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When I started my site I didn’t have a lot of experience building a website, and by not a lot I mean none. Absolutely none. Not a little bit, not I’ve seen it done once, not even someone told me I could but I didn’t believe them. Absolutely none. I didn’t have any idea that someone could build a site on their own without 6 years of schooling and two masters’ degrees. Which also goes to show you how little I knew about schooling and degrees. But, I’ve learned a lot since then. It’s been a long bumpy road with many ups and downs, and I realize that my journey has really only started, and that learning something isn’t the same as mastering it.
One of the many things I learned is that thanks to WordPress pretty much anyone can start their own website. WordPress is hands down the most user friendly site builder/content management system in existence today. It is so easy to use in fact that 31.4% of all websites in existence use WordPress. Aside from its ease of use WP (WordPress) is so widespread because its developers keep it open source. In layman’s terms that means it’s free. Well, the code required to build a site is free. In most cases, you still have to pay to host your site. It’s like if someone gave you all the materials and plans to build a house. You still have to purchase or rent land to put that house on. That’s what you get with WP, the materials and plans. Actually, you get a seemingly endless supply of materials, plans, and templates that you can tear down and rebuild on a whim.
There is almost as many website hosting companies as there are internet service providers. You have Liquid Web, Host Gator, SiteGround, Blue Host, Kinsta, and WPEngine just to name a few. All of them have their pros and con’s, and getting into that will require a whole separate post. I, on the other hand, went the other direction and hosted this site on WordPress.com. As a beginner this gives me a certain piece of mind. While it may cost me a little more than some of the sites listed above, I don’t have to worry about things like site security, or site back-ups as WP takes care of all of that for me. WP also has great customer service, and has on one occasion worked with customer service of another company to help me get through a problem.
While I say WP is the most user friendly site builder out there, it’s not without its growing pains. Things just aren’t where you would expect them to be. For example you can’t just go to settings and change your font. Font isn’t anywhere near settings. Your font is determined by your theme, preset layout, and to change your font you must customize your theme. If there is a particular font you want, and your theme doesn’t contain it, you have to download it, then upload it to your site. Sometimes you have to actually purchase it first, depending on where you get your fonts. That seems like a lot to go through just for a font.
I know that makes WP appear incredibly complicated but it’s really not. If you find a theme that works perfectly for you, and you can use it for your site with little or no customization, you can have a site up in only a few more minutes than it took you to choose the theme. And if you’re ok with a run of the mill cookie cutter website than you’re done there. If you want your site to accurately represent you or your business, than you have some changing and customizing to do. There is an almost countless number of adaptations and modifications that can be done to a WP site. Anything from Font and background color to graphics placement and shadowing effects can all be changed by you. I know this sounds a bit overwhelming but once you get the hang of it, it’s really pretty easy.
I struggled to get the hang of it. I’m sure as a new user I’m not the only one. I just couldn’t find where the settings were. I couldn’t grasp the relationships between what I wanted to do and dashboard control placement. At first, it didn’t make any sense to me that something as simple as font wasn’t just in settings. I struggled pretty hard. My 10 minute website was coming up on 3 weeks of building time, and I still didn’t feel like it was ready to go live. Someone who was a very good friend and is now much more brought me a book one day. This book may have saved my sanity and my site. It was WordPress, The Missing Manual the book that should have been in the box.
This book goes over everything from step by step instructions on signing up for a WordPress site through WordPress.com, to the evolution of dynamic vs static sites and how WP works, and that’s just the first 20 pages. If there is anything you want to know about WordPress it is in this book. If you want to set up multiple users for your site, for instance if you have contributing authors to your blog who don’t need access to the Admin Dashboard, it’s in there. If you need to know how to use JetPack’s LaTeX formatting, or how to add mobile support to self-hosted sites, it’s in there. There is even a section on WP specific SEO. If you are not already a WordPress master, “The missing manual” is worth your time to read. If you are a WP novice, than it is an absolute necessity.
Throughout the book there are images of websites, sort of. These are real images of not exactly fake sites to demonstrate one feature or another the book is talking about at that time. The sites actually exist and are navigable. There were 6 sample WP sites created and while you can’t actually modify the sites, they are good representations of the features described. There are also snippets of HTML and CSS in the book to help give you a basic understanding of code, if you don’t already have one, which you are allowed to use on your own sites without further permissions beyond purchasing the book.
You also get access to a page containing 181 links, they are not numbered I counted them myself, to WP websites (as demonstrations), free plug-ins, or free resources for things like HTML and CSS tutorials, and how to create a test site.
The book itself is divided up into 5 parts, each part broken down into chapters. I recommend reading the Manual in its entirety, but you don’t actually have to. Each chapter touches on a particular design feature or necessary area of knowledge, such as registering a domain name, or adding a slide show. Once you know what kind of site you want to build, the book will direct you to which chapters you absolutely need to read. For example if you only want a simple blog you only need to read the first two parts. If you want to add music player to entertain visitors as they read your musings, then you will also want to read chapter 10. ECommerce store? Chapter14. Self-hosted? Appendix B-Securing a Self-Hosted Site. It can even help you with migrating your current site to a new host.
Let’s be honest, WordPress is a living breathing open source tool. It currently contains over 423,759 lines of code and encompassed 112 person-years to build, and currently has 70 fulltime developers contributing to the core code. By the time I finish this post WP will probably be able to do something it couldn’t when I started writing it. “The Missing Manual” may not contain every single piece of existing information about WordPress, but it most certainly has all the information you need to start and maintain a WordPress site. As for missing information, the book has already been updated once, and there will most likely be a 3rd edition. There is even a page to inform the authors of errors or submit feedback.
I would not have made it this far without this book. I wish I would have found out about it much sooner, I hope it helps you as much as it did me. Click below to get yours now.