I had a post accepted on WPMU Dev:
Let me say at the outset of this article that I love WordPress. I’m quite a fan. I’ve used both WordPress.com and the self-hosted version for years now.
Many people, however, do not share my views, struggling with it and disparaging it. I think, though, that most of the negativity about WordPress comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what it does and how it works. Have you fallen prey to one of these misconceptions?
WordPress is Easy to Use
When it comes to WordPress, you must make a distinction between which type you’re using. WordPress comes in two “flavors”: WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress. The main difference between the two is that your website “lives” on the WordPress.com server when you use that version, so you’re bound by their rules, and you control the server with the self-hosted or “.org” version. Those distinctions become important if you decide you want to promote your book or even sell your book on your website. On the .com version, their rules restrict you to links to your books. You may not use images in ads, such as the Amazon book widget, unless you pay a fee. Posting videos comes at a price as well.
Despite those restrictions, if you just want a basic, free website without worrying about much of anything, WordPress.com IS easy to use. A step-by-step wizard walks you through site setup, and you can literally have a site up and running in ten minutes.
WordPress is Complicated to Use
The self-hosted version of WordPress, however, is a full-fledged content management system. In the past, WordPress was just a blogging platform, but it has grown beyond those origins. Any powerful, full-featured software program will have a learning curve. But that’s one of the reasons that program is chosen. Take Camtasia, for example. If you’re not familiar with it, Camtasia is a video editing program with which you can produce amazing videos of frightening complexity–or you can import PowerPoint slide shows and record voice-overs. You choose Camtasia because of its complexity, because you want to be able to use all those features.
The same is true of WordPress. Sure, you can throw together a simple, basic blog using self-hosted WordPress, and it can be done in a matter of minutes. Or you can construct, as I did the other day, a Genesis-themed scrolling, widget-heavy, hero-imaged two-page site in about seven hours. It wasn’t difficult; it just took time to find and resize photos and create the content.
One of the factors making a site complicated is the number of plugins you use. Plugins extend the features of WordPress, allowing the addition of a stunning array of capabilities, like editorial calendars, events, testimonials, rotating image sliders, picture galleries, and many more. Each time you add a plugin, you’re increasing the complexity of the site. And because each plugin is (generally speaking) created by a different developer or team, and although they each (should) work with your current version of WordPress, they may not always play well together with each other.
WordPress Won’t Do What I Want It to Do
This misconception may not be one about what WordPress won’t do as much as what you can’t do on a webpage. People who have experience with Word or PowerPoint or even Publisher confuse the ability of these programs to create perfectly arranged print brochures and documents with the web. A webpage is a different entity altogether. While a brochure created to be printed will always look the same no matter what, a webpage must be viewable on a desktop monitor, a tablet, and a wide variety of phone screens with no loss of information. The only way a web designer has of making a site consistent for every viewer (not to mention visually-impaired visitors using a screen reader) is to adhere to web standards. These standards mean you can’t use just any font–your viewer may not have that font on her computer. And while there are ways to make multiple columns and fancy headers, the “fiddly” factor increases with every addition you make.
WordPress Gets Hacked A Lot
Here is a complaint that’s made about Microsoft products as well. The truth is, hackers focus on easy targets with a wide range of options, so they target what’s used the most. WordPress developers are very good about plugging holes in the software’s security. The problem is that users often don’t update their version of WordPress or their plugins and themes. That lack of updating is an invitation to hackers. Updating is an easy matter–just click and the program does it for you. For the sake of complete disclosure, you could still get hacked even if you’re keeping everything up to date–I’ve been hacked as a result of what I consider negligent hosting. So besides keeping your software updated, be sure you have a reliable hosting company.
Ah, That’s Better
I hope you feel better about WordPress after reading this post, or that you at least have lost some of your misconceptions. Feel free to ask questions in the comments! I’d love to answer them.
Have you ever heard of WordPress? Chances are pretty good you have, if you’ve looked into blogging or creating your own website. WordPress has grown tremendously from the days when it was merely a blogging platform, to the point where it can be considered a content management system. Twenty-five percent of all websites globally use WordPress.* Over 76.5 million blogs use it, with over 50,000 WordPress websites being added daily. Two point five billion posts have been written with it.
I love WordPress myself, and use it for numerous websites I’ve created. But I’ll confess, as it’s been improved over the years, it’s gotten complicated. That’s one reason I teach WordPress classes, to help users over the rough spots.
I recently did a brief survey of authors to find out what frustrates them about WordPress, out of curiosity and as an aid to creating future classes. I used SurveyMonkey. Twenty people answered it, so it was hardly a scientific study, but I suspect your answers would be similar.
Question 1: Do you have a WordPress website?
Question 2: How would you rate your feelings about the following aspects of WordPress?
The respondents were provided with a rating scale of very difficult, somewhat difficult, neutral, somewhat easy, and very easy. The choices were:
- Getting a domain name (URL)
- Getting hosting for your website
- Installing WordPress
- Installing a theme
- Getting the right settings
- Posting blog posts
- Posting website pages
- Adding images to pages or posts
Here’s how the above tasks were ranked in difficulty, grouping together very and somewhat difficult:
- Getting the right settings (46%)
- Posting website pages (33%)
- Installing a theme (30%)
- Installing WordPress (28%)
- Adding images (23%)
- Getting a domain name (0%)
- Getting hosting (7%)
- Posting blog posts (14%)
In the comments, additional frustration was mentioned with plugins and widgets, as well as choosing themes and getting support after the initial setup.
I hope you found these statistics interesting! May you have good experiences with your own WordPress websites!
*This and the statistics in this paragraph come from Craig Smith at DMR, http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/wordpress-statistics/
This article is second in a series on each part of the WordPress dashboard, as seen on my Maximum Author Impact website.
Valentine’s Day is approaching. Have you thought of lavishing a little love on your blog? Specifically the part where you actually type the words that allow you to connect with your readers.
Sure, you could have a website without posts, and some people do, but that feature of your website is there whether you share your thoughts and feelings or not. Let’s explore the features of this most commonly used section of WordPress.
Long Dark Permalink of the Soul
I’m pretty confident y’all know about that field on the top of the page where you type your title. But did you know that title also becomes the filename of your post? That is, it becomes the URL where Google and everyone can find you. Google is hungry for words, and the more sensical words you put in your title, the more likely readers interested in your topic will be to find you. WordPress provides many options for the permalink of your post. You’ll find information about permalinks in the Settings section of the dashboard menu, but essentially the permalink structure provides the format for your URL. You can choose whether you want the permalink to contain the title, or if you’d rather organize it by date. I recommend using the title.
If your title is too long, you have the ability to edit it by clicking the button of the same name beside the permalink. On this post, you’ll notice the title is much longer than the actual permalink. I clicked the edit button and shortened it. Note that all spaces and punctuation are removed automatically and replaced with dashes between each word.
Social Posts Made Easy
You may not have this feature on your Posts screen, but you really should. The CoSchedule editorial calendar is a fabulous plugin that will revolutionize the way you handle blog posting. It adds a social queue to the bottom of the window that looks something like this (click the image to see the detail):
While it’s on your mind, you can set up social shares for that day, the next day, a week after, and a month after, as well as any custom date you like. That way you’ll be sure to keep a regular flow of shares going. A bonus is the social analytics provided, so you’ll know what posts are your readers’ favorites.
That’s all for now!
I know, this should be the second in my Intimate WordPress series, but I wasn’t in the mood for that seriousness today. I had so much fun creating the image for last week’s post that I thought I’d share that process with you today.
Brought to You By the Letter B
What is that word in the title, bokeh? Pronounced either boh-kuh or boh-kay, the word is Japanese and is a photography term. It refers to “the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens,” according to Wikipedia. The referenced Wikipedia article contains all the technical details you serious photographers could ever want about how to produce bokeh, what cameras and lenses give the effect. For the rest of us, there are royalty-free bokeh images.
Go to just about any site providing free or paid-for images and type in the word “bokeh.” My favorite site for quick and cheap images is GraphicStock.* A search of the term yielded 2663 results. I’m sure you can find many ways to use bokeh images, but my favorite use is as a background. Download the image and pile your other images on top!
My go-to program for web graphics is Fireworks, but it’s not being updated anymore (thanks, Adobe). Whatever program you use for graphics, import or insert the bokeh you downloaded. If you have a choice of image size, go for the largest size available, so you’ll have the option to reduce it and still maintain quality.
On the left is a thumbnail version of the bokeh background I chose for the image I created above. In reducing the size of the image, I slid the background around until it displayed the way I wanted it to look.
Bokeh comes in a wide range of appearances and colors. Below is a screenshot of just a few on GraphicStock:
Put the Lime in the Coconut
To get the screen capture of the dashboard menu in the image I created above (as well as the GraphicStock image immediately above), I used my favorite clipping program, SnagIt. This TechSmith-originated program allows you to choose which section of the screen you wish to capture and saves it to your clipboard. After saving it as a separate file (in case I want to use it again), I imported on top of the bokeh background.
I wanted some kind of snazzy starburst thing to go on the image, so I created one using the shape tool, then created another and skewed it, changing the color slightly. And voila! A fun little graphic.
You could also use bokeh as a faint background to add a bit of texture. Just scale back the transparency. For more advanced users, create a masking layer for more dramatic effects.
Play around with bokeh! You’ll love its infinite variety as much as I do!
*Note: This is a referral link. If you click it, you can get 83% off a GraphicStock.com subscription. I get $20 for each referral.
This article is first in a series on each part of the WordPress dashboard, as seen on my Maximum Author Impact website.
If you’ve ever posted to a blog using WordPress, you’ve seen the dashboard menu, standing tall and proud on the left side of your screen. When you’re focused on typing your blog post, it slides unobtrusively out of site, slipping back again when you need it. Because the dashboard menu blends in to the background, you might take it for granted, only exploring various choices when you specifically want to change something. That’s why I thought it would be helpful to you (and, if truth be told, me) to embark on a series of posts exploring the WordPress dashboard in detail.
As you can tell from the image on the left, created from a snippet of my own dashboard, I have some plugins enabled that you may not have. I’ll discuss the choices I’ve made as we go along, but will begin with the menu choices that come as default items on everyone’s installation.
A Very Good Place to Start
When you install WordPress, and every time you access the “back end” of your website thereafter, you encounter the dashboard. The dashboard screen is composed of various widgets, or (according to codex.wordpress.org) blocks of information. The default widgets are At a Glance, Activity, Quick Draft, WordPress News, and Welcome.
The Welcome widget provides you with important links to help you get started. Once you’re familiar with all those functions, click the “Dismiss” link in the upper right corner, and it will disappear. At a Glance is quick snapshot of how many posts, pages and comments you’ve created, as well as what version of WordPress and which theme you’re using. Activity shows what posts you’ve recently published, as well as any comments. Personally, I’ve never used Quick Draft, but it’s a place to dash off a quick thought or post without actually going through the steps of creating one. Below that, WordPress News appears, letting you know about new versions or interesting discussions about WordPress.
Did you know you can add or delete widgets to the page, or change their location? The little arrow in the corner of each widget allows you to close or delete it. To move it–which will become even handier when you have multiple widgets on the page–simply click on the top and drag it to the desired location.
To See or Not to See
At the top of the dashboard is the Screen Options tab, showing you which widgets to display. If you uncheck one of the boxes, that widget will disappear. The tab features are specific to the page you’re on. Be sure to look at the tab if you can’t find some feature you know should appear on that page.
Tune In Next Week…
Please check my blog next week for the next installment of Intimate WordPress!