As I surfed the net trying to find an online home to make it easier for my clients and fans to stay updated, I googled “create a website” and stumbled upon hundreds of online search results that referred to WordPress as the Shangri-La of websites. After reading so much about the wonders of WordPress, this is how it sounded in my mind:
“Want a free website that will allow YOU to customize it ten-billion ways? For FREE? Want a zillion free widgets and gadgets? And smidgets and smadgets? Go to WordPress NOW! It’s free! Go Go Go! No operators are standing by because it’s FREE! What are you waiting for?!”
This WordPress must be the promised land full of honey, right? So, I signed up.
And then I began The Journey of Five WordPress Discoveries.
Discovery #1: WordPress, What Are You?
I wasn’t so sure about the “promised land” part, but it sure was sticky. It seems like I just spent 10,000 hours trying to figure out how to design my site on WordPress.com:
I selected a WordPress.com theme and discovered that my selected theme looked nothing like the demo design. There was no drag and drop after getting the theme template.
When I did an internet search for “free themes” -thousands of results showed non-wordpress sites featuring FREE templates that were WordPress friendly. Yet, none of these free templates were available on my WordPress.com. Why was that?
You’re a cruel beast, WordPress. There are hundreds of online forums where stumped users asked the same questions I asked when I couldn’t not get help.
Discovery #2: Welcome to the Newbie WordPress Insanity Dance
Actually, it’s both a song and dance that goes like this:
Spend hours, days and weeks trying to figure how to customize
Sitting hungrily at the desk trying countless themes with tears in your eyes
With hopes the advertised theme would appear exactly as when it was applied
But that wasn’t the case and you are going to cry
“I painfully navigated the back-office site for hours
Lost within several open tabs on my internet browsers
Oh, Codex?! What’s this talk about Codex?
I thought this stuff was user friendly?
Where’s the Undo button? You are complicated.
NEWSFLASH: What I did not know at the time was that there was a difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. This is not obvious to newbies.
Discovery #3: Not All WordPresses Are Created Equally
In the universe of WordPress, there are two camps:
There is a somewhat friendly wordpress.COM and;
a developer’s dream at wordpress.ORG.
I am using wordpress.com at the time of this post.
The Devil is in The Details. If one does an internet search for “help with wordpress”, understand that you will get a mix of search results because of the two wordpresses out there. Newbies think that a wordpress is a wordpress is a wordpress.
NEWSFLASH, CUPCAKE: IT AIN’T SO.
You have to understand which site the article is referring to. Understand this and it will save you a lot of frustration. It is not that the instructions do not work: if you are working with a wordpress.COM but are reading article content that is meant for a wordpress.ORG site, well, there’s a difference.
Also, a lot of internet searches turn up articles for hundreds of WordPress plugins. NEWSFLASH, AGAIN, CUPCAKE! These plugins are for WordPress.ORG -which gives developers a lot of flexibility on how to design their sites. WordPress.com gives you the built-in basics.
Oh, but you don’t want basic?
In the words of my husband, if you want an automatic car, use WordPress.com. Want more control (the manual car), use WordPress.ORG. Want to know more? Click here.
Discovery #4: Oh, That’s What You Are
Well, two weeks later, my site is finally done. This is the new suit. (To my surprise, it happens to look a lot like the original theme -“The Crafty Theme” at the time of this posting.) It is the original theme with the smiling apple face and all. Ta-da! How did that happen?
It was a rite of passage: a fire walk (and not a cake walk). And now I am going to eat a handful of broken pretzels as comfort food. This was a difficult, but strangely rewarding relationship, WordPress.com. I totally get you now, you awesome little weirdo you. I can now maneuver wordpress.com with ease. Why? You get to the land of honey by following the yellow brick road. In this case: spend some time in your admin back-office.
Dashboard & Widgets. All of your customization is on the dashboard on the left-hand side. It takes some maneuvering. Also, going to the Widgets section will help you to understand how the sidebars could make a huge difference in the appearance of your site. By clicking on Customize, you can preview color changes, sidebar placement, etc. Nice, right? Check out a handful of YouTube.com videos, too.
In case any WordPress.com developer is reading this, let me point out a few requests:
Discovery #5: 5 Suggestions on How To Improve WordPress
Well, this section is for you, WordPress.COM Developer Gods. Here goes:
It would have been helpful if these components existed:
1. Little bubble descriptions pop up when hovering over the dashboard items.
2. The left-hand side dashboard is static. (Currently, if the user clicks on “Customize”, expect a rude ushering onto another web page which makes the left-hand dashboard completely disappear! Instead, you now have your website with a DIFFERENT right-hand dashboard -which means different options- that allows you to adjust the features of the site and get a live preview. But then the newbie has no idea how to return to the original left-hand dashboard.) So, yeah, an unmovable dashboard would be nice.
3. Maintain a constant “live preview” of the site.
4. Have an UNDO button.
5. A point-and-click WYSIWYG (what you see if what you get) and drag-and-drop interface (say like WIX.com or any other user-friendly design software).
That’s it. That’s all. I am off to design another WordPress site! I also design sites for clients using WordPress.com.
Posted: Jan 10, 2015, 8:41pm EST
Emily Ramdas is a mastermind consultant, writer and entrepreneur with a creative overdrive and an eye for detail. She is also the author of a zombie blog, a best selling creative journal on Amazon.com with many more forthcoming books.