I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about where I want to head in my life in the next few years. As a professional and as a person. Because of my decision to take off a semester of college, I’ve been thinking about my future in the context of now. Though I was sad at first to not run off to my next adventure, I realized the blessing of the next six months I have to focus and work. Before, a lot of my goals were hindered by the knowledge of an impending semester or job and here I have six months of getting my dreams off the ground. As in the true nature of myself, I began making lists. Moving to my own domain and growing my blog to facilitate professional goals was near the top of that list and my first order of business.
I’ve gotten a few questions about why I moved from TypePad to WordPress. First, I’d like to say that I always had a great experience with TypePad’s reliability. For the almost two years I used it, I never lost a blog post and had my site go down. It was always a reliable service. I had used Blogger before TypePad and vastly preferred the Dashboard, post composing, and features of TypePad to Blogger. I loved the reply to comments feature, seeing comments on the Dashboard, and the interface in general was better. (I think Blogger has gotten better since I used it, though).
Though, TypePad wasn’t ideal as I felt it could be. The photo upload quality is bad. It’s the nature of digital photography for photos uploaded from Photoshop to web to have color discrepancies. I felt that TypePad’s photos were particuarly bad. I tried a lot of combinations of sizes, color modes, and saving for web, but I couldn’t get anything to satisfy me. This could have just been on my part and saving them wrong, but I got fed up and decided to used Flickr to host most everything(which also isn’t perfect, but the discrepancies aren’t as heinous to me). I had been uploading blog photos to Flickr and using the HTML code even when I was using Blogger, but there were times I didn’t want to fill up my Flickr stream with certain photos and would have appreciated a nice quality Typepad uploaded photo.
(This is a tangent, but I want to say that even though it’s a pain sometimes, the habit of uploading practically all of my edited photos to Flickr has been quite convenient. I’ve been able to find a photos I needed to find quickly because of how organized I keep my sets. It’s also great because when making portfolio decisions or grouping certain images together it’s easier than tracking down photos in random folders in my computer).
Then there was the price. I was using the $15 a month plan with Typepad, because the cheaper plans do not allow you to mess with the Custom CSS. So, if I wanted to do something fancier (like picking a specific pixel width for my blog posts), I needed the Custom CSS feature. I do believe in paying for a better service(which, for my needs, I think Typepad was a better service than Blogger), but I struggled with whether or not I really needed to spend that extra $180 a year.
I also wanted my own domain. I wanted the professinalism and independance of being my own “brand” and didn’t want an attachment to a typepad.com, blogspot.com, or wordpress.com. It’s of course possible to get your own domain with TypePad, but I had been been blogging with the current domain already so all of my permalinks would have stayed karahaupt.typepad.com/blogpost instead of newdomain.com/blogpost. So, I could have had have gotten a newdomain.com, but it would have just directed the URL to karahaupt.typepad.com.
Now to design. I didn’t have really any HTML or CSS knowledge. I mean, I understood some basic things from altering some HTML with Blogger and then some CSS with the Custom CSS features of Typead, but I’ve never taken a web design class and had no real idea how it worked. But I wanted to have full control over my design. Which is possible with Typepad, using the Advanced Themes, but like I said, I have no idea how to do that. Unfortunately, Typepad does not have a thorough help base for dealing with Advanced Themes(at least on the complete newbie front). I could not afford to have someone code it for me and I’m way too particular and controlling to hand the visual design over to a blog designer.
I really thought the only other viable option was WordPress. I could have gone and done a self-hosted Blogger blog, but I’m not in love with Blogger and had heard a lot of good things about WordPress. A self-hosted WordPress site (wordpress.org, not wordpress.com) would grant me full control over the design(all the php, HTML, and CSS) and providing extensive help-base, forums, and etc… Since it was self-hosted and WordPress.org is a software, not a host, I had to seperately buy a domain and pay for monthly hosting. I chose Dreamhost because I knew some other blogger, WordPress folks had used them and my friend Vanessa was offering some $15 off coupon codes.
This domain, ijustmightexplode.com, is $10 a year for the domain. On top of that, I’m paying a $9 monthly fee to host the blog. It’s not a huge difference from the $15 of Typepad, but as a poor college student that $60 a year is going to make a difference. Dreamhost is also nice, because with the $9-$11 monthly fee(dependant upon any coupon codes you may use), you can host an unlimited number of domains. My next project is working on my portfolio website, which I would have to pay for hosting/domain anyway, so it’s almost like I’m get a two-for-one deal with hosting. In regard to consolidating business expenses, this makes a lot of sense for people hosting several sites.
Obviously I haven’t been using Dreamhost for long, but so far I’ve had a good experience with them. I’ve been able to find answers to questions through their Wiki and I’ve gotten prompt answers via email from their support team. I’d love to hear what hosting services other WordPress bloggers like in the comments!
In regard to moving my posts from TypePad to this domain, I used an importer in the WordPress Dashboard to import all my posts from my TypePad blog. I was most nervous about this and it ended up being super easy. It took a few minutes to download the posts and then upload them to WordPress. The thing with TypePad(and maybe with other blog platforms? Not sure), is that none of your images are downloaded, only the HMTL link to the hosted TypePad photo. So, if you were to import all your posts to WordPress and someday delete your TypePad blog all of your images would disappear because they were hosted on the TypePad site. This is another reason I am grateful for using Flickr to host photos all those years. I do have some TypePad hosted photos that I am going to go back through and host on Flickr or my domain when I have the time. I’m also going to go through every post and edit links to reflect the ijustmightexplode domain. Lucky me. ;)
Another note about those TypePad photos: If you uploaded photos larger than your WordPress post width (like a 900px photo while using a 600 px width for WordPress posts), those photos are going to be 900px and spill out of your post container.
Will I be deleting my TypePad blog? Eventually. I paid for TypePad in a yearly cycle, so my account is up with TypePad in November. Sometimes in the next few months, I’m planning on stripping down the design of my Typepad blog to something super simple, deleting all the content in the specific posts, and leaving only a forwarding link that says “Find this post on ijustmightexplode.com/blogpost”. That way people who linked to certain posts on my TypePad blog won’t find a dead link and can then move onto this current blog. Once November is up, I’ll either downgrade to a Plus account for a few months or see if the Micro version will still maintain the permalinks to the forward posts(anyone know?).
I was concerned about switching domains and losing the RSS followers I’ve obtained over the years, but I knew I eventually wanted to do this, so why not do it now? I’m still trying to figure out how to find my Feedburner feed link for this blog, so I can update my Feedburner link at least. (If anyone knows how to do this, I will love you forever and always).
So, how coding/design works on WordPress. This is a shitty explananation of this and I’m probably using the wrong terms, but whatever. With WordPress you pick a “theme”, which is just a coded website with all the php and CSS already written it. From there you can use an FTP client(or edit from your Dashboard) to change specifics. An FTP client is a desktop program(well, there are online FTP stuff you can use too) that allows you to edit the folders of code(certain folders pertain to certain things, like your header, footer, index, comments etc) and then there is a styles.css folder in which you code in CSS to style the look of your blog. I used Cyberduck 2 to edit the code.
There are thousands of free and not free themes you can use in WordPress. I wanted an extremely basic one that I could alter to fit my needs. I heard a lot of good things about Thesis, which I know a lot of bloggers use(and Katrina uses and recommends). It is $87 though and didn’t particularly want to spend that money if I didn’t have to. My friend Jessica‘s husband recommended following these video tutorials from CSS-Tricks. The tutorials follow a theme called Starkers. Starkers is, according to creator, is “free of all style, presentational elements, and non-semantic markup, Starkers is the perfect ‘blank slate’ for your projects, as it’s a stripped-back version of the ‘Twenty Ten’ theme that ships with WordPress.” Once you upload Starkers, it’s well… stark. It’s just a mostly blank white page with a bulleted list of blue links on the left.
I followed the video tutorials using Starkers, but that video tutorials used an older version of WordPress and Starkers and a lot of the techniques don’t apply anymore. I ended up emailing back and forth with Jessica’s husband and he answered a lot of my inquiries. I used Firebug to inspect elements and find out what the names of classes were so I could style them. It took me a little over three weeks to complete from the time I registered my domain to completion. I am unemployed right now, so I spent a good portion of each day working on it. It was frustrating at best because I didn’t really know what I was doing. Thankfully, Joel was able to answer a lot of my dumb questions and I googled CSS styles and used the support forums for everything else.
Looking back, and if I had the money, it would have been easier to pay for a theme like Thesis. But, I really did learn a ton in the midst of it. Coding has always been something I’ve wanted to learn/get better at it because I’ll most likely using the internet for business for the rest of my life. With a very depressing part time job search and being unemployed, completing this project did a lot for my morale too.
I’m a little wary of offering advice, because I probably went about it the hard way. As a newbie, if you don’t have the time, patience, or a WordPress theme savvy friend to help you, I wouldn’t go the Starkers route. If you have the money, patience, and some CSS/HTML knowledge, a theme like Thesis could be beneficial to you.
If you have no coding knowledge and don’t care about learning, you could probably be fine with a Blogger blog, WordPress.com blog or hiring someone to do it.
In general how I do like WordPress? So far, I like it a lot. I do think I prefer Typepad’s Dashbboard and post composing, but I think it’s just a matter of me getting used to it.
I’ll be writing a blog post about my pretty new logo in the next few days and please bear with me and I finish organizing and making changes to the current design. If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear them!
And, God bless you for reading this whole thing. Hope your July 4th was just lovely, American friends!