WordPress = Bliss: The Joy of Customization

You can choose from a variety of blogging platforms out there (Movable Type, Blogger, Vox, Live Journal, and so on), but there’s something intangibly blissful about the open architecture of WordPress. You can get inside the code and customize it just how you want it to look. Of course some customizations take longer than others. And customization can be a frustrating experience. But other times it is extremely rewarding, and even blissful when done while listening to good music.

Because all the code is open, anything is possible. You are only limited by your lack of knowledge. I can sit at my computer for hours playing with WordPress, installing plugins, adjusting header images, playing with styles, adding new posts, reading the forums, and making it look just how I want it.

code

With the new version of Blogger, you can also now get into the code and customize your template. But it is harder to do, because the code is all compiled into one file. And Blogger lacks the abundance of open-source plugins to extend its functionality. Still, Blogger is not a bad option if you want a simple blog site and don’t plan to do heavy customization. For some users, that might be preferable.

However, I find a lot of joy in WordPress. It is easier to customize than Blogger — because its source files are separated, you can more easily tinker under the hood. And being able to extend the site’s functionality with a continual supply of new plugins released by WordPress enthusiasts makes blogging more fun. You feel like you are riding the frontier of technology with WordPress.

As far as tinkering with code goes, one thing I’ve noticed is that as style option interfaces get more user-friendly, the code behind them gets more complicated. In this sense, usability makes code more tough to manually modify. And the interfaces never seem to offer all the options one wants! Blogger has a lot of settings that allow the user to modify the appearance of the blog without manually adjusting code — hence its code may appear more daunting than WordPress’s code.

WordPress seems to be moving in much the same direction. The Freshy theme I use for my Podcast site, Tech Writer Voices, has an array of user-friendly options to adjust the appearance of the blog.

visual interface

However, with all those options, it now becomes a bit more difficult just to do a simple thing like manually set the pages that appear in the header.

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By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for The 41st Parameter in San Jose, California. I'm primarily interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication (video tutorials, illustrations), findability (organization, information architecture), API documentation (code examples, programming), and web publishing (web platforms, interactivity) -- pretty much everything related to technical writing. If you're trying to keep up to date about the field of technical communication, subscribe to my blog either by RSS or by email. To learn more about me, see my About page. You can also contact me if you have questions.

4 thoughts on “WordPress = Bliss: The Joy of Customization

  1. Brian

    I used Blogger for over a year and customized a few themes quite significantly. I’ve since switched to WordPress which certainly makes it easier to delve into a certain aspect of the source code (e.g., header, body, sidebar) than Blogger but the two platforms are about equally robust.

    For example, here’s a link to my old blog:
    http://demodulated.blogspot.com/

    The customizations are obvious when viewed alongside another blog with an unmodified copy of the same template:
    http://adhd-mama.blogspot.com/

    Blogger has a LOT of shortcomings but customizing the template was never one of them. It’s quite easy to download third-party templates and tweak them.

  2. Tom

    Thanks for correcting me about Blogger. I checked out the new version of Blogger — you’re right, you can modify it and get into the code. I wasn’t aware that they had made it so open and customizable. They really have improved it tremendously. I revised my blog post to be more accurate.

    Can you tell me why you switched to WordPress, even though you were able to customize your Blogger theme? What was it about WordPress that converted you to it?

  3. Brian

    I was most frustrated by Blogger’s lack of categories, though some other foibles left a bad taste in my mouth. One of Blogger’s worst features is its WYSIWYG HTML editor. Check out one of my posts imminently before switching to see some a highlight of some awful HTML code:

    http://blog.demodulated.com/2006/11/29/demodulated-routed/

    Things went smoothly with Blogger for about a year, but I made the mistake of trusting Google’s concept of “beta” by opting in to the one-way transition to the unfinished rendition of Blogger. It was exceptionally sloppily patched-together and I ran into all kinds of error codes.

    In the end, what annoyed me most of all was the fact that Blogger has such a huge installed-base and it’s operated by one of the richest companies in the world, yet Google was inexplicably slow at fixing bugs and implementing widely-requested features that came standard with other platforms.

    Blogger served me well but I’ve graduted. I love blogging enough to foot the bill for web space, even if no one is reading. WordPress is far more professional and delightfully extensible!

    I’m curious, how did you display the number of posts beside each category? That’s brilliant!

    Boy, do I wish I could attend your DocTrain talk! Blogging is a great topic!

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