The differences between a WordPress site hosted at WordPress.com and a WordPress site hosted somewhere else are significant. At WordPress.com, as in the case of this blog, you have limited options with which to format your text, but a less confusing interface in which to edit. At WordPress.com certain features are built in to your editor, whereas at a self-hosted site you need to add them through installing what are called Plugins. Let’s take an example.
The editor menu bar for my template or theme at WordPress.com is below. No ability to change text style or text size within a page. If I want a sans-serif font like Arial for my headings, and a serif-font like Times for my main text, well, I can’t do it. At least not with a text editor. If you know how to write code in the programming language called CSS, you can make individual changes within a page. But to my thinking, having to write code defeats the purpose and simplicity of WordPress.
The editor menu bar for my WordPress site at JustHost.com (external link) is pictured below. In this case I have supplemented the built in editor, which looks very similar to the above, with a free piece of software called TinyMCE Advanced (external link). This allows options like Font Sizes and Font Family to be activated. Installing a Plugin is very simple. A built in search engine on your WordPress site allows you to pick which plugin you want. There are thousands, all to do different jobs. An “Install” button appears when you’ve made a selection and within a minute of clicking your site has a new feature. Not all plugins are compatible with all themes.
As with everything on the web, things can break down in a hurry. Yesterday I battled with a problem at newmotorcyclerider.com (site discontinued) that appears to be related to a plugin. The solution was a combination of things, some of them old techniques.
Try as I might, I could not change photograph captions from italics to straight text. While trying to correct this I managed to wipe out the navigation bar at the top of every page. Eventually I had JustHost restore my site with a backup they had made a few days ago. Then I deleted the offending plug-in, cleared the cache on my browser, then reinstalled the plug in. Everything works now. What’s next? More learning. I’ve yet to figure out how to integrate background images to my pages. I’ll report back here if I accomplish that.
Update! I figured out the background image problem. Nothing in my Creativo 4.0 template (external link) had any language saying that selecting a background image would be a problem. Quite the contrary. Doesn’t this selection bar seem easy and hopeful?
But no matter how I tried, no matter what images I selected, nothing would work. I even tried going away from the individual page and working on the problem from an overall theme perspective, whereby the background image would be displayed across all the pages at my site. No luck. It was only until I went to the developer’s website that I discovered this wording:
“Custom Background Image – this option allows you to upload / select an image for the background of the post page – this will only work for Boxed Layout”
Boxed layout?! Turns out that you have to select that option, buried elsewhere, before a background image will work. Nothing in the above selection bar gave a hint that making this choice was needed. Sigh. This is why I say that creating a website is not just about writing. At least half of your time will be spent in formatting, adding photographs, making illustrations, producing videos, and chasing across the web for solutions for adding same. Even with a simple blog, a website is not a novel, it is a complicated multi-media presentation.