The WordPress Tango

For a few years now, this blog has been an important place for me to do my “thinking out loud”, and in the process it’s been extremely rewarding to have been able to share some of that public pondering with others.  I’ve learned a great deal from the whole blogging experience and although the frequency of posting has sometimes varied with life’s little circumstances, on the whole it’s been wonderful to evolve this blog as my own little place in cyberspace.

I have absolutely no intention of changing the role of this blog as a place to think about, share and discuss ideas that interest me.  Despite the rise of Twitter and other microblogging services, there’s a lot I can’t say in 140 characters so I plan to be writing here for quite a while yet.

The theme for this blog has been pretty much the same since I started it here on Edublogs.  Almost from day one, I chose the Andreas theme, a WordPress theme designed by the incredible Andreas Viklund because it has a number of design features that are important to me – two sidebars and an “elastic” resizing that stretches the main column to fit any size browser window. It has the usual ability to embed various widgets and feeds, but most blog themes can manage that.  And while it has a few customisation options for changing colours and so on, visually it’s a pretty basic sort of theme.  Some might even say it’s a bit boring. I’ve often thought about changing it, but I’m wary of just swapping themes at random and besides, although Edublogs may offer 100 different themes there’s only handful that I actually like.

Although I’ve said many times that I blog mainly for myself, it’s still nice to think that there are readers out there who actually spend time reading this stuff. While it might be fun to just swap themes whenever the mood strikes me, I’m sure it would be a little off-putting for visitors if the site looked different every time they dropped by. For me, providing some visual consistency with the aim of building readership has been more important than simply swapping blog themes for my own amusement when I’m bored, even though I am often tempted to.

Lately though, I am really getting itchy feet to do a site overhaul.  There are some really interesting WordPress themes and plugins around at the moment, and I’m feeling the need to take advantage of them.  Of course, this may necessitate a move from the legendary Edublogs service to a self hosted WordPress server.  That makes it quite an emotional decision, because both James and Sue have been awesome in what they’ve offered to the global blogging community over the last few years.  They have both been personally very helpful to me when I’ve had requests, needed assistance or I’ve just been able to hang out with them.  The thought of not having my blog running on the Edublogs servers is hard to imagine.

But in the last few months I’ve had to get a bit of WordPress backend experience.  We installed our own WPMU server at school after Edublogs placed restrictions on non-supporter blogs, and to be honest, managing the server has been really quite straightforward.  It took a bit of fiddling to get some of the RSS running just the way I wanted, but once it’s done it works just fine.  I also helped my partner Linda set up her new self hosted blog and was quite stunned at the additional power and options she got from it.

The other thing I did which helped me understand how this stuff works was to install WordPress locally on my MacBook Pro.  It’s quite straightforward and takes advantage of the super-useful MAMP stack, a neat little bundle of tools that, with one easy click, runs Apache, MySQL and PHP on the machine, effectively turning it from a regular old laptop into a powerful web server capable of delivering server-side applications like WordPress and Moodle.  By running MAMP and installing the WordPress code, I now have a fully functioning WordPress server on my laptop that lets me experiment and play with all sorts of themes and plugins from WordPress.org.  If you’re even only slightly technical, you should find it very easy to do, and extremely worthwhile.

If I do make the move to a self-hosted WordPress installation, the other thing I haven’t really worked out is how to handle the subscribers feeds.  The blogs currently has nearly 1200 subscribers and I’d rather not just lose them and start again.  I do redirect my subscription feeds through Feedburner, so it may be as simple as just telling Feedburner what the new site URL is.  Then again, it might not be that simple either.  I need to take a closer look at how that stuff works.

Either way, moving from Edublogs to a new server, moving from the current blog design to a new one, are all decisions that I’m still wrangling with. It’s easier to just leave things as they are, but perhaps it’s time for a change.

So I’d really appreciate your thoughts… assuming I can look after all the technical backend stuff to get the same or more functionality from the blog, but with a nice fresh clean theme, what do you think? Should I make the change?  Do you even care?  If you could take a moment to do this quick survey I’d really appreciate it.

And thanks for being a reader!

Image: ‘Do you Tango? [snag]
http://www.flickr.com/photos/36613169@N00/378823

CC BY-SA 4.0 The WordPress Tango by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

8 Replies to “The WordPress Tango”

  1. As someone who has pretty much the same edublog theme as you I have no problem with it and I like it for the same reasons you do but unlike you I am too scared to muck about with it for fear of making a total mess of it and not being able to get it back to what was really OK to start with. I tend to read blogs in my RSS reader and only leave the reader if I am lured to leave a comment so the look of the blog is not as important to me. Unless it particularly interests me I tend not click on the direct URL from Twitter from people who are already in my RSS reader.

    Visually I hope to add interest by including some sort of graphic.

    Thanks for the last year of blogging- always an interesting read 🙂

    AK

  2. Of course design matters, and you are right to consider it. The most important thing in terms of blogs is usability, can your readers find what they are looking for quickly? I have been using a self-hosted WordPress installation for a number of years. Frankly, any website I create at this point uses WP, because it can do so many things for you automatically. If you are looking for flexibility, WP is for you.

  3. Looks good Chris. I have been quite fearful of the self hosted WP instillation but you make it sound so easy! I will watch with interest how things go.

That's all well and good, but what do YOU think?