Moving onto WordPress.org, the self-hosted platform for WordPress, was one of the best things I’ve done with my blog, although I’ve sometimes wondered whether I should have stayed on the free version, WordPress.com.
The decision was made in autumn 2013 when WordPress.com added adverts to your posts unless you paid a premium for them not to. It wasn’t a lot of money per blog, but it added up to much more than the amount I was already paying for a blog-hosting package from BargainHost.co.uk for my work blog. I wasn’t using it much, so I started thinking about changing, and entering the (not actually very scary at all once I’d done it) world of sub-domains.
I started with the Princelings website. Loading the WordPress software from my host was simple enough. There’s a widget to help you load all sorts of proprietary software, and other blogging software, although I’ve never really explored other options. I had the domain name princelings.co.uk so I added it to the domain name for this setup. I didn’t do it the right way, which is why you see something else in the URL line in your browser when you use it. I got that bit right for the rest of my blogs, so here you see jemimapett.com/something all the way through.
What I did wrong when I loaded Jemima onto the blogging platform was to set it up to run as a network, using one copy of the WordPress software for many blogs. It sounds so simple. But it isn’t. Unless you have ambitions to be a network administrator, don’t bother.
Those were the easiest bits. I was really pleased with my new self-hosted WordPress blogs. I can run Rafflecopters and Linky Lists on them. I can have active widgets in the tool bars (like the Amazon book carousel and the Countdown thingy).
Then I discovered all the other things I hadn’t known… and I’m still learning.
- where are my stats and like buttons? You have to load Jetpack, a plug-in from WordPress.org for those. OK, tick.
- where are my stats and like buttons? Oh, Jetpack has had an upgrade which hasn’t worked properly. OK, I learned that when Jetpack upgrades on my site, for some reason it always leaves out the jetpack-admin.php file. I can copy that in with my hosting dashboard.
- why isn’t my dashboard loading? 99% of the time if the site is working perfectly on the outside but you can’t access the dashboard, there’s something wrong with a plug-in. And 99% of the time so far, it’s been the Jetpack plugin upgraded and not added the jetpack-admin.php file.
- why do I get so many problems with pages loading? Jetpack is probably innocent. By a set of curious chances (bonus prize if you get the allusion – leave a comment!) I discovered I have trojans, viruses or trolls hidden among my files. After trying to get rid of them with a plug-in called Wordfence, I discovered from my host support team that there was in fact a virus checker on my hosting dashboard. It destroyed a trojan the first time I used it, and the problem with comments not loading has gone away… mostly. It seems ok here, but White Water Landings still has page loading issues – but I may have solved that yesterday, since I discovered a plug-in upgrade hadn’t worked. I bet you can’t guess which…
- how to phrase problems for my host support team. They are very good, but some of them don’t speak English, and I don’t speak Computer. Conversations go like this:
- me – I have a problem with my blog. The dashboard doesn’t load. I’ve tried doing x, and y and z, and it doesn’t work. Can you help?
- them – I understand that pqr is disabled. Try doing F(x) jgr(y) and ptg(z). This will solve your problem.
- me – I have tried those. I have tried them again. It doesn’t work.
- them – Try LTHG(c)
- me – where do I find that?
- them – I’ve done it for you. The website is working. Please clear your cache and check it.
- me – thank you very much.
- To be fair, that’s how I found out most of the problems are caused by Jetpack in particular, but plug-ins generally, not working after upgrades. The general rule of problem solving looks like “disable all your plug-ins and see if it solves the problem. If it does, add them in one at a time until you find which is causing the problem.” Some plug-ins (and templates) interfere with each other.
The corollary to that last point is – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! But… there are so many nice things to make my blog even nicer!
So, now the blog is working (fingers crossed) and I have learnt a huge amount about keeping it so. Keeping it clean is the next task. Surprisingly, I find that keeping it clean may be easier if I enter the strange world of Search Engine Optimization. Ignore those spam comments about SEO – find something that will actually help you be found by people using search engines. First task, to find out what SEO really is, in plain English. Second, find something that will help me, in plain English. Ah.
That’s another post entirely! Hint: Yoast seem to converse with people only slightly more advanced than I am 🙂