This is the part of a multi-part series about using WordPress for birding blogs. Click here to start at the beginning.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a blogging platform, similar to products like Blogger, but it contains features that allow it to expand to larger sites. You can have multiple authors, themes, plugins, and publishing options that aren’t available in other platforms. Major sites like The New York Times, CNN, Forbes, TechCrunch, and Time Magazine use WordPress but it’s also flexible enough to be used for a simple birding blog.
WordPress is an open source project maintained by hundreds of volunteers and is completely free to anyone who wants to use it. You can download the software and upload it to any website or computer you want. Once you upload it and sync it to a MySQL database, you can start publishing posts to it anywhere in a the world immediately.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
Before we move forward, I want to clear up common confusion for those new to the WordPress community: the difference between WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG. WordPress.ORG is the free open-sourced version that you download and put onto whatever web hosting you want to use.
WordPress.ORG is completely free but you are responsible for finding and paying for your own web hosting. You’re also responsible for your own maintenance, but you also have total freedom on how you use your WordPress install. You can add any theme or plugin you want.
WordPress.COM is a commercial company run by Automattic that will host your WordPress install for you. You don’t have the ability to add plugins or themes, but also you don’t have to worry about security or web hosting. If you aren’t tech-savvy, WordPress.COM offers technical support and works as a cheap alternative to hiring a web designer or web company. WordPress.COM has different paid levels and also allows you to place ads on your blog if you are looking to make some money off your posts.
- Host yourself
- Download and use any theme you want
- Download and use any plugin you want
- Publish to social media via plugins like Jetpack
- Ability to integrate Google Analytics
- Support forum run by volunteers
- Host it for you
- Hundreds of free and paid customizable themes and custom designs upgrade
- Several plugins already installed
- Integrate and auto-publish to social media
- Web traffic stats available
- Support forums and direct contact with technical support
Which is better? Well, like all things in life the answer is: it depends.
For this site, I use WordPress.COM. Mostly, it’s because the needs I have for this site are pretty small. I don’t want to spend time thinking about updating databases, worrying about security, and all the general maintenance that comes with a self hosted site. I don’t need any specific plugins or themes to make my site run, so WordPress.COM is honestly just easier for this project than a WordPress.ORG self-hosted site. I want to spend my time working on generating content, not tweaking code.
If you like having complete control over your site or want to spend your time making everything just like you imagine in your head (or paying someone to do it) then WordPress.ORG is the way to go. If you have an eCommerce portion to your site or want to do memberships, then probably WordPress.ORG is for you. Like I said, it all depends.
Bottom line: If you are like me and just want a way to easily post photos of birds online and not deal with the rest, then WordPress.COM is a great and cheap solution.
Going forward, I’m going to use WordPress.COM as my examples. I’ll mention when things are fundamentally different for WordPress.ORG but mostly it will be surface things like the location of buttons or menu items. To make your WordPress.ORG site almost exactly like a WordPress.COM site, just download a plugin from Automattic called Jetpack. It will give you access to the same features available on .COM but with the flexibility of .ORG.
Quick Note: WordPress.com is currently working on creating a more user friendly interface than the standard WordPress one. In this series I’m going to only address the standard interface (current as of WordPress 4.0) because 1. it applies to both .com and .org and 2. since they are still working on building the new UI I don’t want to create a post about it to only have it outdated in two months.
Stay tuned for Part 3 going over images, audio, and video…