June 18, 2004

Typepad or Movable Type?

People who want to start blogging often ask me which tool they should use, Typepad or Movable Type? 9 times out of 10 my answer is TypePad. That's odd, you might think coming from someone who runs a blog all about Movable Type. The answer has more to do with who is asking the question than the relative merits of either program. Both products are created by the team at Six Apart and both are based on the same technology. The main difference between the two is that Typepad is a fee-based hosted service and Movable Type is software that you license to run on your own server or web host. The reason that I more often recommend Typepad is that, unlike Movable Type, you don't have to know any HTML in order to use it. Within one or two hours of creating your account you can be up an blogging away. You can customize the look and feel of your weblog without ever having to know what CSS is.

So, why would one choose Movable Type over Typepad? One reason is if you already have your own web server or server space at a webhost you may not want to pay an additional monthly fee for a weblog hosted somewhere else. Movable Type does offer a free version of its license, so for no extra money you can set up your own weblog (although I highly recommend a paid license as it includes support). Another reason is flexibility. Movable Type's platform supports third party plugins that can greatly extend the capabilities and features of your Movable Type blog, beyond those of Typepad. Movable Type's flexibility allows it to be more seemlessly incorporated into existing websites making it the tool of choice for many commercial implementations.

The driving factor of what determines my recommending Movable Type or Typepad is the blogger-to-be's level of technical expertise. To effectively use Movable Type one needs to know HTML and how to use FTP at a minimum, and have the time and inclination to learn XHTML, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), the MT template system, MT template tags, and a variety of plugins. If you are a web site developer or a programmer, this is old hat and the learning curve is not so steep. But if you are not, even if you already know HTML, learning CSS and the rest take a lot of time. When I started blogging, Typepad wasn't out yet so I plowed through Movable Type and spent literally hundreds of hours installing and configuring my blogs. Now that I've made the investment in time I like Movable Type and the degrees of freedom it offers. But honestly, if were starting out today and I didn't already have a website with server space, I would most likely choose Typepad, and spend my blogging time writing entries instead of trying to figure out how to get tags to work the way I want them to. All that said, they are both terrific products and a great way to get launched into blogging.

Movable Type

Has this tutorial been helpful? Please consider linking to Learning Movable Type at http://learningmovabletype.com/ . Thanks!

Posted by Elise Bauer on June 18, 2004 to Beginner Tips
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I've had a business site set up on typepad since March. I find it useless. The server response time is inconsistent at best and often ridiculously slow (like 20 seconds to load a 30k jpg). What good is a blog if no one will wait for it to load?

John - From what I've heard, Six Apart is working to upgrade their servers so that the service level will be better and more consistent. This should address the problems you've been experiencing.

As someone who discovered Typepad soonafter committing to learning MT & HTML, I can say that learning HTML is not hard. Typepad seemed really tempting at the time when I was making my templates, doing all the design and it seemed endlessly frustrating. All I wanted was the drag and drop of Typepad. However, it wasn't endless, after awhile I came up with a design I like and now feel I have a certain level of minute control over my blog that Typepadders don't, combined with constant learning.

Learning HTML & MT does not happen in a vacuum. There are sites like this, tons of HTML learning sites, you can look at the source of other people's blogs which has shown me how to do many different things, and it also helps to have a friend who knows a little HTML to get you going. What I'm saying is "if you teach a man to fish ..." If you want a blog and use Typepad you'll be paying them to do something for you for the entire life of your blog. The bulk of learning MT happens in the first few months, will last you forever, and you won't have to pay someone to fish for you.

I'd rather go through the growing pains for a bit rather than paying for a blog that may not be worth the money all the time.

Scazz and Chris - Great points and that's why there's Movable Type, for those with the time and patience to learn a somewhat complicated new tool.

Hi Elise

I like your site and have found it informative. Especially this article/post. I have recently set up a pro account with typepad. I like the idea of set templates and a structured system to build on. But only to build off of- that is my main purpose for purchasing the pro. But my problem is this: I find that the pro account is great but not enough info is out there to bridge the newbie from structured blogging to the features of pro. The html and lingo is readily available but I find myself dumbstruck because most of the information (forum-typepadusers) is implied for those who are html/php/MT knowledgable before having a pro account with typepad. Due to that I feel I am stuck and limited. Is there any resource that you may know of which may help me in my quest for utilizing pro? I am a very quick learner. Just need that basic bridging. (maybe a book?) Like how to open up a section of a template and know where and how to change different features. Is there something out there that I am missing. I find myself staring at my blog templates saying to myself, "okay, I want to change that to something like this, how do I do that?" then I search and search but most if not all I have found out there assumes the reader knows that bridging aspect. I am so frustrated with this aspect of typepad pro. I want to use it. I like what I see it used for. I signed up for a year account in pro but have 25 days of trial left. And i do not have the time right now to put a month or two into learning MT. I am capable and would if I had the time. Right now all I want is to learn enough to utilize pro and keep adding to my knowledge base in MT as time allows. Then when things settle in I can focus more on MT and other programming.

Anyway, if off the top of head you know of a place I can look, that would be great. Thanks a lot for this article.

Oh, and I find typepad very slow. It is taking me longer to set up my blog because of this. The page loads are horribly slow, especially at peak hours. Do you think typepad will remedy their server/speed problem soon? I am hoping. And I hope it is a good bet.

Thanks for your time.

Hi Pixie,
Hmm. To take advantage of the Typepad Pro customization features you really do need to know a lot about HTML, CSS, and Movable Type tags. If you know Movable Type then Typepad Pro is easy. I suggest buying a book about MT - look it up in Amazon - either than or go down a step until you have the time to invest in learning the system. I've been looking online for a Typepad resource for you but haven't found one yet.

Six Apart is working on the server situation. I expect that we should see some improvements soon. You might want to ping their support folks to see about the status of that. Good luck!

OK, I am an utter newbie, having only even concocted the idea of doing a blog about 2 days ago. I was wondering about the relative advantages/disadvantages of TypePad vs. something like Blog*spot.


Well Typepad is a paid hosted service and is basically Movable Type hosted. Typepad is a much more powerful and flexibile service - much better than blogger/blogspot. Since you pay for it there are no ads either !

IMHO I think Typepad is much better choice than blogspot/blogger


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