A few words about WordPress

I know quite a few bloggers who are thinking of switching over to WordPress. My advice is: Do it.

After listening to Andru Edwards of GearLive Media making gentle fun of people whose blogs are hosted on their blogging software sites (“Blogname.typepad.com”) I took the plunge and got a WordPress blog. (This one.)

I like it.

But I soon discovered that a lot of the cool things you can do with WordPress, such as running ads, are for blogs that are self hosted. My blog is hosted on WordPress.org, and they don’t allow ads (except for on special VIP accounts for blogs “on par with the Wall Street Journal.”)

If you have a web hosting service you trust (and I do) getting your blog moved over or set up on that outside host is easy. But once you’ve moved it, you are now responsible for updating your version of WordPress yourself. (If you’re hosted at WordPress.com, they do it automatically.) And, if you want to install a new WordPress theme, or simply change a template image, you’ll be on your own. That means dealing with FTP uploads or using some host’s arcane, proprietary file manager software to rummage around in a server hierarchy. (WordPress.com provides an easy interface for these.)

Maintaining your own software is not a big deal? Don’t be so sure. Just about every small company I’ve assisted with blogging has a message on their WordPress admin panel saying that their WordPress software needs to be updated. And they never seem to know how to get it updated. (In one instance, the software was so woefully out of date that I attempted to figure out how to get it updated for them. And ended up utterly baffled.)

ataI’ve just assisted a client in setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog, and in this case was asked to select and install a theme. (“Just make it happen!”)

Writer Way uses a particularly user-friendly theme (PressRow, by Chris Pearson) and I’d found it a breeze to customize. Turns out that not all WordPress themes are so simple to handle. The theme I selected for my client was Atahualpa (by Bytes for All). It’s named after the last Incan emperor of Peru. My experience was, shall we say, an exotic adventure.

Atahualpa turns out to be supremely configurable, with so many complex options that my head began to swim. The code might as well have been written in Quecha, for all I could understand it.

The client was in a hurry, and I was in over my head. But, somehow, I got a customized header image installed (thank you, iStock) and disabled the default floral images (so not my client’s style!).

The final product? Gorgeous.

I know quite a few bloggers who are thinking of switching over to WordPress. My advice is: Do it.

But host the site on a server where you can get a fair amount of hand-holding in terms of setup and updates — this is definitely the time to go with a small, local web hosting service instead of gowhacky.com. And spend some time evaluating WordPress templates before you select one: you’ll be getting to know it very, very well.

Gotta go. I think they just released a new version of Atahualpa.

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