It seems like just last year I posted that I had redone my website in Drupal and had gotten back into blogging, ok, gotten back into blogging somewhat. I am a pretty big fan of Drupal, I love their community driven method, the flexibility, the do it yourself of it all. As time went by though I found myself with less and less time available to deal with the community driven method of website development, lots of flexibility and the do it yourself of it all at the personal blog site level. Further I was especially stymied by the almost nonexistent support for blogging from mobile platforms. I tried various methods of dealing with this, but none of them felt as easy as anything on an iPad should feel and what was there seemed to rely on either hosting through Drupal Gardens or on running an outdated version of the Blog API module.
So for all those reasons and more this week I’m pretty happy to say that I’ve now ported this site over to essentially the anti-Drupal, WordPress. WordPress comes in both community and commercial flavors, but while I don’t think in 4 years of working with Drupal I saw a single paid module or theme that wasn’t custom work almost everyone I’ve found so far has at least some relationship with a commercial product in the same ecosphere. Even with that so far I’ve found it to be an economically viable option as long as free isn’t your ceiling. In this post I’m going to outline some of the things I’m finding helpful and some of the challenges and differences between the two I’ve had to work my way through.
I’ve historically maintained a little virtualized lab where I could run my very own Microsoft Exchange and Web Server environment but between Office 365 becoming a thing and my ISP not being the most self hosting-friendly provider out there that setup isn’t as attractive as it once was. So when I decided to go to WordPress I decided to go towards a managed WordPress service where they take care of the underlying CMS, backups, and server infrastructure and I just have to deal with content, look and feel. I shopped around a bit but in the end went with GoDaddy since one, they already host my name purchases and DNS and two, there always seems to be some good promo codes to keep cost in check. In the end I’m paying about $40 a year for their Starter package and I have a defined path upwards if my traffic increases.
Themes & Modules are now Themes, Plugins and Widgets
So in Drupal land pretty much everything under the covers for a particular site breaks down into
- Themes- control your look and feel
- Modules- provide additional functionality
- Blocks- Allow you to place little bits of content in specific areas
- Libraries- provide underlying services to both modules and Drupal itself
In WP this becomes Themes, Plugins and Widgets. The rough conversion here is modules equal plugins and blocks equal widgets. Thanks in large part to Kyle Beckman’s excellent post I found most of the functional plugins I needed fairly quickly, if you are looking to set up a blogging site I highly recommend this post as a starting point. The absolute starting point if you aren’t using WordPress.com as your hosting provider is JetPack which lets you get much of their functionality through other providers. JetPack is a load with a lot of functions so I invite you to look at it yourself rather than spelling it out here. JetPack really plays a big part if you are wanting to use the WordPress app on your iOS devices to manage your site.
Beyond what Kyle recommended I’ve added the Stop Spammer Registrations Plugin to augment Jetpack’s Akismet ability as well as Google Analytics by Yoast. Approximately 4 hours after my site went live I began being deluged by spam registration requests and Stop Spammer seems to be doing a very good job of keeping these in check since 2,989 fake registrations as of the time of this writing. While the statistics provided by Jetpack are nice, they don’t come close to the analytics possible with Google’s services. Also since my old Drupal site made use of the same I can keep historical information as well for both people who visit my site regularly.
In terms of look and feel I tried out quite a few themes that met my requirements. These included a responsive design with a sidebar, flexibility regarding what is seen and not, and finally, and I wouldn’t think this was a thing, support for inserting a logo. After working through a few I found Cryout Creation’s Mantra theme. With their over 200 available settings out of the box and the ability to access developer support quickly and easily for a €25 (approx. $34) this theme has fit what I was looking for right on the head.
While by no means will I ever consider myself a developer, I’m typically good enough with HTML and CSS to at least make things pretty. I would like to learn more about what makes WordPress go to tweak my themes and plugins a little more so I guess education will the next step. Luckily there are quite a few Video tutorials out there regarding WordPress including some from WP101.com that are included with my hosting package. I will most likely also make use of my PluralSight subscription as well for this.