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.