This site has been powered by the open source product WordPress since way back in 2007. In the old days if you wanted a website you’d hand-code it, meaning you’d need to learn about such exciting technologies as HTML and, well, that was about it. Then along came WYSIWYG (that’s What You See Is What You Get) editors like Microsoft FrontPage and NetObjects Fusion that allowed you to focus on the content of your site without delving down into the blood and guts of what made websites work. Of course it never really worked out that way as the sites didn’t quite look the way you wanted. Plus you had to run software on your desktop PC that build and copied the contents up to your web server. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
This eventually changed and web-based products like Movable Type and WordPress came along that meant you could make your site look the way you wanted (by either delving into the blood and guts or choosing a style designed by someone else) then easily post and update the content through your web browser from anywhere.
As the years passed WordPress has gotten better and better and I’ve tweaked and evolved my site design frequently to freshen things up. I’ve also added custom functionality that I’ve built myself on top so it was just the way I liked it (I can be a bit fussy).
The interesting thing about WordPress is that there’s a free version – WordPress.org – you can download and install on your server (the one I’ve been using) and, within a few minutes, be publishing to the world. You’re in complete control and can do anything you want including installing any of the thousands of plugins available. But there’s also a different product called WordPress.com which you don’t install on your server, it’s hosted for you. It’s run by the company automattic and while you can create a blog (or site) for free and start publishing immediately, there is a catch (or advantage depending on your point of view). You can’t create plugins or write custom code meaning your ability to change your site’s behaviour is somewhat limited.
While you don’t get anywhere near as much control as WordPress.org running on your own server you do get a lot of cool things. Firstly, it’s built on an infrastructure that hosts some of the highest traffic sites on the internet – and handles it easily. This means you don’t have to worry about keeping your server up and running – they do it for you. Next, as time’s passed I noticed that while I’ve had to write custom code to do some of the nice things I wanted (like supporting photo albums, contact forms, etc), these kind of features and much more now come for free on WordPress.com. There are also things that are actually way beyond what I had and would require some tricky coding to replicate like photo album slideshows, syncing to twitter, Facebook, etc and many other cool things.
Then I spotted a $99 / year upgrade package that gives you the custom theme design option, domain mapping (so I could continue to use johnsadventures.com as my URL), 10GB of space and VideoPress (which I already use for uploading videos). I decided that “what the hell” I’d move my site over as a change is as good as a rest! If I didn’t like it I could always move back. This gave me an opportunity to freshen up my site design a bit and use the cleaner fonts and styles from one of the default themes (twentyeleven) and I’m rather pleased with the result – it’s not hugely different, just better in a lot of small ways. Migrating over my content was dead easy (as were all my images), the design itself took me a couple of nights to do and the transition has been reassuringly simple.
If you’re reading this through a tool like Google Reader then come over and take a look around! Find a photo album and click on one of the pictures, for example. And if you’re reading this on a mobile phone you’ll notice a lightweight theme that’s fast, mobile friendly and much better than having a shed load of graphics loaded before you can squint at tiny text. I’m sure I’ll write about some of the neat features of the platform in time but as I’ve been telling anybody who’ll listen – if you want to start blogging or put a website together then WordPress.org or WordPress.com are my tools of choice!
The only slightly annoying thing is while I trawl through my pre-WordPress posts bringing the pictures on-platform (I don’t have to do it but I’ve been meaning to do it for years) Google Reader treats these updates like they were new posts. If that’s how you keep up to date with things you might like to unsubscribe for a while and keep an eye on my twitter page for new posts!