Welcome to my website! I hope you like it. It’s one of those projects that’s been a long time coming. I actually registered the domain name a year and a half ago, but these things take a little time.
John and I are, in some ways, diehard Do-it-Yourselfers. He likes to make things and figure things out. Mostly, I’m just cheap. Why buy a new table when you can spend forty or fifty hours to refinish a free one by hand, right? I have started to realize that while it’s true that the best things in life are free, the best things are almost never the easy ones. Then again, sometimes they’re easier than you think, or at least easier than you make them.
The website you are looking at is, in fact, the product of only a few days’ labor. John decided this weekend that he wanted to get my website set up with some kind of content management system (known in the biz as a CMS), which represented a big decision. Apparently the first thing you need to know about a website is what you actually want to use it for. News flash (to me): I don’t actually need a resume website as a teaching candidate. Everything a prospective employer might need to know about me pretty much fits on a few pieces of paper.
Slowly it dawned on me that I actually have had a website up and running. You’ve all been reading it since September. Doh. That made the content choice clearer—why not just move my blog over to my own website, since I’ve got the domain name anyway? The logical connection flowed from there—if you’re going to build a blog, and that’s going to be the raison d’etre for your presence on the web, software doesn’t get much more computer-idiot-friendly than WordPress.
This does not mean that WordPress is without its quirks that trip up the n00b bloggers like myself. I set up a WP.com account and found myself immediately stumped. I couldn’t do anything. I searched through the help documentation on how to import my LiveJournal account to the site, found very simple and easy to understand explanations that I still could not make work. Look at the Dashboard under Tools → Import, they said, which is easy enough, except that when I did that, I kept getting looped around to the same article. At that moment, I wasn’t sure who was stupider, WP or me.
It took me ten or fifteen minutes to figure out that it was definitely me, and that my stupidity was a by-product of WP’s awesomeness. Apparently, having a WP account is not the same thing as having a blog. The account allows you to manage multiple blogs. This means that once you’re in the account, you have to go a step further and actually set up a blog and domain name. I was trying to import my blog to a non-existent new blog.
Once I figured that out, the actual import was painless. Mostly painless. Painless except for the having to re-embed my videos, but since I’ve only posted three videos, that wasn’t exactly overwhelming. Then I got to choose a theme. A theme, for those of you who are in the slightly confused place I was a few days ago, is a template which governs what things look like on the site: fonts, colors, the organization of categories and pages and tags. Looking through the themes was like picking out wallpaper for your bedroom, which is to say that it was a lot of fun until I realized that nobody had just exactly what I wanted. At this point, it was getting late on Sunday night, so I said “ah well” and picked the one that I disliked the least.
And all of this was just the beginning. Shortly after I had applied my “ah well” theme, John told me that he had set up melissawalshe.com/blog with WP and an account that I could access without going through him. When he showed me the site, it was a blank template with a web journal. My next question (How do we take the blog I just set up and map it to that domain name?) turned out to be a rabbit hole that eventually led me to conclude, once again, that I’m an idiot. Very clearly all throughout the documentation for beginners, WP makes a distinction between WP.com and WP.org accounts. The first, the type which I had just set up, is similar to LiveJournal in that it includes hosting and is not quite as flexible. The .org accounts have you download the software onto your own FTP server (hang on, I’ll get there) and are completely separate.
In other words, I would have to completely redo all of the work I had just done.
The second time around wasn’t as bad as the first time, but I made the mistake of waiting until the next morning to tackle the job. Being fresh and rested and unable to find the theme I had settled on the night before left me with energy to be picky. I think the only thing I accomplished on Monday was looking through at least a thousand different themes trying to find something acceptable. Even now I can’t say that I’m entirely thrilled with what I settled on, but as its functionality is perfect and the fonts are excellent, I am not going to argue about not loving the lifeless gray of it. Fair warning, though—if my site looks different every time you visit it for the next week, don’t be surprised.
The last hurdle came when we decided to put the blog on the main domain name rather than in a subdirectory (i.e., on melissawalshe.com vs. melissawalshe.com/blog) because, let’s face it, I currently do not need anything more than the blog on my website. WordPress is once again rockingly simple, but the process does involve editing and moving files on the FTP server. The FTP server is a little bit like magic to me, so if my explanation sounds like superstitious nonsense to those of you who know better, give me a break. As I understand it, the FTP server is the computer that always stays on in some distant land, watched over by elves that never need to sleep, that allows people to access my blog any time night or day. Editing it involves messing with files on a computer I will never see, and in all honesty, to let me muck around in there is like leaving Mickey Mouse alone with the Sorcerer’s hat. Not a bright idea.
Long story really short: I broke the website, then I fixed it, then I broke it again, but it’s better now. I hope. And while constructive criticism is always welcome, I sincerely hope you all enjoy the new site, because it has been a very long couple of days.