Ever wondered what WordPress can do other than blogging? Remember when websites were only for those who could afford them and having a website of your own wasn’t really feasible for ordinary folk?
And then came WordPress. What happened was a clever techie chap decided he’d create some software, which could build a website for people without specialist skills or loads of money. So he made a site and some pages that people could use, so they could change the photos and text of his original to make it their own, and thus create their own free website. The design he created was called a template, and the whole programme he named WordPress. The scheme really took off. Now there are well over 2,700 free templates, and many more available at a variety of costs if you want to splash out.
What’s more, he made it open source, so there is no copyright, no-one owns it and its free to use and always will be. Open source also means anyone can add bits of code to personalise their own version, though capable people update the whole thing. Many people do make it their own, because talented developers add bits of programme that we can choose to use or not, like mailing lists and special effects. It looks good on their developer’s CV, so its a win win situation. WordPress is a big hit; anyone can now have a website that they can make exactly their way, for a minimal price. Now its reckoned that around 25% of websites are powered by WordPress – its not just people on a budget, even the Rolling Stones use WordPress.
So what are the options if you’re thinking of setting up a site? There are now two different sorts of WordPress – wordpress.com and wordpress.org – and there is a difference in how they are managed, and the costs involved.
Firstly, you need somewhere to keep your website so people can see it. Your own computer isn’t set up to do it, so you need a space on someone else’s specialist computer. This is known as hosting. WordPress.com does this and is free for a few pages, but there are drawbacks. Only a few pages are free, you might have to have adverts on your site, you have to choose one of their themes, and if they don’t like your site they just take it down. There are restrictions on all sorts of things and if you want to change things you have to pay. I suppose they’ve got to make their money somehow. Its around £80 a year as at 2015, more for your own name.
There is, to my mind a much better deal. WordPress.org runs in a very different way. The software is totally free but again you must have somewhere to put it that isn’t your own computer, hosting. A Google search will give you any number of companies. In my experience those that come at the top of the list are expensive. I wanted a cheap price, lots of space, UK helpline, short waiting times to be answered, and knowledgeable service. I didn’t want much, eh? I got all that, plus room for loads of pages bulging with photos, videos, a shop and all sorts. I got that from TSO host. I knew nothing when I went to them and they talked me through the whole lot and downloaded WordPress to my own site. I bought my domain name through them (easier than trying to match up a site name with the pages elsewhere. That was around £10, the hosting is £2.99 a month (in 2015), and that was all I needed to get started.
At first I had to watch a lot of videos to see how it worked, and they’re all free too. But now I’m pretty good at zipping around it, and if I fancy changing the colour or something, I can do that with the press of a few buttons. There are extra bits of software you can use to tag on features; they’re called widgets and plugins. You look for what you want via the management pages of your website. Say you want an emailing list, find a plugin that does what you want, read the reviews just to check if it’s okay or not, click a few boxes and, hey presto, its added a bit of code for you and job done. I love the freedom its given me.
Of course there is a drawback. As WordPress is developed by so many people, there isn’t one central person you can go to for support, though lots of people will know a lot. Each plugin or widget will have a developer you can approach for help, but mostly you go to one of the dedicated message boards and ask on there. Its not as scary as it sounds, and pretty soon you’ll be answering questions yourself.
And you know what else I like? The language. There are all sorts of zany terms for humdrum items. For example there is one button which you click and then a whole load of other menus come up and you’ll never guess what its called. Because it contains so many useful functions its called the kitchen sink! Isn’t that sweet? Its the only kitchen sink I can happily use without getting an attack of the heebie jeebies!
I’ve dotted a few screenshots of websites built with WordPress, hope you like them. There even a new plug-in called moo berry dreams, especially for authors, which lists your books and uses the information to prepare press releases and other things leaving more time for writing. See mooberrydreams.com