WordPress is one of the powerful blogging platforms available for webmasters. It comes with two flavors – one is with free hosting plans offered by wordpress.com and other is with premium hosting plans needed for wordpress.org. Self-hosted WordPress refers to the premium hosting version, as the package needs inclusive hosting to launch your website. We started this website on Blogger then moved to Weebly and finally settled with WordPress from 2015 onward. Here is our review based on 5 years of using self-hosted WordPress platform.
Prerequisites for Running WordPress Site
Generally, you do not need to have any prerequisites when buying Weebly or Wix plans. They offer free hosting as well as domain for a year. However, in order to use WordPress, you need the following requirements.
- Premium hosting server
- Valid domain name
- Minimum experience on the setup
- Understanding FTP
You do not need to worry when starting a new blog. Most hosting companies offer a free one-year domain with complete tutorial to learn.
Downloading and Installing WordPress
The installation process depends on how you want to start your website. The official WordPress website allows you to download the installation package. You can either install and play around on the testing setup on your PC / Mac or directly purchase a hosting plan to launch your site. There are software applications allow you to use your PC or Mac as a local server and install applications like WordPress on it. You can setup a local server on your PC using WAMP and on Mac using MAMP. It works like any other application and you can continue to use the computer for all other purposes. The idea is not only learning but also you can start build your site on locally and move the content to live server later.
If you plan to launch a smaller blog then it is not necessary to spend much time on local setup. You can directly buy hosting with free domain from one of the popular shared hosting companies. WordPress recommends purchasing hosting from Bluehost, SiteGround and Dreamhost. These companies offer cPanel setup to use your hosting account and install WordPress using Softaculous a one-click installer. The installation process on live server will take less than five minutes using one-click installer. After installation, you can start creating and publishing the content like any other platforms.
By comparing to free hosting providers like Weebly or Wix, installation is a complete redundant process in WordPress.
Content Management System
WordPress is a complete content management system that allows you to manage thousands of posts and pages on the go. In our experience, it is impossible to manage larger sites with Bloggers or Weebly.
- Create blog posts and standalone pages.
- Assign tags and categorize blog posts.
- Customize layouts and typography.
- Have custom content type like gallery, FAQ, portfolio, etc.
- Manage media like uploading files, images and videos.
Admin Control Panel
WordPress administrator panel is where you can customize and manage your website’s backend. Remember, you still cannot access server directories using admin panel. You have to use FTP account and login to the web server through your hosting account in order to access root server’s directories.
You will be surprised to see the editor interface if you are migrating from Weebly, Wix or Blogger. The classic editor was like a Word document where you can start typing and formatting the content. WordPress introduced Gutenberg block editor with version 5.0 and tried to catch up with the editors like Weebly. However, even with Gutenberg you will not get the drag and drop experience of Weebly or Wix site builders.
Many users make a wrong decision and drop out of WordPress after seeing the editor. However, WordPress has many other pros and the editor is also evolving to the modern design.
Themes and Plugins
WordPress offers free theme and plugin repositories on official site. There are also official themes supplied along with the installation package to start with. In most cases, you may need to purchase a custom theme from third-party developers to match your requirements. There are thousands of free and premium themes available. In such situation, if you are not able to find a theme in WordPress, you will not be able to get a theme on any other platforms.
Plugins allow you to enhance the theme’s features like adding social sharing, improving search engine optimization, caching, image compression, etc. You can get free plugins and upgrade to premium versions to get additional features.
Search Engine Optimization
It is a common belief among webmasters that Google favors WordPress sites in search results. The reason is simple that you can optimize WordPress site for search engines unlike other platforms. You can use popular free plugins like Yoast SEO to add meta description, title, open graph meta tags, Twitter card meta tags and preview the page.
It is also possible to create XML Sitemap and exclude pages from search engine visibility.
Related: WordPress SEO guide for beginners.
Here comes the power of WordPress. It offers unmatchable capabilities for handling users on your site. You can easily build a membership website by using a plugin.
- Offer pay to view content
- Share to unlock
- Collaborative working with multiple editors and authors
- Manage functions of each role
In addition, you can convert the blog to a forum and allow users to post and comment based on their role’s permissions.
WooCommerce is a free plugin developed by the same developers of WordPress. It is a full-fledged online store plugin to setup virtual, downloadable and physical products. You may need to upgrade the plugin to use additional features like monitoring abandoned cart and limiting cart items. You can also use other plugins like Easy Digital Downloads to setup your online store.
Due to the popularity, security is a biggest threat for WordPress websites. You have to keep the site clean and up to date to prevent from hacking. There are free plugins to add additional security features like spam blocking, IP blocking and malware scanning. However, core of security lies with your hosting server’s infrastructure. Therefore, it is essential to choose solid and secure hosting to safeguard your site.
Based on multiple discussions with our clients, security is one of the problems many of them do not want to use WordPress. This is true that you need spend considerable time in protecting the site besides building content or selling products.
Backup, Restore and Migration
You cannot backup and restore the entire site with many free hosting platforms. However, WordPress allows you to backup the content and restore when needed. You can use plugins or hosting service to backup full or partial folders on your server.
The advantage of WordPress is that you can use the backup content to migrate to another hosting company or platform. It is also possible that you can import and export specific posts from your site to another WordPress site with comments and users.
Pricing – How Much It Costs?
There is no free lunch in this world. However, running a decent self-hosted WordPress site needs less than $10 per month. This is in sharp contrast to the pricing plans of Weebly or Wix that needs $30+ for having all features. Below are some of the cost incurred with running a WordPress site:
- Cost of premium plugins
- Price for commercial themes with the feature you need
- Hosting, emails and other service
- Custom development, content writing and error fixing
Learn WordPress: Check out 500+ free WordPress tutorials.
Maintenance and Support
The maintenance of WordPress is a continuous task and has the following components:
- Update PHP version
- Follow and update WordPress core
- Check new release for your theme and plugins
You can manage all updates from admin panel except PHP version. You have to contact hosting company in order to update the PHP version on your installation. Remember, you have to test thoroughly before upgrading any of these things to ensure the site’s layout is not broken.
WordPress is an open source platform that anyone can freely check and modify the source code. However, we recommend not to play around with live site and look for online resources to resolve your problems. You can get solutions to your problem in one of the following ways:
- Post your query on official WordPress support forum
- Get in touch with your theme or plugin developer
- Read online documentation from WordPress and other websites. We also offer more than 300 articles on WordPress tutorials, which you can read and benefit.
- Contact your hosting company for server related issues like 503 server error.
Most users get frustrated about not getting proper support. Unfortunately, expecting super-fast support from developers of free themes and plugins is unrealistic expectation. You have to choose for premium version to get quick support and avoid frustration.
Now that you know the overview of using WordPress platform. If you are new to blogging world, we strongly recommend starting with WordPress. Though the initial learning curve is long, you will be happy for that decision later. However, you should have an objective of building a larger website before choosing WordPress as your content management system. On other hand, there are many business owners manage business and website single handedly. In such a case, it is better strict to free hosting platforms like Blogger, Weebly or Wix as you do not need to worry about security or backup.
- Numerous customization possible.
- Free and open source platform.
- Complete control of your site.
- Long learning curve, you will face different types of error when starting.
- Need to invest money for starting.
- High security risk.