Website Setup on WordPress.org

First, if you have landed here looking for information on setting up your website, you may want to go back and search again 😊

This is the story of my attempt at setting up my website, in the ‘1 step forward 2 steps back’ way.

After all, I setup my wordpress.com free website in a matter of few hours. And within days, it was looking perfect and everything seemed smooth and nice. So, I start thinking about what’s the big deal in having my own domain name (many bloggers seem to have written articles recommending it). My wordpress free site’s name was just fine and I was quite happy with it, nevertheless went on a hunt for information on having my own domain name. Quickly realized domain name alone doesn’t cut it and I needed paid hosting too, to call it my own. So, I continued in the quest of creating my own website, more than anything to call it my own. The domain, content, the credits and the full 9 yards. I figured that you can build a website the traditional way or the WordPress way. WordPress competitors do exist, but my research showed worpress.org was way ahead of others and more suited for website newbies, so I stuck with them. Plus, it only takes a few hours on their free website, how much more can it take on my own website…Boy, was I wrong!

Not everyone is lucky enough to know wordpress.com and wordpress.org are two different entities. The fact I knew it before embarking on my own website creation, somehow made me superficially confident. I painstakingly viewed every video tutorial out there and read articles on ‘How to setup wordpress’ on your hosted site. Only to find later, my hosting provider was kind enough to provide me with a guided click and install of wordpress. With mixed feelings, I ignored all my newly gained knowledge about the manual install, I proceeded anyway with the easy install. Is that it? My site is up already! All I needed to do was switch the theme to my theme which I really liked and used on wordpress.com, and I should be good. So, I search and search all over but cannot find my theme! Ah, there goes another bubble bursting. Not all the themes available in wordpress.com are available in wordpress.org. There starts the hunt for the elusively perfect theme. Again, the web is full of articles that will ‘help’ you find your right theme. So, I spend a few days picking and re picking  themes based on articles I am reading. Sadly, every one turns out to be a dud. Until, I realize that WordPress.Org themes are best examples of ‘Do not judge a book by its cover’. Oh yes, the beautiful demo screen that might lure you into activating the theme is well and good, but until you figure out how to customize and configure, everything will turn out to be a dud. Now, I have no knowledge to create my own theme nor am I interested in learning it. So, I continue my trial and error hoping to find my match someday.

Then I make an interesting discovery. Even if a theme is available in both wordpress.com and wordpress.org, it is highly unlikely they have the same usability and features. Thus enters my next big friend and foe, in the form of ‘Plugins’.  Plugins are somebody else’s code you borrow to make your themes do what they appear to do on the theme demo page, and some more. By the time I finished this exploration, my extremely clean looking ‘Plugins’ page was busier than a stadium full of people at a ball game, and some unruly ones too. I downloaded, activated and deactivated more than I could keep track of. By the end of it, I had seen the ‘Good Bad Ugly’ of plugins several times over. And yes, I did gather my next round of knowledge via tutorials, articles and demos on plugins. All the nice recommendations and ratings are fine, but you realize after installing a plugin the raters were talking about the paid version and not the free version. After all, there is no free lunch. Still, I tried. During the process, I also ended up in various scary looking support forums. It’s amazing what the world knows and you don’t. Undeterred I continue on my quest, until I hit the next hurdle – Images.

I have uploaded tons of pics to facebook, and done enough trial in wordpress.com, so I felt confident about this one. And images are foundational to a travel oriented blogs after all. Within a matter of 5 pictures I realized simply adding the pic to the library and attaching it to a post doesn’t cut it. I am still reading about this topic and figuring out the best ways to optimize the images and website. What simply popped up effortlessly on my wordpress.com website was taking awfully long times and painfully rendering the images at a speed that even I wouldn’t wait to see. I tried a galore of gallery plugins and other remotely connected plugins associated with images. The more I find, the farther behind I seem to be going.  I have to say I am far from where I want to be, but I am also farther from where I do not want to be. Somewhat of a happy ending for now. Be kind to me if the images don’t behave.

By now you would have realized like I did, the free wordpress.com site works magically because every plugin and widget you need and want is accounted for you behind the scenes. Trying to find the same or matching ones on wordpress.org is painfully time consuming. I kept searching for the ‘mapping from wordpress.com to wordpress.org’ article but never found what I wanted. Anyways, Themes, Plugins, Customizations and Configurations nearly done…finally I have time to think about my core travel content and focused on structuring that well. While I do this, I also need to keep circling into the world of website administration and maintenance including security, performance, version upgrades. That’s a bigger can of worms. More on that another time 😊

There is a lot to know in the word of website creation, especially if you are not a web developer. Using a CMS like wordpress makes it easy, but there are a lot of blindspots and pitfalls, to watch out for. Overall, I am happy that there is a framework like wordpress, even though the flexibility with the choices bogs you down. What matters is there are nice and friendly people out there who really want to help you succeed, while making a few dollars via digital marketing. My sincere thanks to these folks and to you for successfully getting to the end of my rant!

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