The experiment is over. My daliance with WordPress is over. I fiddled around with it yesterday and Tuesday, but… it felt a bit like wearing a straitjacket.
I went through the wordpress.com subscription process, having justified to myself that the price of a subscription would be worthwhile I forked out the cash on Tuesday morning. My Blogger site imported nicely, seamless so far. Posts, pages, media, comments…the lot! I then wanted to set up all my domain credentials. With Blogger, I set up the domain, configured the name servers and DNS settings. Blogger said, if you want your domain to point here, just add a few domain prefixes in the DNS. Just like “www”. I added these and, bingo! With wordpress.com, it was a little different. A bit easier, I guess, for a novice user, but less control. wordpress.com just said, “point your name servers to us”, and they took over from there. I did find a way that I could subsequently manage settings through their site, but by then I’d made my decision.
I’m trying at this point to find an article which clearly explain what name servers and DNS are, but failing miserably on the “clearly” front. If you imagine you have a bunch of phone books covering a big city. Do you remember phone books? Well the name server is which one of the phone books you use, and DNS is your phone numbers in that book. A real-world example of DNS is where you type “www” in front of a domain name, to signify world-wide web.Against this record, is the address of a computer, the domain’s web server. Another typical value might be “mail”, say, which points to the mail server. I’ve been brief rather than acurate, but it is near enough.
When you buy a domain name, some companies (e.g. the company that I use) have their own name server (phone book). You use this by default. But you can also change to a different name server if you like. If you choose to stick with their phone book, you can set up whatever DNS entries you like. Like I say, this is your actual name and address. Full control, that’s why I use them. Beyond that, there’s basically a trade-off between control and ease of use. When I signed up with wordpress.com, I said I had the domain name already, and wanted to maintain ownership. You have the option of transferring management to them, but again you surrender control. The solution was for me to keep ownership of the domain, but to reset my name servers over to them, thereby surrendering control of the DNS entries. Obviously, they’d set the ones critical to the blog!
The blog it created looked decent, but I couldn’t configure the appearance anywhere near as much as I can with Blogger. It was frustrating, having this page in front of me, wanting to tweak it, and being unable. I mean, I’ll say early on that if you have no html experience, WordPress is probably easier to use to build a slick-looking web site, but it does that by hiding a lot of things away from the user. You might feel that if you’re starting a blog, you’ve got enough on your plate creating content as it is, but I was unimpressed. I tried to customise something called CSS, which are the instructions they send to a browser, to tell it how to display your page, but I was told that I needed a more expensive plan to do that. Having come from a free platform to start with, to one that cost £48 per year, you can imagine how happy I was to have to pay yet more! Getting cooler!
I did actually create a post in wordpress, although again there were fewer options than in Blogger. They had a nice effect where you could make the first letter of the paragraph bigger. This looked good, but posed problems when I subsequently tried to copy/paste the text into Notepad. Funny, one of the things that was missing, that I find invaluable these days, was a spell-checker. You’ve seen how badly I type! Cooler still.
I also found a funny where it looked like I couldn’t set up my email. An existing mailbox, an existing server. When I hit the links, it wanted to sell me a Gmail address, at more money per month. When you set up a Gmail address through Google, it’s free anyway. These guys were out to get every penny! Ironically, after I cancelled, I discovered a screen where this looked to be possible, but by then it was too late.
The last straw was when I attempted to contact their support team, to find out about this email business. I couldn’t actually get as far as making contact, merely looking at one page or another in their knowledge base. ‘Course, none of their articles covered anything as intricate as what I was looking for. I decided that a relationship with a company I couldn’t even contact was doomed to failure.
So, I’ve spend today putting everything back onto Blogger, including a bit of “rebranding” a new theme. I’ve even customised the CSS – in part, because I can.
There was one silver lining in the cloud – literally. Once I decided to stick with Blogger, I decided to do some tidying on wordpress.com. I figured, I’d bought this hosting plan for two years, the least I could do was to have it point to my real blog. Instead I found a button which at first offered to cancel my subscription (i.e. to not renew it in two years’ time) but this led to a button which allowed me to cancel my subscription immediately, including a refund. So at least I have my money back.
As far as I can tell, everything is safely back on Blogger, looking good and in full working order. The experience has cost me nothing but time. but really having gone through the process I understand only too well some of the pitfalls associated with wordpress.com. So, next time somebody tells me that they use wordpress.com, I’ll take note of their IT skill level!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure wordpress.com is appropriate for some users. If you hate the idea of going anywhere near html, you might like it, although with Blogger, you don’t need to write code either. Furthermore, with the core wordpress.org product, this gets rave reviews precisely for its flexibility, so I’m sure wordpress.com have taken a deliberate decision to eep things simple. And I’m told that wordpress has lots of shopping cart-type plug-ins (certainly with wordpress.com, more functionality equals a greater subscription cost) which are way beyond Blogger’s scope. Blogger is specifically written for blogging, no surprise there.
There is also a warning here. I was lucky to get the refund, but while I’m not earning I can’t really afford to spend that kind of money, without getting some kind of return. I must be more careful in future before committing myself to things.