As most of my readers know, Pelokee has always been an online development persona that I’ve used to separate professional and personal experimentation and education. This site has gone through countless permeations including being hosted on an IIS server on my floor running .Net Nuke, DreamWeaver, free Blogger (Google) pages, free Yahoo pages, and most recently an account at WordPress.com. I have been using WordPress for the last two years or so and have absolutely loved it. The ease of setup, use, and a good selection of themes have made it a real joy to use and play with.
I have just finished transitioning this site from a free WordPress.com account to a WordPress.org site that I am maintaining myself, and I wanted to share the experience as I was unable to really find a lot of info on the subject when I was researching the change.
I have been gradually gaining more experience with building websites and have recently been setting up more and more of them for clients. I was starting to feel some growing pains with my own site as I was not really able to include my own code in the sidebar widgets and most notably, WordPress.com does not allow affiliate advertisements. Additionally, I wanted to tweak some things in the template I use and add some more interaction but you really don’t have these options with the free site. I read through the forums and it looked like my answer was establishing my own site built on the WordPress.org software.
For clarification sake, WordPress.org is basically a web publishing platform that is freely distributed. Similar to DotNetNuke, PHPNuke, Joomla, and countless others, the WordPress software makes it relatively easy to build a website and publish content to it. The lines are blurring between a blog, a website, and a content management system (CMS), but whatever ‘concept’ you are looking for, WordPress makes it pretty easy to get a professional looking site up and running.
To get started with WordPress, you simply need to download the software, set up a database, and copy the files to an appropriate location. If you are interested in knowing what is involved, there are great instructions and guides for getting you going under numerous scenarios. You can set WordPress up on either Linux or Windows platforms, but Linux gives you much greater flexibility and is the recommended way to go. Because WP is open source software, there are thousands of extensions, plug-ins, and themes available for free download. These extensions are what allow you to customize and add spice to your site without having to be a programmer.
To use the WordPress.org solution, you essentially need:
- A web host – whether it be on a web server you set up yourself at home, a hosting provider, etc.
- A domain name – you’ll need to purchase a domain name
- The ability to FTP files to/from your PC to the location your site is hosted at
- A database – MySQL
- PHP – a general purpose scripting language that integrates into HTML
While these are no-brainers to deal with for some people, others will find them overwhelming and may cause them to give up if you are just trying to get your content online.
On the other hand, WordPress.com allows anybody to create a free account and start building their site. This site uses the same WordPress.org software but removes the need for you to provide the back-end pieces required to make the software work. No hosts, no databases, no scripting knowledge necessary. Obviously, there are tradeoffs including the ability to use your own HTML code, limited templates/themes, storage is limited to 3gb, and you cannot add plug-ins to your site. But for most people, this is the best place to start your new idea. Remember, the site you are reading right now lived and grew on the free site for two years!
I was easily able to import all of my existing articles to the new site, so you will not lose your work should you decide to make a switch at a later time. One note – I did have to recreate all of my links (blogroll) on the new site.
I have been using 1&1 as my hosting provider for a few years now. I have a few professional websites hosted there under the Microsoft package and I had been using the included website builder application to create and publish the sites. I was really itching to use a more flexible publishing package and once I realized what I could do with WordPress, I switched to a Linux package. I do know that both 1&1 and GoDaddy don’t allow you to use their MS packages to host WordPress sites, but you may have luck elsewhere if you are bent with using a Microsoft package.
Let me just interject now and say how happy I am that I switched to the Linux package! There are just so many more open-source (meaning FREE) options available to you when you use a Linux platform. With that comes the requirement that you have to know a little bit about Linux, but any enthusiast will be able to make his way through it. You can just about Google any Linux question or problem you have and get an answer. This makes it very easy to start learning the platform.
Once I had my Linux hosting plan set up at 1&1, I then created a MySQL database and edited wp-config.php to include the database account information. Using WinSCP, I uploaded the WordPress files to my host. After that, I just had to point my local browser to my new domain name and installation is literally a page where you provide a name for your site and an e-mail address.
In conclusion, I would suggest considering a switch to WordPress if you find yourself thinking:
- You are willing/able to manage a hosted website either at home or through a provider
- You would like to increase the number of templates and plug-ins available for your site
- You would like to customize or create your own templates
- You would like to include ads on your site such as Google AdSense
I have learned a lot through this process and have found a lot of good resources along the way. Let me know if you have any questions or get stuck with something. You can comment below, send me an e-mail, or visit our new forum and post your questions there.