A couple of weeks ago, I started looking for software packages that could “host a website.” My criteria were simplicity, since I’m not terribly web-savvy; and extensibility, because I don’t want to cobble together 3 or 4 packages to get all the features I’m looking for. I knew that WordPress was pretty popular, and I’d heard users of the package talk about their surprise at the variety of plugins it supported.
I gave it a shot, and now consider myself to be a believer. An expert user might be better off with a combination of stand-alone blog, wiki, and forum software. He/she would have the chops to tie the disparate pieces together with a single theme, authentication piece and database back-end. For the rest of us, wordpress provides an excellent blog, good-enough forum and wiki pieces, as well as automagic database administration and user authentication.
The WordPress community provides tons of modifiable ‘themes,’ which provide the overall look-and-feel for the website; and ‘plugins/widgets,’ providing added functionality from discussion forums to tagging, post-calendars, and site-search. While the complexity for installing these extras varies, the themes and plugins I’ve played with have been trivial to install, set-up, and customize.
Although WordPress’ customizability is initially overwhelming, the defaults are typically sane. I discovered most of the features when I wanted to make a change to the structure of a page/plugin and went about discovering how to do it.
WordPress is written in PHP. To get a WordPress driven website up, you’ll need to find a web-hosting service that supports PHP. The WordPress recommended host page lists webhosts who have worked with WordPress to ensure a friendly hosting environment. I myself went with nearlyfreespeech.net, a pay-as-you-go host. I will probably end up spending about 50 cents/month (the mySQL support required for WordPress costs 30 cents) for the forseeable future. I may detail my experience with nearlyfreespeech in a future post.