Author Blogging 101: Blogging Platforms & Why I Love WordPress

by | Jan 31, 2012

I had a book design website once. It was one of those “web 1.0” websites that you put up because you know you need one, or at least everyone says you do.

It was built with a nifty Mac tool called Rapidweaver and for what it was, it was okay.

It took a lot of time to design and build the 6 or 8 pages and I struggled to get it working right. There were pages describing services and some samples of books I’d designed. The usual thing.

Looking at the little website, I realized there was one question I couldn’t answer:

Why would anyone ever come here twice?

Once you had read about the services and looked at the samples, there was nothing left to do. It was depressing. I couldn’t see how it was going to do me any good, although now I could point people to my company’s website.

Enter Blogging

I tried to use the tools that came with Rapidweaver to add a blog to the site, but it just wouldn’t work the way I wanted it to. And that turned out to be my good luck.

I started reading about blogging, and discovered WordPress.

Even though I had been reading blogs for a while, I had no idea there were different blogging platforms with their own strenths and weaknesses.

For instance, right now you can blog lots of different ways:

  • With WordPress.org software on your own domain
  • On the WordPress.com domain, where you can get a blog for free
  • On Google’s Blogger.com, another very popular platform
  • With Tumblr, where people who seem to like posting photos or other creative work blog
  • On TypePad, a platform hosting many top blogs
  • Or on Movable Type, another robust blogging platform used by big companies and small.

(Note that some of these services are completely free, some have a free trial that then turns into a subscription, and some rely on you setting up your own domain with an internet service provider [ISP]).

Everyone seemed to suggest WordPress software, and I soon understood why.

What’s Great About WordPress

Since WordPress is the only blogging platform I’ve used, this doesn’t imply anything about any of the others. But I was immediately struck by how easy it was to do things that once took me quite a while. You could easily:

  • Add an article (or post, in WordPress language), for instance. This took a fair amount of work on my static website. With the WordPress software, it was a matter of dumping the text in, filling in a few fields, and hitting “Publish.”
  • Add a page. In WordPress, you can add a page as easily as a post, and just as quickly.
  • Add stuff to the sidebar. WordPress also makes this very easy, with a whole bunch of pre-coded things like “Favorite Posts”-type lists. Once you’ve done that, it’s pretty easy to add other things like badges and social media widgets, too.
  • Change the look. With thousands of different “themes” available free, you can change the whole look and design of your site in a moment. The ability to customize the software is built right in.

It turned out it was much easier to reproduce the pages from my old website—some of which are still somewhere on this blog—and have a hybrid site. WordPress, along with all the amazing add-ins from thousands of developers, make it possible.

Expanding in Many Directions

WordPress is open-source software, and encourages all kinds of software that extend the way you can use it in many directions.

  1. Themes allow you to change the look of the site, add hierarchy, organize content for use by lots of different kinds of WordPress installations. They can also include their own programming abilities, creating photo portfolios or complete e-commerce sites on top of the WordPress foundation.
  2. Plugins add functions like membership site credentials, e-commerce capabilities, spam protection, new classes of Pages you can create, and thousands of other things.

But for blogging, right out of the box, without much customization at all, WordPress is powerful software that’s

  • constantly being improved
  • is available free of charge,
  • is supported by a huge community of users and developers
  • can grow with you for years to come.

That’s why I love WordPress. It made the transition to real blogging fun and enjoyable and immediately understandable. And the software just keeps getting better.

Data

The Book Designer blog runs on the Thesis theme by Chris Pearson.
There are 12 widgets in the 2 sidebars and 19 plugins that do everything from filtering out 106,872 spam comments (as of today), to providing contact forms, doing search engine optimization, creating audio players and the floating social media share buttons sliding up and down the left margin.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

21 Comments

  1. heidi

    By the way, Joel, I love your blog & twitter feed – I always learn a lot. But the floating “share” bar is very distracting. Maybe just me, but just my two cents. Thanks for all the info.

    Reply
  2. Sherri McLain

    I’m just reading the WordPress manual (I copied and pasted all the how to blurbs on a word doc for easy reading). Getting ready to start my author blog. It does seem pretty easy. I had a blogspot blog that required a bit of basic coding to get it right, though I think now it’s more WYSIWYG like wordpress.

    Looking forward to exploring the plugins.

    Reply
  3. Henry Hyde

    I designed my first website in 1996. Hand coding, all the aggro of ‘the browser wars’ (do you remember tying to reconcile Netscape and Internet Explorer, folks?) and the agony of being a creative watching the world being taken over by technophiles half your age or less! My first commissioned website was over 500 HTML pages for a university department: it too months.

    By contrast, I have set up four WP sites since Christmas, and the only problems I’ve had relate to there only being 24 hours in a day. The availability of such a huge range of themes, plug-ins and widgets has transformed the way I approach site building and blogging. My current favourite theme is Suffusion, which is infinitely customisable..

    Reply
  4. Kate Newburg

    I agree! Love WordPress (both .com and .org). Thanks for the post!

    Reply
  5. Joel Friedlander

    Thanks, Sharon. I agree that’s it’s a good idea to own your own domain, which I’ve often suggested here. You’re building a real asset, and you want to own it.

    Reply
  6. Sharon Beck

    I have worked in website design since 1995, going through phases of handcoding, using (and teaching) FrontPage and Dreamweaver, but when we decided to start a series of blogs, I started using WordPress. Actually, I did use Blogger for a month, but quickly switched to self-hosted WordPress. The numerous plug-ins give it a lot a additional capabilities. I also have been using the Thesis theme, and love its power. One of my more developed blogs is https://blog.RetroCollage.com/

    I do strongly recommend people own their own domain, regardless of what platform they use, for two reasons. First, you can have total control over what you do with the website. If you don’t like the performance of the website host, you can move it. Second, by having your own domain name, you will have much better SEO results. So people who use Blogger, WordPress.com, and any other similar platform should consider the long-term benefits of complete website ownership. It is quite inexpensive now to buy a domain name and hosting.

    BTW, Joel, I do enjoy your straightforward blog design. It is very easy on the eyes, and has a friendly structure.

    Reply
  7. George Angus

    Joel,

    Been a Wordy guy from the get-go. I love it. My only bad experience was when I paid for a premium theme (A close Thesis competitor) and had nothing but problems, not the least of which was the sucky support. But, that wasn’t even really a WP issue.

    WordPress was my first blogging platform and it will always be the platform I use for any blog.

    Cheers

    George

    Reply
  8. James

    Couldn’t agree more–WordPress is the only meaningful choice for folks looking to get up and blogging quickly. It’s one of the most beautiful free tools out there.

    I love it for too many reasons to list, including that it’s open source, has an active and thoughtful developer community, and users are constantly helping to improve and extend it.

    Reply
  9. Jaye

    Joel, I’m a huge fan of WordPress. I’ve tried Blogger and LiveJournal, and while the sites are okay, what they aren’t is forgiving of amateurs.

    I see pros (as in people who actually understand programming and websites and widgets and gadgets) praising WP. For me, an enthusiastic amateur, it’s proved wonderfully forgiving of my fumbling around. I can actually understand their help pages. When I muck something up, at least I don’t lose the important stuff, and I can go back and undo the damage.

    When friends who don’t have much experience with webpages and blogs ask me for advice, I send them to WP. Just get in there and play. You’ll figure it out. And it’s fun.

    If I ever decide to get serious, WP makes it easy for me to do that, too.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      That’s pretty much why I started on WordPress too, the advice of bloggers I was learning from. And the premium themes that add lots of functionality to WordPress. With Thesis I got lots of control over the elements you need to address for search engine optimization and the ability to hire a designer to create a unique look to the blog. In fact looking through the Thesis gallery of example sites, it’s hard to believe they are all WordPress because they can be so heavily customized.

      But I agree Jaye that WordPress just makes getting great results simple for the beginner. Thanks for your input.

      Reply
  10. PD Singer

    I maintain a Blogger site for a friend and run my own on WordPress. I made that decision because WP supports unlimited static pages in a nested hierarchy, and Blogger permits 10 pages total, the rest have to be posts. The downside of WP is that to use javascript tools like Linkylist you have to be on a self-hosted (WP.org) site, but Blogger permits them.

    @Janice, you can migrate to WordPress.com (hosted) using the tools on the dashboard; it walks you through the steps. You set up your blog and populate it by importing the other blog. WP has a tutorial.

    Reply
    • Janice Lane Palko

      Thanks for the help. Migrating the blog will probably be this weekend’s project. Thanks.

      Janice

      Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      And even if you need to start from scratch, the entire process of arranging a domain name, setting up a hosting account and installing WordPress from a “1-click install” is likely to take less than 15 minutes.

      Reply
    • Heidi

      Thanks for the migration info; I’ve been considering this as well. I have a website that I built with iweb, and a blogger blog. Apple is pulling it’s web hosting service, so I will have o move the site. I thought it would be more streamlined to have the site and blog merged together on wordpress.
      Question: when migrating your blog, will your “blogspot.com” address now point to your new wordpress url? I’m concerned about established readers still being able to find my blog.

      Reply
      • Sharon Beck

        Heidi, yes, you can set up a redirect from your old blogspot.com address. It is in their settings. It will not automatically send the user to the new address but will rather alert them that they will be sent to this new location. It asks permission. This will give them a chance to change their bookmarks. My redirect is still working a year and a half later.

        Reply
        • Heidi

          Thanks, Sharon!

          Reply
  11. Janice Lane Palko

    Hi Joel,

    Your site is so informative. I have a Blogger site, but at the magazine where I work I use WordPress. WordPress seems to be more versatile. I’d like to migrate my blog to WordPress. Do you know if that’s possible? And if so, how difficult?

    Reply
  12. Russell Brooks

    I’m a Blogger guy, but I have nothing against WordPress. Maybe had I started out with them I’d still be with them. But they’re both professional platforms and a must for every author.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Very true, and the more you want to stay with straight blogging, the less difference it makes. There are some hugely successful blogs on Blogger, so no reason not to use it.

      Reply
  13. Turndog Millionaire

    I love WordPress too, i just think it looks SOOOOO clean and professional. I look at a lot of Blogger sites and they just seem, dare i say, amateur. Whereas WordPress Blogs tend to look like they’ve been done by someone who knows what they’re doing.

    I have zero web skills, so for my site to look the way it does is quite frankly a miracle.

    I do need to upgrade to a wordpress.org soon. The prospect of learning code and what not is daunting though :0

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Matt, I don’t know code, and you really don’t need to in order to make use of the power of WordPress. There are some tasks you might want to outsource, but most can be done by virtually anyone smart enough to write a decent blog post and there are tutorials in many places to help you get started.

      Reply

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