Today, we’re going to talk about WordPress, a popular content management system. The main tool discussed in today’s discussion is:
For centuries, the Christian Church controlled communication by refusing to translate the bible into local languages. This ensured that access to the Bible remained strictly controlled by the “haves” of the day, namely the priests and clergy. The common folk, or the “have nots”, regularly attended church and remained dependent upon the church to communicate the good news of scripture.
Everything changed in the 15th century with the introduction of the printing press. Johannes Gutenberg’s invention allowed for the fast dissemination of the printed word by the masses. The Gutenberg Bible was one of the first items mass produced on Gutenberg’s machine and it led to the democratization of the Christian Church, partially enabling the Protestant Reformation.
The Internet is the 20th century’s equivalent to the printing press and WordPress is arguably the best “print shop” within this framework.
Building a website can be as simple as putting a single text file on the internet with a bunch of text on it. Picture a scroll where you have a single piece of paper where you just keep adding content to the top or the bottom of the page. But this would quickly become overwhelming. The page would eventually get really really long and you wouldn’t be able to easily find anything. It would just be a jumble of sentences, paragraphs, pictures, etc. So yeah… it’s easy to put a website up on the internet. But it isn’t as easy to make it easy to post meaningful, organized and good looking content.
That’s where a content management system (CMS) comes in. Most CMS’s provides a few basic features:
- an editor: this is where you enter your content – text, pictures, video, etc.
- a content repository: this is where the content is kept. Text is usually kept in a database, pictures and videos are usually kept in a file system
- a presentation layer: this is a fancy way of saying that your content is displayed to site visitors in a fancy, eye-pleasing way
There are plenty of CMSs out there. WordPress, Blogger, Joomla, Drupal, Movable Type, and plenty of others. How do you choose the right one? There are a few considerations:
- features: does the CMS give you the things you need? Integration with your favourite social networks, including Facebook, Google+, etc.?
- the ability to migrate content to or from another CMS
- Ease of use
- self-hosted, hosted by a hosting provider or by the company that runs the tool(s)?
- total market share
- stability, security and ability to recover in the event of a problem with your site
- long term viability of the product
- I could go on… this list could be endless
The most popular platform out there today is WordPress. And for good reason – it ranks at the top for all of the above-listed considerations when determining which platform to use. WordPress is stable, secure, easy to use, easy to backup and recover and the total market share ensures long term viability of the platform.
And best of all is the price: WordPress is free!
You can download the WordPress software and install it on your own server or hosting platform. Most major hosting companies including Bluehost, Dreamhost, Go Daddy and others provide a “one click install”, allowing you to set up your paid hosting account with these providers and then quickly and easily install and start using WordPress. It really is that easy in most cases.
However, setting up a blog with these hosting providers does have its limits. These hosting providers provide you with a small slice of a server to host your site. If you start to get a lot of visitors to your website, your web server will have a hard time keeping up and your site will get slower and slower, to the point where people will stop using it because the pages will load too slow.
At that point, you’ll have to move your WordPress install to a premium hosting provider or host it yourself. In this respect, you’ve got a couple of options:
- Use a premium WordPress hosting provider like WPEngine or WordPress VIP. WP has a very reasonable plan that starts at $30 per month. WordPress VIP doesn’t publish pricing on their site, and they are more expensive than most. But they are also the best – WordPress VIP is run by the same folks that run WordPress.com. So yes, they do know what they are doing.
- Build and host your own server: You could use Amazon Web Services or a similar cloud service provider or you could do it the old fashioned way with a dedicated server hosted at your favourite data centre
There is one additional option here though. And this is the option that I’d recommend for pretty much everybody: WordPress.com offers free blogs and hosting. This is by far one of the best offers on the web and it provides one of the best ways of democratization of speech on the internet. WordPress offers the ability to set up your own blog, choose the layout and design from over one hundred free layouts (or “themes”), and the ability to post new content from anywhere, by using only a web browser.
You are slightly limited with this setup though: you are not allowed to embed ads in WordPress’s free blogs and you are limited in the layout choices offered to you. But this option is hassle and maintenance free. You are always on the most recent version of WordPress, the WordPress team ensures that your site is always secure and your site does not suffer from performance issues, no matter how many visitors your site gets.
WordPress.com does offer a few “upsells”. I recommend that you get the custom domain feature, which for $13 per year allows you to register a custom domain for your blog. I use this option so that my blog has the address wirepaper.com. With this feature, you essentially have a WordPress hosted site for just over $20 per year ($10 for your domain registration from Go Daddy and $13 for your domain mapping with WordPress.com).
Once your blog is set up, you need to:
- Pick a theme – this is the look and feel of your blog;
- Adjust the name of your blog and customize some of the general settings on your blog;
- Upload a custom header image; and
- Add, modify or delete some of the widgets in the sidebar of your theme;
- Write some blog posts
So what are you waiting for? Head over to wordpress.com, sign up and start blogging!