You may not have noticed as recently I’ve disappeared into the dark, cold abyss of the blogging world – but I’ve actually been hard at work improving my site. How have I done this? Well, if you’re reading this, then you’ll have noticed that my theme has changed. I was going to say again, but in the 2 or 3 years I’ve been blogging my theme has always been the same. Because I loved it. I mean, I changed the graphics in the theme pretty often which gave the illusion of a theme update, but not much else.
Ah, damn, I’m getting nostalgic. Let’s look at my old theme.
Ah, so pretty. Well, this one’s nothing to scoff at either – seriously, go check out the homepage and cry with me. It took me ages, but it’s so pretty that it’s worth it.
Now, the thing you may notice about this theme is that it’s distinctly . . . Not WordPress.com. Because, for all the love I have for WordPress.com (and it’s a lot; I love you, I need you) the themes are very limited.
No, this theme is a WordPress.Org theme, which means . . . I upgraded! (Kind of. Really more transferred. And it was a very spontaneous thing as I accidentally locked myself in a year long hosting contract that was going to waste, so I really figured I’d just give it a go and ended up jumping in the deep end). Anyways, it’s been a pretty interesting experience so I decided to write a post sharing my thoughts on it for anyone that’s considering making the move. If you’re a blogger, I’d recommend giving it a read – you might find that one host suits your needs a lot better.
- You control everything.
One thing I underestimated is quite how much there is to do with your own site. On WordPress.com, you’re pretty limited – although, unless you’re specifically looking to do something you can’t (ads, certain HTML things like MailChimp, etc), it generally doesn’t feel like it. However, going self-hosted really opened my eyes to the kind of things that your website can do. It’s amazing; the sky is honestly the limit. Even things like individual page design can be altered – and, if you find a plugin you like and learn to use it, you can do it pretty easily. An example of this is that I now have a fully integrated web store in my blog. Bearing in mind how many visitors I get through things like gift guides, this is definitely a potential earner for me.
- Design. All I need to say.
If you’re a WordPress.com user, you’re probably no stranger to design envy. It’s possibly the one thing I think WordPress.com lacks in – the design is . . . well, it’s painful. You have to get pretty creative to get anything unique or individual and if you have a specific vision the likelihood is you won’t be able to recreate it. WordPress.Org has no such limitations and the design freedom (and amazing free themes) is a massive pro.
- But there’s a lot of room to go wrong with WordPress.Org
Now, this isn’t my first WordPress.Org site, so I’ve tackled a lot of the problems before, but the difference between .com and .org is like buying from Argos and from China. One comes essentially pre-built and all you have to do is slot the pieces together and one comes in a million tiny pieces with a instruction leaflet written in bloody symbols. There’s a lot more work, assembly and room for error with WordPress.org.
- And it’s a LOT more work.
Seriously. You need days, not mere hours, to tackle setting it up. Some things aren’t compatible, some things are extremely confusing and some things just plain don’t work. You have complete control over everything – which is great, but also means that you have to actually do everything. WordPress.com is a lot easier and quicker.
- So. Many. Options. Maybe too many.
Naturally, it’s amazing to have millions of free resources available at your fingertips – however that kind of leads into that “I have so much choice that I can’t decide” issue. If you have a really clear cut idea of what you want, then you’ll be able to instantly find what you’re looking for and, unlike with WordPress.com, you’ll be able to create exactly what you want. If you don’t, expect to be like a kid in a candy store with a strict budget – so many options, so many choices, so much pressure and self-doubt pushing you to pick the right thing.
- It’s incredibly inspiring.
As a pretty creative person, I haven’t felt this inspired in ages; there are so many new things to explore now. My posts can be way more exciting and there’s just so much more possibility. At the moment, I’ve been focused on getting the new theme functional and making sure my content copies over correctly, so I haven’t had a chance to explore all the things I want to do – but it feels like watching your presents pile up under the tree at Christmas. Example: check out my Minimal Bedroom Inspiration post; I had so much fun playing with the layout for that.
- It opens a lot of doors.
If you’re . . . I don’t want to say a “serious” blogger because you can be a serious blogger and need nothing more than plain text posts, but if you’re a blogger that wants to expand or monetise, WordPress.org opens a lot more doors to you. Even simple things like being able to embed Amazon widgets or MailChimp sign up forms aren’t available on WordPress.com. A lot of the time you’ll become really inspired by other bloggers and want to implement something on your blog . . . only to really WordPress.com doesn’t support that feature.
- Google Analytics.
I need to say nothing.
To conclude, I wouldn’t say you need WordPress.org. In fact, for most of my audience I don’t even think I would recommend it purely because it is a lot of work. You have to genuinely enjoy design, creating websites, testing and tweaking – and you need a good weekend of spare time. For a vast majority of people, the additional functionality just isn’t all that necessary. However, if you really want to take your blog to the next level it’s a great way to start. And if you’re a design/website-designing junkie like me, WordPress.org is like an early Christmas present to yourself.
Needless to say . . . I’m back, kids! And so very, very excited to be bringing you new posts. (Also: my domain is still connected to WordPress.com through Jetpack, so you’ll still receive me on your reader and I’ll still have you guys on mine, so from that point nothing has really changed.) Also, I’m upgrading my Blogging 101 posts with a few videos (all under 5 minutes) for those of you that might prefer it – so watch the introduction below and tell me your thoughts. And maybe some suggestions/blogging questions you want answered.
All the love, guys. (Also – let me know if you like the new site!)