Tumblr: An Introduction Guide For Microblogging – Part 1

Tumblr is set to become the blogging tool of 2010 with its massive growth, yet still many people don’t fully understand what Tumblr does, or how it works. If you’ve ever tried to start a blog, but found yourself struggling to find the time, Tumblr is something you’re definitely going to want to take a look at.

What is tumblr?

Put simply, Tumblr is a service that does exactly what WordPress does for blogging, but for microblogging, or tumbleblog’s instead. To fully understand what Tumblr does, you first need to understand what these so-called tumbleblog’s actually are.

A tumblelog is a variation of a blog, that favors short-form, mixed-media posts over the longer editorial posts frequently associated with blogging. Common post formats found on tumbleblogs include links, photos, quotes, dialogues, and video. Unlike blogs, this format is frequently used to share the author’s creations, discoveries, or experiences without providing a commentary. – Wikipedia

What does this mean? Well basically, Tumblr fills the gap between Twitter, where people tweet resources, images, and thoughts, and traditional blogging platforms, like WordPress where each post is a proper article. Instead, Tumblr works with seven types of post; text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio and video, and it handles them all very well.

Why is Tumblr becoming increasingly popular?

According to Tumblr statistic’s, in the last six months, Tumblr has grown from around 300M monthly page views, to over 1 Billion in February 2010; a massive growth for any product, and it speaks for itself really. A product doesn’t grow at such a rapid rate, if people aren’t enjoying using it.

Easy to update

The biggest reason behind Tumblr’s growing support, is it’s vast number of social features, and it’s ease of use. For a start, Tumblr make it extremely offer for you to post to your blog, even if you can’t access your homepage yourself. Here are some of the clever ways Tumblr makes it possible for you to update your tumbleblog:

  • Text your blog updates from any mobile phone
  • Email your updates via one of the most sophisticated email publishing platform available.
  • Bookmarklet allows you to post anything and everything you come across while browsing the web.
  • Post via AIM by messaging TumblrBot.
  • Phone your TumblrBlog, and leave voice posts.
  • Automatically post from any other site or profile.
  • Use the official Tumblr iPhone app to easily update your blog.
  • Third Party App’s expand your options even further.

3rd Party Applications

As well as the fantastic free iPhone app that is available officially from Tumblr, you also have access to a multitude of applications for the iPhone, Web, Desktop’s, Mobile’s, Widget’s and Browser’s. They are all filed away tidily in an official Tumblr app directory.

Social Network Integration

Definitely high up on the list of reasons for Tumblr’s acceptance has been its solid two-way integration with other social media, and networking services. Part of its automatic posting from other sites come from major names such as Digg, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter, but it doesn’t stop there. As well as having the ability to automatically pull in your content live from these sites, you can also send information back. Facebook is a prime example with its ability to show your activity on Tumblr on your Facebook wall, keeping all your friends up to date with what your blogging and activity.

Other notable features

Other than those already mentioned, Tumblr also focus’ on those important, but small things that you need.

  • Easily add any analytics tracking code you want to your tumbleblog
  • Tubmlr is optimised for Google in everything from the site slugs, to the sitemap
  • Built in privacy allows you to restrict specific posts, or your whole blog to certain people
  • The ability to use your own custom domains on your tumbleblog
  • FeedBurner support allows you to see important RSS feed stats
  • It’s free, and you don’t need to pay for hosting, or storage!
  • You have the ability to create your own custom theme.

What is the backend of Tumblr like?

First off, Tumblr wouldn’t be where it was if it wasn’t for its easy to use backend user interface. The interface is split into two sections; the dashboard, where your’s and other peoples content meet you, and customisation, where you control all sorts of aspects of your tumbleblog.


Posting any of the seven different type’s of content from your dashboard is a breeze, with visual buttons, and a clean design. The backend goes on to keep you up-to-date with all the Tumbleblogs you are following, in a very Twitter like manner, keeping it clean and easy to read. For a look at how the dashboard looks, click on the image below.


Customisation though, is a whole different kettle of fish. It is basically a dummy page of your current theme, with one default entry in each of the seven post categories. A menu bar at the top of the page allows you to make many important, and useful changes and decisions that affect your tumbleblog.

The menu provides a multitude of options;

  • Info - This allows you to specify the basic information of your blog; things like your blog title, description, and avatar picture. The notable option here though, is the ability to change your tumbleblog url instantly, or even use your own personal domain allowing you to use a domain without the tumblr.com suffix.
  • Theme – This menu item is fairly self-explanatory; it allows you to select a theme from Tumblr’s “theme garden” to use for your blog. There are over 300 of them, all for free, some of which are of an impressive quality. As well as using a premade theme though, you are given the option to use “custom html”, another way of saying your own custom-made theme, something we will go through in great detail at a later date.
  • Appearance – This allows you to make quick changes to your current theme. Not every theme has appearance options, but the default Tumblr theme certainly does, and allows you to change things such as font’s, colour’s, and background images without touching any code; anther thing that makes Tumblr so popular for those that are not so comfortable delving into code.
  • Pages – This allows you to create static pages, much like other blogging platforms such as wordpress. Pages come in three categories; Standard Layout, Custom Layout, and Redirect.
  • Services – Already I have mentioned the great amount of social networking integration that Tumblr has, as well as its integration with other web services such as YouTube and Feedburner. Services allows you to pick and choose which of these services you want to use, and lets you connect all your accounts up.
  • Community – This allows you to add, as the title dictates, a community element to your blog. There are to ways to do this. One is the creation of a page that allows your readers to ask you questions, and the other allows your users to contribute their own posts to your submission queue for approval by you.
  • Advanced – The final menu item features further options for your blog that don’t really fit into the other categories. These are things like your timezone, url slug structure, privacy options, post’s per page, and so on.

As you change these options, especially your theme options, the dummy page below changes to mirror the choices you have made, allowing you to check how your blog will look, as you work.


Tumblr is a fantastic piece of kit, filling in that gap in the market between products such as wordpress that provide full blogs, social networking such as facebook, and status updating from Twitter, and it does it extremely well.  Tumblr is honestly a pleasure to work with. Simplicity makes the user interface effect and easy to use, and you never feel like there isn’t anything important missing, or out of your control. It makes blogging and sharing things you find on the internet a breeze, and most importantly, unlike Twitter, it does so visually. If you find yourself failing to keep a full blog up-to-date, and enjoy sharing the things you find, the there’s no easier way to do so than Tumblr, so give it a go.

Keep an eye here at 1stwebdesigner for more on Tumblr!

For those that do choose to start using Tumblr, or already do, then keep an eye here, because coming up are several articles that will increase your happiness with Tumblr, such as a roundup of fantastic themes, and more importantly learning how to create your own custom theme! For now, check out these 5 impressive tumbleblogs for inspiration to see what Tumblr is truly capable of.


It’s the interwebs

Mark Jardine


Name that film

Hope you enjoyed this post – keep coming back for more!

Matthew Corner

Matt is an 18 year old web designer from Scotland, UK. He loves creating beautiful websites across different platforms. High on his things to learn fully are Jquery and php. He is extremely excited by css3 and html5 and can't wait to see them rolled out fully. To learn more about Matt, follow him @QwibbleDesigns, or check out his portfolio.

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  1. Ben says

    “Built in privacy allows you to restrict specific posts, or your whole blog to certain people”

    But how? I’d like to have a multi-level approach to who can view websites. I’d love if some posts could be public, some could be seen by people who follow me/I follow, and some could be seen by only select followers. But how? Is this possible?

  2. Craig says

    Thx Matt, you helped me to really understand “How” to use Tumblr and “How” it works and did so in a simple easy to understand way. Much Appreciation. As for the comments on your grammar, take it in stride. Yes there are some grammatical errors that interrupt the reading flow a bit but overall your article accomplished the end goal. Thx again. And to person who made the comments, when giving feedback or advice you might want to consider “how” you phrase that advice, that is if you’re really trying to be “helpful.”
    Matt Good Luck with your goals on tackling CSS3 and all…I’m still struggling with basic CSS, LOL. Looking forward to more great “helpful” post from you.

  3. min says

    As soon as I came over to this blog post I can only look at part of it, is this my internet cell phone browser or the internet web site? Should I restart?

  4. LemonFresh says

    You’ve got a serious problem with apostrophes in this article… they do NOT indicate plurals! I actually stopped reading and started skimming this because of the grammar mistakes. (I know, I’m being that douchey person on the Internet, but I assume you’re trying to put across an aura of professionalism here…)

    • Susan says

      You’re right…you are being that person. Most ‘tech’ people are not great writers. I didn’t come here for a grammar lesson. Go away, or start your own blog.

  5. says

    Can Tumblr autopost? I find it does fine with FB but doesn’t import well via rss feed and doesn’t export well to Twitter. What I like about Posterous are the autoposts. It can send posts about anywhere. I’m looking for something within tumblr that’s the same but can’t find it.

  6. Brett says

    Matt. Nice info. How easy is it to set up Tumblr to look similar to a website with more form and structure? Do I need a designer to do it?

    • Matt Corner says

      Tumblr is what it is, a blogging tool. It now has support for “pages”, but you are unlikely to get anywhere near the sort of custom websites that you can have with say, wordpress.

      What tumblr does is make microblogging easy to the masses. It isnt really intended to support a full website.

  7. says

    a Tumblr blog does seem like a good idea for something like a portfolio, or rather, for something in between a portfolio and a sketchbook-type blog like a lot of artists seem to have, something where they can post sketches or work in progress. A lot of people enjoy these “behind the scenes/look in the kitchen” kind of things so it might be a good way to connect with people who like your work.

    Nice article. Thanks.

  8. says

    I’m one of those people who has heard of Tumblr mentioned before, but thought it was just a free alternative to CMS sites like WordPress.

    As a result of this article, I think I’ll look into it, but not swayed as yet. I think I’ll be sticking with WordPress, which also has a growing user-base on top of its already-massive following.

    Times do change, though…

    • Matt Corner says

      It certainly depends what your goal is. For example, are you after a blogging platform, or a CMS? If you’re after blogging, is it a personal blog, or a sophisticated articles blog. There are many variables.

  9. Jim Carter III says

    I just decided to drop my 6 year old wordpress blog and make the switch, starting today. I’m pretty excited for the breath of fresh air.

  10. Ryan Cowles says

    I think I might have to finally look into Tumblr.. Thanks for the article!

  11. says

    Hey Matt, very impressive article for a 17 year old! Keep it up, you have a bright future. Tumblr is a really impressive platform. I recommend it to people who don’t need WordPress’s full CMS functionality. If you are choosing between wordpress.com or tumblr, tumblr has a cleaner interface and is easier to use.

  12. says

    HI, great post..
    i am hearing for first time about micro blogging… it sounds awesome..
    great to learn it and know about tumblr :)
    thanks buddy..
    keep up the good work.

  13. Alice says

    Just created mine two days ago and I was very surprised to see how easy it is to use& update. I highly recommend it!

  14. Jeremy Sroka says

    nice write up. tumblr definitely has my vote for the best blog site going around at the moment. so nice to use and nice to look at. what more can you ask for?

  15. says

    Thanks for this interesting article! So far I had only heard of the name of Tumblr but never had the interest to discover what it was really. Thanks to your article, I have now created an account on it and plan to use it to its full potential! :D

    Looking forward to your next articles (especially the customisation one!)

    • Matt Corner says

      Thanks, I’m glad I’ve inspired you enough to get you to sign up =)

      Keep an eye on 1stwebdesigner for the further articles in the series =)

  16. says

    Thanks for this very interesting article. I didn’t know anything about Tumblr and at the moment I’m happy with my Blogger account. Now I know more I would definitely bear it in mind if I ever think of a project that would suit the Tumblr format.

  17. Ikoichi says

    I use them both, Tumblr and Posterous, and I chose the last one. Simply because it is better organized, it has a really intuitive interface. The Posterous Bookmarklet is really powerful too. And at the end I linked Tumblr and Twitter to Posterous, so that posting to Posterous the contents are reflected on the other two services. This is just my choice ;)

  18. Marnie B says

    I started using Tumblr about a week ago and I’m so hooked. I had a Posterous account a while back, but wasn’t thrilled about using it.

    Tumblr makes it fun with cool templates, an even cooler interface and one hell of an iPhone app!

  19. says

    I’m into Posterous – it’s pure simplicity. As the newer microblogging platform, it doesn’t have the bank of templates or backend functionality that Tumblr does, but frankly, if you don’t need any of that, Posterous does the trick nicely – you don’t even have to set up an account!

    Since Posterous introduced the ability to use your own theme, they are pretty much neck and neck.

    • Matt Corner says

      Yeah, but Tumblr would appear to have a larger userbase. I guess we can only wait and see. It may turn out to be another one of those wordpress over blogger things.

  20. Mike Haynes says

    I’ve really come to appreciate the power of Tumblr over the past year. It does everything I need to maintain a simple technology tumble log (MiamiWebPros.com). I really like the bookmarklet capability that allows me to post from any web page that I am currently viewing. I was previously using “Storytlr”, but they have stopped supporting the platform. Tumblr has been a very suitable replacement.

    • Matt Corner says

      I have to agree. The bookmarklet is a very strong pro for using Tumblr for me. The less I have to do to post content that I find to my blog, the better =)

  21. says

    Well every one is asking about the comparison of tumblr and Posterous. You can say that they are pretty similar. Both are micro blogging services which allow you to set your dns to your custom domain.
    Why Choose Tumblr: Well, first of all tumblr has a very rich API. Because of this API, there are tools available for your tumblr like desktop client and so many other tools.
    Why Choose Posterous: I have experience with posterous as well, but I will not suggest you to choose it as there are no or very less softwares available to use.

    Except this everything is almost same between Tumblr and Posterous.

  22. Logobird says

    Excellent overview of Tumblr. I have a few friends that use it and swear by it. I guess now is the time for me to take a look at it as well.
    Thanks for this.

    • Matt Corner says

      No problem, I’m glad you’ve found it helpful, and are deciding to take a look at Tumblr =)

  23. Rebecca says

    Excellent article. I have noticed that Tumblr is catching on and it has some good uses, but I also know a lot of people who are unfamiliar with it.

    • Matt Corner says

      I’ve seen a trend in web designers using it instead of the traditional blogging platform, wordpress recently. WordPress in the life of a web designer becomes a chore to update, where Tumblr isn’t.

      I’ve also seen Tumblr being used as a portfolio of work, much like how the two Tumbleblogs, It’s the interwebs, and Name that film work. It’s an article Im strongly considering writing once I finish the normal tumbleblog layout one.

  24. Amberly | Web Designer says

    Great article. I think Tumblr is definitely a gift to microbloggers who are interested in exploring the implications for simplicity

    Keep up the good work!

  25. says

    I was wondering what Tumblr was all about, so thanks for this article! It made me realize, I can still blog even though I don’t have the time to own a real blog.

    • Matt Corner says

      Indeed, that’s the beauty of it, and certainly the reason there’s such a huge market for it to prosper in.

    • Matt Corner says

      No problem. Tumblr is a resource that lacks a lot of insight that WordPress and other blogging CMS’s get in web design blogs. This series will continue to explore further, ending up with the creation of a custom theme. =)

  26. says

    Thank you a lot, Matt for this great article..you introduced Tumblr for me too in quite a new level :) Glad you are keeping track of people responses as well – you are great guy!

    • Matt Corner says

      I guess you could say its twitter, but more refined. Lets say that you’d like to replace Tumblr with your twitter feed, you wouldnt find much of a difference. Your links and posts are certainly more visual, especially since you don’t actually need to link to them, you can instead display media like video, links, audio, and graphics.

      Like twitter, Tumblr also has followers. The only other major difference’s I can see are the ability to have a custom domain, the ability to skin it exactly how you like, and the lack of character limits.

      Reading the article again, and comparing it as you read to the features of Twitter, will give you the next best comparison to actually trying Tumblr out yourself =)

    • Matt Corner says

      I honestly can’t really give an honest comment on that as Posterous is something I’ve never ever looked into. I have however noticed that of the Tumblr articles out there, the vast majority are comparing it to WordPress and Posterous, so I’d guess that they’d have some similarities. Just googling Tumblr vs. Posterous got me a multitude of article you may want to read up on.