Of course you’ve heard the buzz about WordPress, but what is it, exactly, and what can it do for you? Read on, Macduff.
Why Did I Choose WordPress?
In November 2014, I created this website. I chose WordPress as my platform because I knew I wanted to start a blog at some point, and I’d seen praise heaped upon it from many different directions, not least the open source community. That was enough, really: I’ve long been a fan of open source solutions, so the choice of WordPress seemed like a no-brainer.
Looking back, my cluelessness was more or less complete. I didn’t even know what WordPress was, precisely. I had a vague idea that it was something like Google’s Blogger, only for people who (like me) preferred to avoid proprietary technologies.
Why Am I Writing About My Experiences with WordPress?
The truth is that WordPress has so much more to offer than a simple blogging platform. After more than a year I’m only beginning to scratch the surface of what it can do. That’s why I’m writing these posts: to inform, inspire and entertain others who feel tempted to use WordPress, but are starting from absolute zero.
What Can You Expect from WordPress?
WordPress novices, I can’t promise you’ll have an easy ride. Learning how to get the best out of WordPress can be frustrating and daunting. But when you dig deeper, you’ll learn lots, and you’ll probably find yourself hooked on the power and control the platform grants you. Yes, you’ll be able to build your own online empire, and in the process you’ll discover your inner totalitarian dictator.
In fourteen months I’ve gone from setting up a few ugly-looking static pages and a blog to building an online shop (and making those ugly pages look much nicer). Most importantly of all, I’ve found some great sources of help for troubleshooting and education, and you’ll find your own, too. So buckle up tight, and get ready for an exciting time.
Lesson Number 1: WordPress.com and WordPress.org are completely different
Remember way back in this article when I said I thought WordPress was just like blogger, only open source? That was WordPress.com I was thinking of. WordPress.com is extremely simple: you sign up for an account, and you can start your website or blog right away. But like a lot of simple things, WordPress.com has limitations.
Which Version of WordPress Is Right for You?
I’m not qualified to specify exactly what these limitations are, but with WordPress.com you don’t have the same level of control as you do with WordPress.org. This becomes an issue when you want to do things like building online shops or social media communities, but probably won’t be a big deal if you want to set up a fairly straightforward site quickly and without much of a technical learning curve.
With WordPress.org, you get open source software you need to install on a web server. I rent server space from a hosting company, and the installation of WordPress was pretty straightforward to accomplish. But it did take a bit of thought and the will to fiddle. If you’re extremely IT-phobic, short of time or very impatient, you may prefer to use WordPress.com (or even Blogger, if you don’t mind going that way).
Choosing a Hosting Company: A Word of Warning
Assuming you’re excited by the idea of WordPress.org, you’ll need to choose a hosting company to get yourself up and running. Nowadays I have a couple of WordPress sites, and my experience with hosting companies has been diverse. Some of them offer confusing, hard-to-navigate interfaces (One & One, I’m looking at you), and—despite extravagant claims–not all companies allow you the full control you need to make the most of WordPress.org.
Choose carefully, because you don’t want to find yourself limited by your hosting package when you come to develop your WordPress site. Because things change so fast in the tech world, I’d advise you to search online for a current comparison of the features offered by WordPress hosting companies before committing to any one. And if you’re already a WordPresser, please feel free to share your experiences with different companies in the comments section below, or on Twitter.
Next time: More things I love about WordPress, and some things I’m not so keen on.
PS: If you’d like to find out more about the differences in functioning between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, I’d recommend this infographic. And for a closer look at the two different organisations and how they make money, you could do a lot worse than peruse this article.