Using WordPress – why and for how long?

A new member of my work community just commented on my blog being here at WordPress rather than separately hosted with its own URL and all.

So here’s a blog post about it, and an opportunity for further conversation with anyone considering these questions.

First, I agree. Real blogs should be hosted by your nearest awesome ISP (which I have), and have all the serious trappings that come with that. I’m a firm believer in doing things the substantial way whenever possible, for best results and also because that inherently benefits the whole business community.

Right now, though, I’m here. Temporarily.

A little background: I worked at Minnesota Regional Network from 1997 – 1999, back when they were the backbone of the internet in the state of Minnesota (along with the University of Minnesota). That was a great experience. I remember looking at websites for the first time when I started there, back when there weren’t all that many on line (many times fewer than the number of Google + accounts right now!).

The browser, Netscape, had ‘what’s new’ and ‘what’s cool’ buttons, and those buttons were relatively authoritative regarding the entire internet. Our engineers generally scoffed at the World Wide Web, being much more engaged with UseNet and bulletin boards and so on. We were an early provider of online access to the masses, our employees helped many people log on for the first time.

One year when I was there we had a booth at the State Fair, which was really fun too. We would ask people walking by if they wanted to see the internet. There was a lot of skepticism and plain lack of awareness, but sharing those initial exciting experiences was really great.

I developed a huge respect for the Internet Gurus who keep it all running for the rest of us, great fascination for Unix, and a life-long loyalty to the Mac OS.

I consulted for the first time after leaving there, and set up my own website using Dreamweaver and other tools. HTML coding didn’t appeal to me very much, and there were many who were focusing exclusively on it, so I didn’t spend much time gathering that skill set. What little coding I did was much more fun thanks to BBEdit than it would have been otherwise.

And I remember launching my website! And then waiting for a response! Waiting for an audience! Scanning the hieroglyphics of my web logs, trying to understand trends and future promise. Waiting! Waiting for an audience that never really materialized.

That feeling of launching the website — to resounding silence is one of the main reasons I was interested to try WordPress this time around. Built in audience (sort of), built in community (kind of). Built in mainstream normalcy (for what it’s worth).

Also I wanted to start this way because I may have clients with WordPress sites, and wanted to share that technology knowledge base with them.

The other whole reason goes back to my not learning HTML. I have another core belief that it is optimal to let experts engage in their expertise, and pay the valid rate they charge. There are a lot of challenges to that practice right now, but to the extent we can return to that practice, again there are multiple community benefits. But right now, I don’t have the resources to allocate to that. WordPress does that for me, allowing me to gain a clearer idea of what I want when I do launch my actual site.

So I do definitely see this as a short-term situation. I’m establishing blogging habits, becoming slowly familiar with how this site can interact with other sites, making initial attempts at a category and tag system, seeing how my content feels in this particular visual setting.

At the optimal future point when it is time, I will give my awesome ISP a call and start the next step. My ISP, ipHouse, is run by some of the most dedicated folks in the internet-serving community, and it’s great knowing that there’s no further decision to make in that area.

At that point, with all the social media tools available, I know I will be able to connect in with my existing audiences seamlessly. It’s all such a different world from back then. It’s not all perfect, there is a lot of noise. But the amount of content and ease of access to that content on today’s internet continually thrills me.

So thanks for that comment, Glenn. And would love to hear further comments from you and anyone else on comparative benefits/costs of WordPress vs. independently hosted & managed website.

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4 Comments

Filed under Infrastructure, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media, Software, Technology

4 responses to “Using WordPress – why and for how long?

  1. I actually agree that WordPress.com is a viable option in a start-up mode. The main point of my comment was to register your domain name at an early stage. Only costs $8 to $10 / year. Then you have the option of moving to your own branded URL at a later date.

    The advantages of having one’s own branded URL – one that closely matches your other branding (ie: Twitter account, company name, etc.) – www .mycompany . com – include the following:

    1) More memorable – If folks know you, it is easier for them to tack a .com on the end and find your site immediately.
    2) SEO – This has been covered in many other articles. When you are a subdomain of another domain, from a page ranking perspective, you inherit the baggage of that domain. Historically, the generality-of-focus of that parent domain “waters down” the way your site is perceived by page-ranking algorithms. Your own URL, with your own content, is likely to be ranked higher for the appropriate keyphrases simply because of the more specific focus.
    3) Control – This is well covered by WordPress’s own site: http://en.support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/, and includes ability to:
    — upload themes
    — install plugins
    — etc…
    All designed to enhance control over your branding.
    4) Provides stronger “credibility” to potential customers.

    There are obviously disadvantages to running your own customized site. These include:
    1) Cost –
    — monthly fee to an ISP $7 and up depending on what you want.
    — development cost. Check out http://www.hubspot.com for a survey on this. I can’t recall the URL. As I recall, most development houses don’t have a “floor” much below $3,000. Maybe $2,000 in a very few cases. (If I have a local client that I have a high comfort level with, where I can meet with a decision maker face-to-face, my floor may start at about half this – but I pretty much only work with locals.)
    Midsize and larger businesses, especially any e-commerce solution (excepting Paypal), require a much larger budget.
    Even if you are just installing a WordPress theme that you selected (unless you have the time and expertise – including some MYSQL experience) you may want professional help. If you have heard of the legendary 5 minute WordPress install be aware that, in a real world install, 5 minutes is at the leading tail of the bell curve – no where near the average. In other words… a legend only.
    — maintenance – you will want things fixed, changed, etc. occasionally. In the small business world this is usually a very minor cost compared to the initial cost of building the site.
    2) Your own overhead – Backups, WordPress upgrades and spam are all your responsibility. If you choose to install your own plugins, that is also your responsibility. The word “plug-in” does not imply a lack of customization. Many plugins must be customized. Many require troubleshooting. Some just won’t work with whatever WP version you are using.

    WordPress.com is great in that it avoids all this cost and bother. In my opinion – never build your site until you actually can justify a marketing budget. However, since businesses sometimes grow, having that URL registered can be pretty important.

  2. Yes, I agree about the domains too. I had taken time with that years ago, with earlier versions of my company name (Clarity Mac Accounting Services, etc..), but didn’t yet this time. You’re providing great impetus for me to stop procrastinating about that!
    And good, glad we’re on the same page about the site itself. From your tweet, I thought you were suggesting that I had stayed here on WordPress too long already! But that was just the 140 character limit talking, I can see now.
    My DreamWeaver self-built site was such that it was just as well not too many people saw it. (And hopefully the wayback thing doesn’t still go that far). Would definitely want to do it right this time. Also am interested in some sort of membership functionality for my Site-Members Networking Group – not for exclusivity, but for promotion. And then there’s the question of having that Site-Member focused site by my main one, or one about my practice + blog etc.. be main. I need more time to pass before that all is clear enough.
    Thanks again, really appreciate your feedback!

  3. I also have one of those ‘zombie’ sites – calling it a ‘zombie’ because mine’s still out there – an idea that proved to be too time and skill-intensive for me to do well. Few people saw it. Fewer cared. But I learned tons from the experience 🙂

    • Hmmm, sounds interesting! Yes, I’m really glad I had done that, gives me great respect for all the folks who have that expertise. And – you know – the whole search functionality and social media interconnectedness, it is so different back then! I was going to say it makes it so much easier to get an audience, but maybe that’s simplistic. Maybe, with all these new opportunities, all the volume of sites and and all the techniques needed to make full use of the opportunities: maybe it’s evened out. Like how highways cause greater traffic and so no change in congestion. Maybe it’s just as strenuous now to get an audience as it was then, just a completely different kind of strenuous?

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