Expert Review: WordPress

WordPress is a great way to create a blog or website and you can definitely do a lot with it. It allows you to easily customize themes and add tons of photos and videos to your site. The problem with WordPress though, is that going past simple media, you can’t add too much past what they give you,

What can you do with this tool? What kinds of stories is it good for?

WordPress is a really good publishing platform for simple blogs and websites. It can easily hold pictures and video, but the editing of those are limited, as is the editing available of the overall site. For the purposes of this class, we would want to use various data visualization plugins, and there are dozens that exist and that could help enhance a data visualization story. Unfortunately, WordPress.com users are not able to use any of these valuable plugins.

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To use these, you must have a WordPress.org accountThe main difference between the two is that WordPress.org requires users to host their own websites (and are often paid for), while at WordPress.com users don’t have to worry about the complications of web-hosting. For more on their differences, see here.

So, yes, WordPress.com is limiting. But, if you are able/wiling to pay to host your own site and Wordpress.org, multimedia stories can be exceptional. There are so many plugins available that can make publishing and creating easier. These can create rich multimedia stories with the amount of tools available, but you have to be able to have the patience to use and install them. At the bottom of the page I have an example of a very simple plugin that shows one of the many benefits of WordPress plugins.

How do you get started using it? Link to tutorials or help docs or Lynda.com resources that are useful for learning this tool.

To sign up for a free account on WordPress.com, all you have to do is go to the site, and fill out some information and you have a blog. Once you get to your dashboard, you can customize the colors, themes, add posts, pages, and more. It’s pretty basic, but you are able to create a presentable blog.

WordPress.org accounts are a little trickier, and unfortunately these are the ones that can utilize the plugins.  For my example, I went through a blog for another class set up by Emerson, which operate with WordPress.org. This isn’t as simple as just signing up for a website. You are self hosting your site, usually paying for it, and have to go through a longer process to download Wordpress.org. If you choose to do this,  I would definitely check out these Lynda tutorials to help you out.

How easy or hard is it? What skills do you need to become proficient in it?

Again, there’s a big difference here between the different .com and .org. WordPress.com is extremely easy to use, but don’t expect too much from it. Even when you edit in the text editor (HTML) WordPress will often not accept it and make paragraphs look unaligned. WordPress.org has hundreds of plugins available for downloads, but everything from the initial download and set up is going to take time. To use WordPress.org, I would definitely recommend computer skills, and a general knowledge of hosting websites. Also, for both a lot of patience is a good idea.

Would you recommend this to a friend? Will you consider using it for your final data story?

I have used WordPress.com a lot in the past, and I’m not crazy about it. I think there is a lot of power in using WordPress.org, but right now I don’t have the time or money to spend on hosting my own website. I don’t think WordPress.com is the best platform for my final project because it doesn’t have the availability of tools for what I need. If someone is computer savvy, I would say to go for installing a WordPress.org because the amount of plugins available would make a data visualization story that much better. Both of these have their flaws, and I would definitely inform a friend of all of them before recomending them to use WordPress.

Example of simple plugin on WordPress.org

Even though with a free site, we are not able to download exciting plugins, I found that my individual WordPress for another class, set up by Emerson, operates like WordPress.org. I can’t post much since it is for class, but this method works for playing around with it and showing how to use plugins.

Right away you are able to find the “Plugins” tab on the left hand side of your Dashboard.

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When we click on this it takes us to the page of Plugins that are already ready for use on your site–they just need to be activated. I activated and played with a few that seemed related to Data Visualization, media, and storytelling. These included tools for creating tools and tables, form building, embedding web pages, and more. All you need to do is click on each plugin and it is activated, and will appear on your left hand tool bar in the dashboard.

Conveniently, WordPress provides a plugin for the website Storify, a website that allows a user to create stories or timelines using various forms of social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more. I won’t go into too much detail, since it’s being covered by someone else in class, but it is a good multimedia tool to know. Basically, what this plugin allows you to do is create your Storify right in your Dashboard, to allow for easier publishing onto your WordPress site. The plugin is exactly the same as the website, and you can see the similarities below.

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This plugin makes working with Storify much easier, especially if you have the intention of publishing to your WordPress. It puts the entire process into one step, instead of creating elsewhere and then coming back to WordPress.

Overall, WordPress can be a great tool for publishing and WordPress.org users can install many more plugins to make their site even more appealing. Unfortunately, when hosting your own website it will most likely come with a cost and requires some knowledge on how to host a website and connect it to WordPress. On the other hand WordPress.com is completely free, but you have much less editing power, and no availability to these plugins.

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