I’m fairly new to the blogosphere (the fact that I even know that term is scaring me) and I find myself becoming ever more alienated from normal society, and I love it! Slap that geek badge on me and I’ll wear it with pride. But seriously I am enjoying learning more every day about blogs, blog software, podcasts, and all the associated services and technology. I feel so very cutting edge whenever I explain all this to my less geeky friends.

Lately I’ve been very frustrated with Movable Type, which is the blog content management system that runs my blog (you’re looking at it now if you aren’t syndicating this page). MovableType is good, but I’ve long been disappointed with the skin – the presentation layout that you see on the web-based version of this site. Don’t get me wrong, it’s more than sufficient (which sums up MovableType in general, it’s sufficient but hardly ideal) but doesn’t offer me much flexibility in terms of where I see this blog going in the future. Unless I get better educated with the MovableType software and learn how to use the templating system my options are very limited.

I’ve browsed around other blogs and seen plenty of really good MovableType type blog designs, so I know the system has the potential to look great if you get busy with the templates. The options are there, I just don’t like the learning curve and have been reluctant to get inside MovableType to learn how to better use it. My HTML is great, I’ve been using it for many years now so I have no problems jumping in and making basic changes, adding new sidebar sections and playing around with content. However, if I want to do anything complicated with the layout or really play with the CSS I hit a wall. It’s a damn frustrating wall.

Whenever this happens to me I face two options if I want to keep moving forward. I find someone that can do what I want for me, someone with the technical skills I don’t have, and pay them to do it, or I get stuck in and learn enough so that I can make the changes myself. Both options have expenses, financial or time costs.

I had been hearing a lot about another web-blog software package called WordPress. Word on the street was that WordPress was better than MovableType in so many ways, especially because the whole project is Open Source.

Key Term: Open Source – is a philosophy of software distribution that allows anyone to read and modify the program’s source code. Because anyone can modify the source code, bug fixes, improvements or implementation of new specific features occur rapidly.

Due to the open nature of WordPress, a huge community of programmers have contributed to the growth and development of the software. There is also a Codex/Wiki which acts as the main documentation support for WordPress. How nice is that – open source community software supporting another open source software! This means that not only is the software itself benefiting from having an absolutely massive development team sorting out bugs and improving functionality but also extras such as plugins and themes (templates) are readily available. The whole not-for-profit vibe is just beautiful. People helping out just because they want to see the software be the best it can be. It’s all very warm and fuzzy.

In the last few weeks, I decided to give WordPress a shot and see what it was all about. Let me say, I am impressed. Very impressed. WordPress is smooth, so smooth. It’s as if everything I hated about MovableType was accounted for, improved and turned oh-so-simple. The WordPress interface is so much cleaner and easier to navigate that MovableType. The installation process is a breeze. The output is clean and crisp and the learning curve is much easier to come to grips with than what I went through with MovableType.

Why do I feel guilty writing this blog post in a MovableType blog? Anyway, moving on…

In a nutshell, my favorite features of WordPress are:

  • WordPress makes it so much easier to create separate content pages that are not just standard blog entries or categories. So for example, if I want dedicated sub-pages that are not categories all I have to do is use the “add-page” function. This allows me, for example, to very easily add a standalone sub-page for my favorite books or software I recommend.
  • The WordPress back-end GUI (graphical user interface) is neat and tidy and uses large fonts.
  • WordPress is driven using an SQL database which means no rebuilding of pages. Click add entry and it’s added. You never have to rebuild anything as you do with MovableType.
  • I initially had concerns about the SEO (search engine optimisation) implications if I chose to use WordPress. One of the things I like about MovableType (at last, something positive!) is that Google loves my blog. My pages are eaten up by the Google search bot, so much so that, at the time of writing this, my blog has been ranked quite high for some crazy search terms, including iTunes Australia, simply because I’ve made one or two posts about the topic. WordPress appears on the surface at least, to cater for SEO as good, if not better than MovableType. I will withhold judgment on this aspect until I put it into practice but so far I like what I see, the question is if Google does too.

The only gripe I initially had was that while the themes/templates system is easy to get your head around, it still is heavy laden with CSS and PHP so there was no way I could get in there and change much without breaking things. The default WordPress theme is nice enough, but I wanted more options.

Long ago I did some searching for MovableType themes and I came across a very lackluster collection, nothing useable in my mind. This convinced me that if I wanted a more customized blog template I would have to get my hands dirty and make it myself. Recently I did some research into WordPress themes, and yet again, I came away with another reason to love WordPress. There are hundreds of themes out there and more are added each month.

This was the real clincher for me. WordPress themes (in most part) are professional, distinct and oh my gawd they are easy to install. I came across Alex King’s Theme Competition first and made use of the Theme Browser which was a great collection of varied and unique themes. I can also recommend the Comprehensive list of 280+ WordPress themes from the How To Blog, er, blog by Emily Robbins. To install all you have to do is upload the theme to the appropriate folder on the server and it immediately becomes selectable as a presentation style in the WordPress GUI. Too easy!

So there you have it. My next blog will be a WordPress blog using a custom theme. It won’t be truly unique as others will use the theme as well, but certainly, it will be more unique than the default MovableType template I currently use. WordPress in my mind will come to dominate the blog marketplace because of the sheer power and flexibility that the community behind it provides.

The only question left is, should I move this blog to a WordPress blog? What do you think?

Blogosphere Member #1248632