Terapad isn’t the most advanced free blogging tool out there, but its business-minded features and 2GB of free storage might make it attractive to entrepreneurial bloggers.
Easy-to-use tools. E-commerce features. 2GB free storage. Static page editing. Good features for editing posts. Image galleries.
Free accounts display ads. Limited customization options. Unintuitive site navigation.
Price As Tested: $0.00 – $5.00 Direct
Terapad.com’s tagline, “Beyond Blogging,” is fairly apropos. Many other free online apps, such as Blogger, Vox, LiveJournal, and WordPress.com, put their focus strictly on the act of blogging—other features are added only to enhance that experience. With Terapad, blogging is just one of its tools, which are aimed at helping you quickly and easily create an online presence. Depending on what you’re looking for, Terapad’s broader, more business-minded focus will prove either a blessing or a curse.
After a visit to the home page, however, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Terapad was primarily a blogging service. Like a traditional blog site, it lists links to blogs that have been created using the service, a searchable list of post tags, and links to image galleries. On a whole, the layout indicates a service that’s attempting to build a community, something that’s becoming more and more popular among free blogging services. It’s nothing like the social-networking features offered by the Vox or LiveJournal sites, but it is a quick and easy way to discover how others use the platform. Under Terapad’s surface is a good selection of tools that might help your very small business boost its online presence. More on these later.
A small link on the home page prompts you to sign up for an account. Strangely, there’s no log-in on the home page for current users—a big oversight. I found myself repeatedly checking my Terapad confirmation e-mail and using the link whenever I wanted to log back in. The account-creation process will prove a familiar experience for all of those who have tried this kind of service: You pick a site address (for example, ziffdavisiswickedsweet.terapad.com), a site name, an optional tagline, and one of six templates (a pretty paltry selection, though a Terapad representative told me that the number will increase to a far more respectable 26 on April 15). The whole process is simple and takes only a few minutes.
The sign-up process also includes a couple of unique options, including the type of site (Both Blog and Pages, Blog Only, Web Pages Only), and a list of optional site features, including News/Blog, Image Gallery, Forums, Shop, Events, and Careers. It’s through these optional features that Terapad’s “Beyond Blogging” concept comes into play, making Terapad as much a user-friendly small-business tool as it is a blogging platform.
Once you’ve created an account, you’re greeted with an intro page, featuring the word “Welcome!” next to a big smiley face. Terapad doesn’t have the sort of step-by-step instruction offered by Blogger and Vox, but it does give a few handy tips for getting started.
The top of the Terapad editor is lined with 15 tabs (fewer if you’ve deactivated features), with options such as Editors, Pages, and Forums. Terapad makes it pretty clear that blogging is not the site’s main concern, by hiding the “Add Blog Post” feature halfway down the Blog page, which can be found by clicking on the Blog tab, located on the second row of tabs.
The WYSIWYG post editor is a pretty straightforward proposition, with a good number of options, including a spell-checker, a handful of font and style options, and a feature that lets you insert basic tables. With Content Templates you can position the post’s text in three basic formats: Image and Title; Two Columns (of text); and Text and Table. Clicking Source allows you to edit the post’s HTML. Above the text editor are fields for assigning a post category and setting a date for the post to be published later. Below is a field for Tags and an option to make the post Sticky, keeping it static at the top of your blog, even as newer content is posted. The posting process is simple, and should be familiar to anyone who has ever used a word processor.
The layout options are limited unless you know CSS (if you do, you can edit at will). The layout of all of the current templates is the same—the key difference in each are the colors and graphics. No matter what you do with those variations, however, it’s going to be pretty clear to anyone who knows the service that you’re using a default Terapad template. That’s not the best way to differentiate your blog or small business. Among the free blog services that I’ve looked at, Terapad’s templates rank well below those offered by Vox and WordPress.com. The links that appear in your sidebar depend on the options that you clicked when starting out, though they can be changed at any time.
You can also integrate your site with a handful of third-party widgets, from companies such as Flickr, Google, and Meebo. The selection is a bit lacking at the moment, but Terapad says it’s in the process of adding more.
The only other customization option on the Layout page is the Sidebar Container option, allowing users to create basic text fields, which, along with your blogroll and widgets, appear below the large Google AdSense field. This means that unless your readers scroll down (sometimes way down) they might never see these widgets. Though the Google AdSense field is unfortunate, at least Terapad doesn’t force a big banner across the top of the page, as Blogger and LiveJournal do. There are also no obligatory social-networking portals on the side of the page—if you’re looking to hook up with fellow bloggers, LiveJournal and Vox are your best options.
The Google AdSense field can be deactivated only if you sign up for a premium account at $5 a month. That fee also gives you a whopping 20GB of storage space, though the rather impressive free amount of 2GB per blog will likely prove more than sufficient for most casual users.
Terapad for Business
Terapad has far and away the most small-business–minded features of any of the free blogging services that I’ve looked at. Given what initially seems to be a focus on the site’s blogging feature, I was surprised to learn from the company’s managing director, Stephan Tual, that Terapad actually began life as a CMS tool. The focus on blogging is new. Users and the press expressed interest in Terapad’s blogging abilities, so the company has shifted focus accordingly.
Its newfound emphasis on blogging aside, the site still seems aimed at helping you quickly create a full-fledged online presence. As with WordPress.com, you can build static pages that look aesthetically similar to the main blog. These pages, which are accessible through your site’s sidebar, are good for creating About pages or other similar informational resources for your site. You can also make them the focus of your site, eliminating the blogging feature altogether.
The Online Shop option, which lets you sell products through a PayPal store, makes Terapad an intriguing option for those with small retail ambitions: artists, perhaps, or eBay sellers. Terapad can even help you staff up, via a Careers option that lets you post your company’s open positions. For the time being, both these options are available only via your site, though Terapad has plans to create a large searchable database of all of the For Sale and Help Wanted listings. The tools are still pretty basic. If you’re looking for serious e-commerce tools, you’ll want to buy a dedicated app, or, even more likely, hire a Web designer to set up a site for you.
If you want to keep your small business or community organized, you can use Terapad’s events calendar, and you can stay in touch via a simple forum in addition to the standard post comments. There’s also an image gallery, which should help you use up some of that free storage. A simple stats page will help you keep track of your site’s performance. Though not as detailed as those offered by WordPress.com, the feature is a worthwhile bonus.
These features, along with its straightforward blogging solution, make Terapad worth a look for anyone who wants a quick and easy app for building an online business presence. There are certainly far more advanced SMB solutions around, but they’ll probably cost you more time and money. As far as free blogging services go, Terapad is good, but it lacks many of the specialized solutions many users want, such as the social networking. Small-scale entrepreneurs will appreciate the site’s unique combination of semipro tools and its generous free storage. Those looking to blog for blogging’s sake should take a look at Vox or WordPress.com.