I-Web on the Mac has a blog page option. My
    website is built on I-Web and I would like to start a blog.
    Would you suggest using blog software such as wordpress and
    redoing my website, or is the I-web blog page within my
    website just as good?
    Judy

  12. Hi Great site, most impressed and it really hit the nail as far as I am concerned.
    tried signing up for Blogsmart News but got an error 500 message
    If there is another way of obtaining a copy of “Insiders Guide to Blogging” I would be happy to hear via email
    Paul

  13. Hi;
    Thanks for the info, didn’t know anything about blogging, was very confused. Now I am more informed, considering starting a blog over conventional web-site that’s so confusing to add to or change.
    GK

  14. Can you clarify how a blog can be beneficial along with a “traditional” business website. My services offers to small and mid sized businesses a technology that allows them the ability to create and manage their business sites (catalogs, customer management, shopping carts, presentations, etc.) How would a blog be meaningful to them?
    Thank you.

  15. Ahoy,
    Superb read! Many thanks for enlightening me after days of surfing & hour upon hour of countless reads trying to determine the pros and cons of webs and blogs. Now all I need is a good site to begin my blog?;
    Any ideas?!
    Many thanks,
    Mike

  16. I have a better understanding, but not enough information to know where to get the tools, especially free tools. What is a good blog tool, and how do I get a website that is blog tool driven?

  17. I am hoping to create a business blog and require any new tips and hints of how to make it stand out from the crowd when advertising my businesses and services.
    Is this an are you are able to help with comprehensively.
    Regards
    Michael R

  18. One of your guests commented “well I have read the difference between a website and a blog…but I’am non the wiser….” and I must confess this sounded like I wrote it! I am doubtless stupid not to fully understand just what is behind your exceptionally clear prose (to my shame I add I have had a PC for 20 years – and a Sinclair ZX81 in 19881 — wow! That had 1KB of RAM.

  19. Very good explanation. I want to host a website but honestly can’t afford it. This is a more reasonable way to get myself out there….Thanks.

  20. Hi Dave,
    I’m very anxious to implant my business idea in to the web world, unfortunately I’ve zero knowledge in internet technology or business. I have many questions at the back of my head which might sound quiet silly to many, your suggestions would be highly appreciated and thank you very much for the above info.

  21. Gordon, honestly, I don’t know anything about Weebly, but I will say that the tool you choose is less important than the content you produce once you have the tool in place.

  22. hi dave
    i have a website in which i installed a forum do you suggest that i install a blog too or a forum is enough if the question is one is enough then what tool is the best a forum or a blog.
    thank you for the topic it was realy what the most of us need.

  23. What I notice is that I’m losing control with blogging platforms. Yeah, they’re easy and dandy, but when it comes to editing or changing layout for a single post for isntance? You’re dead.
    I still use WP for smaller blogs/sites/online entities… but if I’m focusing on a large project, I’m using my own HTML templates. Always safer.

  24. As a browser based applications developer I can do all a blog can do and more with a web site, and I’m hardly alone in this.
    Why restrict yourself to a pre-written package if you don’t need to?
    There OK for angst-ridden teenagers to vent on I suppose 😉

  25. God bless you Dave Taylor. Now I have the definitive answer to my question, “What’s the difference between a “Blog” and a “Web site?” Your article confirmed what I believed to be true, yet was still confused about.
    I was a webmaster for a web-site in a large telecommunication company for five years. Dreamweaver (and art work, pictures in Fireworks) was my implement of choice. So now, whenever I go to anything on the WWW, I always look at the page source. It looked like regular CSS, and HTML to me, which is why I did not understand the different names.
    One thing I would say, if one is Dreamweaver-trained, a web-site is easier. My web-sites never look like my blog, because my html is always cleaner. When you add gadgets to a Blogspot.com template, it doesn’t always look pretty. Before I started trying to monetize my blog, it looked great. Now, each time I view it something is screwed up. Maybe I will copy the HTML into Dreamweaver and see where the code was messed up.
    Anyway, thank you so much for sharing your expertise on all these different topics that you list here! I am sure I will be back many times.
    Very truly yours,
    Joyceanne Edell

  26. I would like a copy of “insider’s Guide to blogging” and receive Blogsmart news. I want to try blogging I think.
    Bill G.

  27. I love WordPress and Blogger. I started using them as educational tools for my class and began moonlighting with adense. That drove me crazy. It was like gambling. Adsense sounds like such an easy way to get rich, but then again, so does the lottery.

  28. Thank you for the information! So, I have a blog and spent a lot of money having an “expert” help me but it wasn’t attracting people as fast as they told me it would and they wouldn’t let me advise businesses the way I wanted. So, now I want to take it over and I have no idea what to do! Who do I call! Thank you

  29. I am just starting and want to thank you for this article .. As I would have spent money like Brenda did as you get calls all the time but they want money to help you without you knowing what you are doing.
    I look forward to receiving your free e book and the Blogsmart news.

  30. thanks for the info … artkel you are very nice … I most like blogging because it’s easy to turn ideas into articles, and I can change the template as I wish with ease …

  31. Am I correct in assuming that the only difference between a Blog and a website is the ability to have interactive abilities with your readers and then also not having to create all those different pages that a website needs i.e. Contact Us Page, About Us page etc…?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *