My Thoughts about WordPress, on WordPress

Since moving my blog to WordPress exactly one month ago, I feel that I have used enough of the functions of this site to give an informed opinion on it. I’m not a heavy duty professional blogger, just some guy who likes to type random stuff. The short version is that I’m quite happy with the service provided, after trying out competitors such as Google’s Blogspot (fast, but lacking in some vital features, clumsy at times) and Tumblr (sparse, limited options). However, note that I am using the free WordPress hosted version which has less customisability than a self-hosted WordPress implementation (it’s open-source). My thoughts on WordPress as follows:

Features/Admin Panel – Very full featured, with easy access to admin panel (called Dashboard). Admin panel is PHP page, made up of drop down menus in modules and a central editing section. Most things seem logically laid out, except the option to switch off spell and grammar checking is buried within the ‘personal settings’ not ‘settings’ or ‘writing’ section. In addition, if you select the HTTPS version for extra security, it takes exponentially longer to do anything. However, it does use the full page, unlike Blogspot’s admin panel. Modular addins can be added and re-arranged as per Blogspot. The range of modules seem more diverse and complete.

Editing – Editing is done in one of two modes, Visual (which works like Word with it’s control panel, and invisibly implements the HTML code in the background), or the hands on HTML mode (which is useful for embedding videos or javascript). I found some annoyances in the Visual mode, generally to do with line spacing inconsistencies. For example if you hit Enter to start a new paragraph, but then press backspace to cancel that, a paragraph space will still remain, which can be annoying if you’re making a listing. I generally resort to shift-enter to do a new line now, instead of new paragraph. Apart from that, all functions work well: quick access buttons at the top to add images/movies/music/polls. No, I’m not planning on putting music on these pages and making it into a Myspace horror.

Themes – Long gone are the days where you had to design your page’s CSS from scratch to get started. Pre-made templates are present on nearly all of the above mentioned solutions, and it’s just a matter of choosing one you like. Further customisation can be done later if you can be bothered. For me, as long as I get the information across in a way that doesn’t hurt reader’s (or my) eyes with gaudy design, then I’m happy with that. I’ve so far seen three other sites which look exactly like mine. Good in that it looks OK and it shows more people are using WordPress, bad in that, well it’s the same.

Stats – With some other hosted CMS solutions, obtaining visitor stats can be tedious. Example being having to implement Google Analytics javascript in Blogspot, or another 3rd party solution like Webtracker. These work, and they work well, however for casual blogs like mine, or for people not technically inclinced, it can be daunting. WordPress has built in stats which are fairly full featured, showing referrers, exit pages, visitors, most popular pages, all divisible into specific time periods. The main stat graph also highlights a specific days events (for example if you move your mouse onto a spike in visits, it shows you what you did on that day). It’s not as detailed as Analytics, but it’s OK. It also automatically discounts your own visits so you don’t skew the results.

Comments/Links – Vital feature in this day and age, interestingly enough I could not find this feature on Tumblr, maybe it has to be manually added in? In any case, the comment system here works fine, with the ability to request approval by author, or even disallow anonymous comments if required. Comments are set by default to send you email notification.

Feeds/RSS – A big time saver for readers, no site should be with RSS facility (or at very least, email subscription). You can also set RSS to show an excerpt from an article only, not the full article.

Backup / Migration – Import and Export functions are quite comprehensive, covering many of the other major CMS sites. I manually imported mine through an XML export in Blogspot (just to test it), and everything did work fine. However in some of the posts embedded pictures went missing, but apart from that, it was OK. Backup is done into XML files with a few clicks, good for keeping a record in case WordPress goes under.

Mobile – WordPress now has a free Android app, which I had a play around and posted a test post with. It does the main functions like text formatting, links, categories and quotes, as well as being able to attach pictures (from the phones local gallery, which in turn is linked to Picasa). You can also take a photo immediately with the camera. However, more advanced functions like alignments, spell checking, colours are not supported at this time. Generally would be used if you had some free time on the road, wanted to record your thoughts, but just upload and not publish it. Then visit the PC later, fix the formatting and then publish. There is also another free app called ‘WP Stats’ which allows you to quickly check your visitor stats. However, the latest iteration of WP appears to have broken the scrape. I haven’t checked this program for updates in a few weeks though, so it may already have been updated.

Ads – When you first sign up to WordPress, they inform you that they may run Google text Ads on your page. That’s to be expected with a free hosted site, but I never noticed any of these ads and never thought anything of it. However, my friend Kenny pointed out that there were Google ads on the site. It turns out they are invisible for the site creator (yes, I even turned off my ad blocker), but not for anybody else. So I do apologise that viewers will need to put up with the ads. Use an ad-blocker if it bothers you too much. I guess WordPress has to pay the bills too, since site creators like me don’t get any share of that revenue at all, just the free service.

Future – So far so good. Can’t really complain about anything, I don’t feel a need to fiddle with the themes or appearance too much. I just type what I need, it saves the drafts every couple of minutes and hasn’t let me down so far. If anything the speed could be a bit faster, but I guess with a Javascript heavy site it’s to be expected. Also it’s the free, WordPress-hosted version, I’m sure a self-hosted version on good hardware and connection might be quicker. I’m looking forward to using WordPress for many articles to come, thumbs up to WP.

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