Why I Chose WordPress to Run My Blog
My blog did not originate on WordPress but I knew when I started it that WordPress would likely be the right content management system for it.
People interested in blogging occasionally ask why I chose WordPress for this blog. I’m always happy to explain my decision.
You might be interested to know that this blog wasn’t always on the WordPress platform. In fact, it began 14 years ago on America Online’s blogging platform, “AOL Journals.” I definitely had a reason for choosing that platform: I was intimidated by what I’d heard about WordPress.
People said it was overly complicated. They said it was hard to learn. They said there was too much to keep up with.
So I went with a different platform that seemed easier.
Starting somewhere else wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
What I’ll say about AOL Journals was that it was a small but tightknit community. The bloggers there were quick to comment on each other’s blogs, whether they agreed or disagreed. They were quick to encourage each other. When there was drama — and there’s always drama — they stood up for each other.
It wasn’t unusual to get more than 30 comments per post. (Good luck with that these days!)
There was just a lot of support.
But unfortunately, that support really only existed within AOL’s tiny sliver of the blogosphere, not in the “real world” at large. You could be a “star” within AOL Journals, but no one else would have ever heard of you. Growth wasn’t really an option.
But not being in full control can be a bad thing.
I’ve written about this before, but in a nutshell, there came a day when someone complained about a blogger on AOL’s platform. That blogger was a cartoonist who drew very simple stick figures in his comic panels. One of them, apparently, prompted the complaint.
AOL didn’t notify the blogger that a complaint had been filed. They didn’t put up a warning clickthrough on that single graphic. They erased the bloggers entire graphics folder, which meant every graphic on his blog was gone.
Even worse, it couldn’t be recovered.
That’s a price you pay when you don’t control the content in favor of letting the platform house it for you.
A short time later, AOL Journals rolled out banner ads on everyone’s sites. The bloggers weren’t given veto power over whether ads would appear, nor could they choose which advertisers would end up there. And, not surprisingly, bloggers didn’t receive any of the revenue.
That’s a price you pay when you don’t control the domain.
I eventually left and moved to Blogger, again concerned about how “complicated” WordPress might be, based on what people had told me. And while Blogger was certainly okay, I still didn’t have complete control and there were things I wanted to modify that I had a hard time changing.
Then I took the WordPress plunge.
In March of 2007, just three years after launching the blog, I made the move to WordPress. By then, it had created a five-minute transfer option that made moving from Blogger or other sites far more simple. I’m a Mac, not a PC. I don’t care much about the “inner workings” of it: I just want it work and free up my time to be creative. That simple, pain-free transfer process appealed to me.
And for 11 years, I’ve stayed with WordPress without even considering a change of platform.
I look back now wondering why I ever thought it was so complicated. It wasn’t. It never has been. Yes, there are more moving parts, but there’s enough documentation that they’re not really a mystery. Yes, there are more settings, but once you make your initial choices, you rarely if ever have to look back at them.
AOL Journals had very few options when it came to design. Blogger had many more. WordPress has a seemingly endless number of designs based on what you want to do. There are thousands of theme options out there. There are about 55,000 plugins in WordPress’s plugin repository to help customize your site so that you don’t have to fool with coding.
Then there’s the WordPress community. There are WordCamps, where users come together to talk and learn about the platform. There are local meetups where people gather monthly to exchange ideas and information. There’s a strong commitment among users to learn from each other. If you have questions, there are plenty of people with answers and finding them isn’t that difficult.
WordPress, which recently celebrated its 15th birthday, now powers between 25% to 30% of the internet. That’s a significant number of URLs. And that should tell you something about WordPress’s reliability and functionality.
I don’t mean to knock the other newer, younger platforms out there. If you feel you need to start smaller, I can respect that. All I can tell you is that WordPress isn’t nearly as complicated as you might have been led to believe. I also firmly believe that no matter where you begin, WordPress should definitely, without question, be your longterm destination, if not where you begin in the first place.