After a few months on Blogger building up content and slowly finding my voice, I wanted more. Forms, tables, directories, charts. More advance features. Perhaps even a forum.
Gadgets, widgets, extensions, modules, plugins – applications may have unique names for their add-ons but they serve the same function – to customize and enhance your site with dynamic content. Blogger had over 1000 gadgets and growing daily. But it would require massive amounts of coding beyond my limited skills.
Now, I should note at this point that the growing use of CSS and HTML coding to customize my site was more about knowing how to find and adopt it for my purposes than actually learning and writing programs and applications from scratch.
So, putting on my old librarian hat, I refocused my research for platforms that were content management systems (CMS) first and a blogging application, second. The choices were narrowed to open source CMS giants Drupal and Joomla.
This wasn’t a linear process. It started with Joomla, getting overwhelmed and frustrated, then to WordPress.com then to Drupal, back to Joomla and finally settling on the current platform I use, WordPress.org which I’ll cover in part 4.
The first thing I realized when leaving free-hosting platforms like Blogger or WordPress.com is that I now need to self-host my blog – either on my hard drive or by subscribing to one of the many hosting services out there.
Although Joomla offers an interactive web-based demo model, it’s not terribly useful since the language or wording is unique. So, after many sleepless nights of further research, I dove it. I decided to download Joomla to the hard drive on my computer, or local host, as it’s called, which would act as a local server.
Local host? I watched bleary eyed at terms like PHP, MySQL and Apache in the 50+ page Joomla manual. Apparently in order to even install Joomla, I needed a fully operational Web server. After digging around a few forums, it seemed as though the best option was to download and configure XAMPP. Done. Installed Joomla. Made a few mistakes. Unistalled and reinstalled, this time following directions in the manual. And that was the easy part.
Now to figure out Joomla. In a nutshell, I built a site on my hard drive from scratch. It was rudimentary, but I wanted to learn the Administrative Back-end. The Components and Extensions. The Tools and Menus. The system. The language.
I needed enhancements. So I installed and test drove a few free templates. A web search for “free joomla templates” returned a host of options. Then I discovered the amazing premium Rocket Theme templates, joined the club, tested a few templates, imported my blog and published a brand new site with all the bells and whistles.
But missing, was a robust blogging application which was the primary feature of my site. It’s native application was weak and the extensions lacking. Enter the newly minted WordPress Blog Integration for Joomla from CorePHP, in effect, combining the best of the top blogging platform with the top content management system. Perfect! I bought a copy and after significant research, frustration and instruction, integrated the two. It was not as smooth as I imagined and with significant learning curves ahead of me – WordPress, Joomla, RocketTheme, and CorePHP, a forum extension I bought and other applications, it seemed daunting. It was too much. Too complicated. Too busy. Too much to manage. Almost disabling.
I decided to check out Drupal, Joomla’s primary CMS competition, though I had reservations since by all accounts it seemed geared for advance users and programmers. I was running a business and it did not involve coding. It was something I wanted to learn to have control over how I presented myself on the web, or if too complicated and involved, at least know what to request from a web designer.
Two things drew me to Drupal. My frustration with Joomla’s lack of a robust blogging application and the awareness gained during my decade as a law firm library director that many libraries used the platform. I downloaded a copy, poured over the manual and tinkered with it for a bit (a bit=4 days) before satisfyingly disregarding it as an option.
I needed a graduate degree in coding to use Drupal and I was still floundering in elementary school.
I concluded that I wanted a robust blogging application first, and a content management system second. I needed to simplify. To commit to a platform and learn it well. Hello, WordPress.