It’s summer outside and lots of other people are out there enjoying the joys of the great outdoors … hitting the surf, strolling the countryside, and just hanging out as you do on these long, sunny days. It’s an outdoorsy time for most, but not for me. I’ve been hanging out at my desk, and for a lot of the time, staring at a screen.
Since making the big move from WordPress.com across to my own domain using WordPress.org, I’ve been steadily tinkering away under the hood. I now have some idea of what it’s like when people get caught up with reconditioning things: clocks, cars, and other sundry ‘machines.’ It’s what goes on underneath that makes the outside … eventually … work so well. Well of course, anything to do with machines, engines, algebra, coding and anything vaguely associated with mathematics has guaranteed a vertical learning curve for this non-DIY little arty. I’ve had the smile wiped off my face more than a few times along the way, but right now, I’m feeling pretty darned pleased with myself. As a result, I wanted to write about how I got from where I was to where I am now blog-wise. If and when you decide to make the break to your own domain, you might find this longish post useful. You might also find some nuggets here if you’re thinking about making a move from another blogging content management system (CMS) to WordPress.
So I’ve finally switched CMSs. Why did I move house? Especially why move from the ease of a platform like Blogger or WordPress.com? Good question, and one I asked quite a few times as I came face to face with php files, CSS Style Sheets, plug-ins, and the intricacies of FTP and file management on my own domain. These are things you do not need to know about with .coms. OK, let’s start at the top, so skip the next paragraph if you know the difference between the two WordPresses .com and .org. If not, read on.
You will recognise a WordPress.com hosted blog because you’ll see the word ‘wordpress’ in the title e.g., myownblog.wordpress.com. Every wordpress.com blog is hosted on the wordpress.com server, and your blog is a sub-domain of the main domain which is … wordpress.com. WordPress.org on the other hand, provides the package for you to install your blog on another server or webhost. More likely it’s going to be myownblog.com or .net or .org or any of the other domain identifiers which you can purchase. And that’s the word that makes the first big difference, and where most bloggers make up their minds. To use WordPress.com you don’t need to pay anything (unless you want to buy some premium features from them), whilst WordPress.org (although free) requires you to find a paid domain site, that is a home for your blog(s).
Can I say at the outset that if you don’t care a fig about having the freedom to tinker, or about having ‘wordpress’ in your blog’s title, if you don’t want to pay for anything, and are happy to stay with a rock-solid, reliable and supportive platform, then there is absolutely no need to change across at all. WordPress.com is unarguably the world’s best-known open-source blogging platform, and contains just about everything you are going to need to run your blog. Lots of great blogs are hosted on WordPress.com. So the question is, why switch. What do you get from a paid service, in this case WordPress.org? I reckon it’s the freedom of choice and the undeniable satisfaction when you get it all working just as you like it, and pretty much all by yourself.
Some don’t care, but if you are curious by nature, creative and independent at heart, if you like challenge, and are the sort of person that likes everything implied in the word ‘customise,’ then you should consider switching. I should also add that a temperamental leaning towards persistance in the face of adversity wouldn’t go astray either!
Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting a change
I’d never knock that other great free CMS Blogger. I got my training wheels with Blogger, and they were a fantastic way for me to get momentum and learn. After I became aware of its limitations, I then switched across to WordPress.com, which in turn worked well for a much longer time. Learning WordPress was also something of a challenge in those early days, a question of learning the new ropes. Eventually as my blogging and blogs grew, and I became familiar with others out started feeling a little cocky and more independent, I decided to go this route, get a domain site and self-host.
I must say that it wasn’t entirely for the vanity of my own brand name. The decision to self-host had more to do with my developing understanding of blogs and blogging, my own professional online identity and personal aesthetics, as well as site organisation; I wanted to keep everything in the one spot, and be able to customise my web pages to suit my needs and taste. I also wanted to know how it all worked under the hood. Countering this curiosity was hesitation … insecurity even … over finding a web-hosting company to provide the sort of support I would need as an independent. I wasn’t even sure what kind of support I might need. So I asked around, did some research, bought a couple of names that suited my professional and personal needs, and found a company with the right stuff and price to assist. I took the plunge. Do I regret the outcome? Not a bit.
Getting the right name for your site can be a pain because many of the good ones have gone
You’ll need a good name for your domain. Keep checking through any of the many site registers attached to hosting companies. Once you find the name you want, you will register it and pay for the privilege for an annual fee which you will need to re-register. Prices can vary wildly depending on where you buy. I’d recommend registering your name with the site host of your choice. It will generally attract a discount. Shop around.
Finding a host is not difficult; there are dozens out there. WordPress will also sell you webhosting, and organise registration of a domain name for you if you wish, all from their site. However, it always pays to shop around, and WordPress are generous enough to suggest other commercial hosts that you might consider.
Finding the right host at the right price is really important
Have a read of 3 Things You Must Know Before Buying Webhosting from Chris Pearson, a web designer-developer who tells it like it is.
When I came to picking a domain host, I chose A2 WebHosting because they came highly recommended, and at the time I was searching had a 20% lifetime discount. I haven’t regretted going with A2. They’re reliable, have been terrifically supportive and have a live chat facility on their website during extended business hours. There is even phone support if you are desperate; one morning recently I was saved from hours of tinkering in a 5 minute call from Jeremy, an A-2er somewhere in the US who thought it would be faster if we did it this way. He walked me through choosing, downloading, and setting up my FTP account. It worked first time. I fell in love long-distance. No, I’m not getting any consideration for this … some link love never goes astray though. Of course, you pay for what you get anywhere, and most hosts will have various plans for various needs. As a beginner, go with the basic recommended plan; you can always upgrade later.
When you have registered your domain name and have signed up with a host, the very big learning begins. You package will almost certainly come with WordPress.org, web software included along with other services and applications. You then choose what you want, press the buttons and install. By the bye, I’m still finding my way around what’s called the CPanel Interface which manages my domain.
More on this next time, and how I survived installation, migration, picking a neat theme and playing with plugins …