This entry is part of a series: You Get What You Pay For»

Freedom of The WordPress

Currently, one of our favorite tools for creating new web sites is WordPress. What started as simple blogging software has become the weapon of choice for small and medium business sites (including the one you’re looking at right now).  It’s simple, elegant, extensible and best of all it’s free. The “free” part always leads us to interesting conversations with clients, which usually start with the question: “If it’s free, why am I paying you?”

This is an entirely valid question, but it is also a frustrating one for developers who spend an enormous amount of time, knowledge and energy installing, configuring and modifying these systems. Hopefully this article will give you a little bit of insight into what you are paying for and why.

The Initial Setup

One of the things WordPress prides itself on is an easy setup and this pride is fully justified from this developer’s point of view. Getting WordPress installed, up and running is a breeze for any seasoned web monkey. However, for the average non-nerd setting up a copy on your own hosting space can get a bit more complicated:

  • Do you have hosting server? (a place that your website will live on)
  • Do you have a domain? (i.e. www.yourname.com)
  • Do you know how to point the domain correctly to the server you are using?
  • Does the server have PHP and mySQL installed? (these are required for WordPress)
  • Do you know how to create an empty database for WordPress to use?

Are these all things you can learn to do? Certainly! Most of it will involve a couple of days of reading and study, some careful note taking and probably some time on the line with tech support. If the questions above look like total gibberish to you, then you will probably need to spend a bit more time on it.

For a developer, this will take about an hour tops to track down any missing info and run the initial setup. This does not mean the developer is smarter than you. This is simply the kind of thing we have done a hundred times. When you have done it a hundred times, it will be easy for you too.

It should be noted that WordPress.com will also set up the software for free under yourdomain.wordpress.com which is a viable option for a quick cheap website. However, if you want to have the site available at www.yourdomain.com you will have to pay for a premium account (ditto if you need more space). The free or premium plan may seem like great options at first glance, but there are still a number of things to consider.

WordPress Default Install

The biggest one is that a default installation of WordPress looks like the image on the right. Is that really what you want your site to look like? It’s probably not, but WordPress has a number of wonderful ways to fix the look of your site and add cool now features as well.  Using themes and plug-ins, you can take WordPress from simple blog to a professional business site, store front, social networking site and much more.

We will take a look at these options and the potential issues in the WordPress Modifications article next: Out of the Box and Beyond