Is WordPress the answer for me?
December 12, 2021 1:45 PM   Subscribe

For some reason, I don't seem to be getting this...

Years ago, I built a few simple html websites. This was in the very early days of the internet, before CSS, even. I did this primarily to fool around, and after this went on to other things, as one does. During the pandemic, I bought a domain name, and I have a hosting company. They are WordPress friendly. I chose WP because everything I read suggested that this would be easier to manage than learning to be a web developer. I was mistaken, somehow.

For some reason, I don’t seem to be able to readily absorb the knowledge necessary to build a site and understand what I need to do to make said site run, or be comfortable knowing that I can keep it from blowing up on a daily basis. There always seems to be an assumption of knowledge on the part of the reader, and I end up going backward trying to figure out what I don't know. I feel like I need and can't really seem to find a learning resource that says "start here, do this, and then do this–after that, do these things" something geared to someone starting from scratch. Even if I'm not actually starting from scratch, I want to build from that so I'm confident that I know what I'm doing.

I want to say here that I'm not a complete idiot (I won't judge anyone for thinking so: I think this myself on the reg)–I understand story structure and can tell you step by excruciating step how to make a movie, for example. I know what makes an internal combustion engine function, and how fiat money works. I've operated power tools and still have all ten fingers. Somehow I feel completely stymied by this, and I'll be damned if I can tell anyone why.

The goal here is a simple blog site, without a lot of bells and whistles, with simple commerce transactions in the future. Should I turn to another platform, or can anyone here advise a person on how to assimilate the knowhow to do this, starting at a very basic level?
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I generally advise people to look first at Squarespace if they want a simple site without having to learn a bunch of stuff.
posted by primethyme at 1:55 PM on December 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Agreed. Squarespace isn't just for podcast ads. There's a certain degree of lock-in if you outgrow it, but you can cross that bridge, etc.
posted by holgate at 2:02 PM on December 12, 2021

Best answer: Boo, no Squarespace. You can do this. Are you up for doing a little reading? I recommend these articles:

Using themes
Wordpress child themes
sample functions.php tricks

That should whet your appetite to google things in the Wordpress Codex or read more wpbeginner tutorials. If you want to share more about the specific issues you're having, I'm sure we can help.
posted by michaelh at 2:05 PM on December 12, 2021 [7 favorites]

I'm setting up a site in Squarespace this very moment. I'm sure I could probably figure out Wordpress eventually, but I'm finding that Squarespace has been helpful because the structure and accessibility eliminates so much of the guesswork. I'm excited and motivated about getting started, so I'd much rather focus on generating the messaging, which I love, instead of wrangling with a platform, which I don't.
posted by mochapickle at 2:39 PM on December 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have the same background with web stuff except I got more into Wordpress back then. I had a really hard time both with Wordpress and Squarespace. Don't feel bad for not getting it. Remember that these things are designed, built & written by people who need to be reminded every few years that it matters if other people can't figure something out. It's a whole profession to try to make the things they do make any sense whatsoever (I know because that's my job).

Anyway squarespace is a different kind of difficult from Wordpress because it doesn't let you do anything, as opposed to Wordpress which tries to let you do too much, but they both go about it in the absolutely worst ways.

I use Webflow and I really like it because it actually lets you do things, and those things are basically all in one place. If you remember your css basics, it sticks with that model. Give that a try.
posted by bleep at 3:06 PM on December 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It would help to know where you've gotten hung up. Do you just want to get a "hello world" site up and running and haven't gotten that far? What stage of setup have you gotten to?

WP is a pretty complex piece of software, but it doesn't require a great depth of knowledge to post a few blog entries. It doesn't require any interaction other than keeping it up to date (which it can pretty much do without your intervention) to keep it from "blowing up."

There are a few e-commerce plugins for WP. I've used one. They all require an irreducible amount of setup work to make them go, but once you get the hang of things, they're pretty slick.
posted by adamrice at 3:08 PM on December 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm a person who runs a ton of sites on WordPress and I mostly like it but the learning curve is steep but very very short for most people who are okay with computer stuff. Very much agree with michaelh's suggestions and adamrice's questions. It may be that your web host has a "full bells and whistles" install of WordPress and you just need a little help turning some of that shit OFF. If you understand internal combustion engines, you can get this if it's what you want. No shade against Squarespace, which is nice, but it's got a little more lock in (and higher costs in my experience) but it's also just fine.
posted by jessamyn at 3:51 PM on December 12, 2021

Squarespace is a terrible blogging platform, imo. At least it was 2 years ago when I tried to use it. I would go so far as to say it's nigh impossible to build a simple looking blog -- like say Kottke's site. At least, I couldn't figure it out and I have the same background as you. If it's a photo blog, they can accommodate that but they're not great for text-heavy sites.

It's essentially for small businesses to promote their wares and services.

That said, I built the site in my profile after spending $50 on a theme I liked. I wouldn't say it was "easier" than SS but it's certainly more flexible.
posted by dobbs at 4:06 PM on December 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Wordpress is a decent blogging platform, which is what I use it for, but I don’t think it makes a good general website. Like you I had a website for quite a while back when they were easy to code (started in html and switched to Dreamweaver), and I switched to Wordpress only because I wasn’t providing a lot of other resources any more.
posted by Peach at 4:14 PM on December 12, 2021

For simple blogs I like tumblr. Link it to a subdomain of your site (say and then you can set whatever shopping platform you want up on

(I say this as someone that has hand-coded websites and hosted his own custom themed WordPress site. less hassle, fewer upgrades)
posted by noloveforned at 5:22 PM on December 12, 2021

Gah -- sorry, the last line of my previous post should read "That said, I built the site in my profile with Wordpress after spending $50 on a theme I liked."
posted by dobbs at 6:07 PM on December 12, 2021

I feel your pain. My wife has had a site hosted by Yahoo since ~98. They have given up on the hosting side and told me to sign up for WP. I'm sure many think Sitebuilder sucked, but I learned to manage it over time. WP has me in a stupor, and the best I was able to do was cobble together a FrankenHOMEPAGE. I just hired a new developer, but still...
posted by lobstah at 6:19 PM on December 12, 2021

Response by poster: I want to thank everyone who responded, and apologize for not getting back to this thread until so late, as the day was unexpectedly hijacked. I will be more present tomorrow, and I'll mark replies then. Thank you!
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 6:48 PM on December 12, 2021

Wordpress requires regular monitoring and upkeep because of spam and plugins. Squarespace is like mac vs PC, you just get it to work but it has fewer features and ongoing subscription costs. I loathe Wordpress for how fiddly it is if you want to do more than the very basics.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:08 PM on December 12, 2021

May I recommend a static site generator
List here
posted by beesbees at 2:01 AM on December 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Wordpress requires regular monitoring and upkeep because of spam and plugins.

Wordpress has settings to automatically update itself, plugins built-in, and avoid publishing spam comments.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 5:43 AM on December 13, 2021

I use and love, which for me sits right at the sweet spot of nerdy and actually usable. It’s somewhere between the speed and simplicity of a static site generator and the ease of use of something like stripped down Wordpress.

It’s the only blogging system I’ve ever used consistently because it’s so stupidly easy.

It links to a Dropbox folder, so creating a new page or blog post is literally just putting a Markdown file in a folder. You can edit and customise your theme pretty easily if you can do basic HTML and CSS, but the defaults are fine. And writing posts in Markdown means they’re easy to format and portable if I move to a different system in the future.

The only missing element is eCommerce but you could easily set up a Shopify or Etsy or similar and link to it.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:36 PM on December 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks again to everyone who responded. I'm making some progress, and I'll let you know!
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 5:53 PM on December 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Static HTML can be easier to manage and a lot more secure, in my opinion.
posted by metatuesday at 8:52 AM on December 14, 2021

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