WordPress.org for Authors

This is post is part of the ‘Choosing the right blogging platform – For Authors‘ series started five days ago. We’re going to move up from WordPress.com to the downloadable WordPress platfrom, and seeing how it fares for writing online.

The downloadable WordPress platform is the Firefox of bloggers – free, open source, reliable and powerful. The question is this: is it too daunting for the average author to use?

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Ease of Use

WordPress.org is very big on ease of use. Captions like ‘Our famed five minute install’ and its whimsical software upgrade pages poke fun at what they know to be a good user experience.

But while the application insists on its ease-of-use all through downloading, uploading, installing and then customizing, my personal experience two years ago with the platform, as ‘an average user of the internet (who understood basic HTML)’ deviated from the normal ‘5 minute install’, mainly because I used a dicky zip program, didn’t know what FTP was, and uploaded everything into the wrong directory. All in all it took me 2 hours to get everything up and running on my server. Not a good start for such a famed blogging platform, I thought then.

Hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere, don’t we?

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But i’m getting slightly ahead of myself in this review. Allow me to explain roughly of what consists of a WordPress installation.

First off, you download the package from WordPress.org. It contains a collection of files, mostly PHP, that make up the platform. You open up one file and edit a few lines.

Next, you get your hands on an FTP client (Filezilla is recommended) and then upload the hundred-plus files to a MySQL server. It must be noted that good, free and reliable hosts with PHP are very hard to find (in a year’s worth of searching for a friend the best i could come up with was F2O), but WordPress.org has a list of good hosts that you have to pay for.

Last of all you go through a breezy setup process that clearly shows why WordPress is so loved – smooth and easy, tongue in cheek.

WordPress sounds daunting, but for a platform as powerful as it is the setup and day-to-day running is well designed enough for almost anybody to use. Added features (through plugins) and themes are installed simply by uploading and activating (one click only). It’s top of the line where blogging is concerned, but if you ever intend to edit a theme or write a plugin with no knowledge of PHP, things get tough very fast.

Looks

I’ve already written about how good WordPress looks in my WordPress.com review, and everything is equally good, if not better with the downloaded version. Themes are created by a huge community of users, some good, others ugly not to my taste. The great thing about WordPress is that almost anything is possible in theme designing – Ajax, easy integration with Flickr, Flash, and it’s all done on a platform that’s dedicated to producing standards complaint code. If you don’t understand what that means just buzz it out and understand that it’s good, all good.

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Again, the only issue with all of this that I can think of is the steep learning curve associated with modifying WordPress themes. While CSS may not be very difficult to learn (and what i’m saying here is that PHP is, kinda) most authors on the street out there simply don’t have the time to learn how everything works and customize everything to their liking. But i guess there’s no way around this issue – Mark Jaquith recently wrote about how the tools we use to project ourselves and our work online still do matter, and that we’ll eventually reach a stage where the engine powering personal publising online (a blook, for instance) doesn’t, but till then you and I will have to deal with code.

Features

WordPress is way up there, feature-wise. It has everything you’ll ever need – and if it doesn’t you can just pop in a plugin to provide the features you want.

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Google sitemaps? Checked. Blog backups? Checked. Tags? Checked. Integration with *insert web service here*? Checked. The list goes on and on. But even without plugin functionality WordPress packs a punch. Categories, trackback, pingback, and individual RSS feeds for comments, categories and posts are all available, more than enough for any blook. This raises the question: is it all necessary for blooking? I personally don’t think so, but then again I’m sure there are people out there who don’t mind such a feature rich package.

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Support

WordPress users have a good support forum and amazing documentation to boot. Any bugs and problems are usually dealt with quickly, and newbies can quickly catch up on how it all works by reading one of the many fine articles in the codex, that cover almost everything about the platform.

Reliability

Sure, WordPress has its fair share of bugs and vulnerabilities, meaning there are cases of hackers threatening you with a blog takeover (why does that sound so funny?), but WordPress is open sourced, and a look at the WordPress trac shows that work is still progressing on the platform as we speak.

Updates to address bugs are rolled out so fast I barely had gotten used to installing and running WP2.1 when WP2.1.1 came out. And then I found out that WP2.2 is expected in 4 months. Wow.

Conclusion

This review has been positive right from the start. WordPress is easy to use, feature-rich, reliably and has great support. it’s clearly the best platform to blook with, but there are a few drawbacks. Customizing it is difficult if you don’t have the skills to do so, and you’re guaranteed to have to at least buy your own server or hosting plan to install the software.

Other than that, WordPress is perfect. Just be patient with learning how to code in it – i hear the learning curve is steep and i’m still at it.

Overall? Freshies beware. Others hop on.

Read the next in the series: Blogsome reviewed!

Possibly Related Posts:

Category: Blog Platforms · Writing Web Fiction
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  • deST

    Thanks for the post. I just tried to download and install WordPress on my host account. I know html and css fluently and have for years, but the ‘easy installation’ of WordPress was a complete flop. I couldn’t access an installation page.

    I finally deleted everything thinking the following ‘ease’ of using this product would be just as difficult.

    Why don’t they add just a tad more directions for installation, like what directory for starters? My directions on the readme file were “Upload everything.”

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    Hello deST. This post wasn’t meant to be used as a guide to install WordPress, though I’m glad to see I’m not the only one struggling with it in the beginning.

    I hope you’ve got it installed, because it really is a great tool, once you’ve got the kinks ironed out.

  • http://www.alexandraerin.com Alexandra Erin

    This is why I heart Dreamhost, which has a “one-click install” for WordPress.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    Fantastico! =D