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My Year with WordPress. Part 2: Things I Love, Things I Hate

Every relationship has its ups and downs. I’ve been with WordPress for nearly fifteen months now, and with Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought I’d write about some of my favourite and not-so-favourite aspects of this versatile platform.

1)            I love that with WordPress you have such control over the appearance of your website. It’s easy to change the overall look and feel of it by picking from a huge library of free or paid-for themes. With a little (or a lot) more fiddling you can fine tune the details, depending on which features are supported by your particular theme.

2)            What frustrates me is a general lack of how-to documentation, even with some of the paid themes I’ve looked at. I usually make my selection based on the demonstration sites for promising-looking themes. But when I have the theme I like installed and activated, it typically takes me ages to work out how to replicate the appearance which so captivated me way back when I first saw it. Working with WordPress themes can be a very lengthy trial-and-error experience.

3)            It’s brilliant that WordPress allows you to apply CSS without having to delve far into the guts of your site. For most of us this is the first step to true customisation.

4)            I really love that so many WordPress themes are responsive. On the whole this is done well by developers of even free themes, and it’s a huge time saver.

5)            I love that WordPress.org isn’t just a blogging platform. The basic interface makes it pretty simple to integrate traditional static web pages with blog content. And however big your site gets to be, updating information across some or all of its pages is a relatively quick and easy matter.

6)            WordPress isn’t so great for very simple websites such as the typical one-page ‘coming soon’ site. This is especially the case if you’re halfway competent at JavaScript, HTML and CSS. Set up a very simple site using WordPress and you’ll be making a lot of extra work for yourself.

7)            It’s amazing that there’s such a huge range of plugins available for WordPress. Plugins make it possible to transcend the blog-and-static-pages format and turn your site into a shop, a community, a book, a noticeboard, or an attractive mailing list-based marketing tool. What’s even better is that many plugins are completely free.

8)            I’m not so chuffed that unless you want to hire a WordPress developer or start to learn PHP, it can be really difficult to customise the appearance or functioning of plugins. Aesthetic customisation is usually necessary because many of the plugins have been designed by engineers, so they look…well, as though they’ve been designed by engineers.

9)            And it’s not so brilliant when the plugin you want to use isn’t compatible with your theme. Especially when you can’t find a different compatible plugin which does a similar job.

10)          I’m very impressed that so many people put such energy and creativity into developing WordPress themes and plugins. Usually they do this for little or no financial gain. They’re also generous with their time when it comes to answering help queries. This means that there’s an extensive pool of international expertise available free of charge to all small-scale WordPressers.

11)          But it can be seriously daunting even to understand the advice given by many of the above experts, let alone implement it.

Does this story have a take-home message? Yes, I suppose it does. WordPress is an invaluable tool for those of us who want to build a high quality online presence on a budget, without hiring expensive developers. But WordPress isn’t a platform for the IT-phobic. In order to make the most of its potential and get your WordPress site looking and functioning as you want, you do need to be prepared to look for information and build your own development skills. This usually isn’t easy, especially if you’re starting from a low level of knowledge.

That’s why my next blog post will be about the different places I went (and still go) for help with WordPress.

Lynn is the founder and quality-maven-in-chief of Lexis Writing, a collective of expert writers creating high quality content and copy for businesses in the UK and beyond.

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