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Welcome to rachelsays... The blog of Rachel Lewis, containing my thoughts and musings on illustration, design, fashion, music, cakey-bakey goodness, culture and things that I generally find cool. There's also a good chance my own illustration work will pop up on here.

All work on this blog is copyright to me unless I state that it isn't. Obviously. Don't do stealing, kids.

So come on in, have a look around, and leave a comment if you like what you see.
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rachel's Big Website/Wordpress Debate: To switch or not to switch?

This is going to a long-ish post so I apologise. It's one of my rare 'thoughts spilling out' posts but I'll try to keep it interesting. If you'd rather have pretty pictures then.... come back tomorrow.

I recently started subscribing to David Airey's brilliant blog and came across this article: Seven blog mistakes to avoid. I thoroughly recommend you go and read it (the whole blog, if you have hours to spare, or just that article) because it's great. And so useful if you write your own blog. It's started me thinking about this blog, and my website too, and now I have a big conundrum that I need your input on.

His first mistake in the article is 'not using a self-hosted blog.' Oops. I fail at the first hurdle. I've known for a while the benefits of hosting your own blog (you will actually own your content) and yet I still use blogger. Ol, faithful, annoying, uninspiring blogger. Why? Because it's safe. It works. And I'm terrified of moving! I wish I had started using wordpress, but I started this blog in 2007 and it was meant to just be a 'this is my work' blog. Obviously, it's a whole lot more now.

I own my own website - and yet most of my hits come to this blog, not my website. Here are the pitiful stats: my website (which is basically just a static portfolio which gets updated say, once a month) gets about 6 hits a day, this blog gets about 40. Sometimes a lot more. Basically though, both are really bad. You do the maths! Surely it makes way more sense to host my blog on the same domain as my portfolio? My blog will do the work, being constantly updated with fresh content, and my portfolio will benefit from all the added exposure. At the moment, you have to click on a button over there ----> which takes you to my website; which at the moment is an external link. I've tried to link the two a bit more (the title of this blog is now rachelsays...) but this blog is still hosted at, which is a mouthful and nothing to do with my website. And I'm paying for my spangly domain name. Why not use it as much as I can?

Mistake #4 from David Airey's post sums this up quite well: "When I launched my first website about two years ago, I wanted my portfolio to be its primary purpose, and the blog a secondary aspect. Then last year I discovered blogs. It didn’t take long to realise the number of clients I could attract first through my blog content, and then directing them to my portfolio. It’s generally the content I publish that attracts visitors, rather than the work in my ."

Which is exactly what I should be doing. I write about good stuff. I'm pretty cool, people subscribe to what I say here, they're vaguely interested in my point of view. So I'm missing a huge opportunity in that my work is not easily accessible right from here. And that also, this is clearly a blogger template. E v e r y o n e  uses this one because it's the least offensive. But it doesn't stand out! I'm a pretty unique girl, and this blog says 'hey, I use blogspot, cos I don't know nuffin about the mintynet' which isn't true.

So... the obvious answer here, is switch to wordpress (and I mean .org, not .com... download the template and install it in the root directory of my site). Move the whole shabang over to, start again. Stop using indexhibit (it's great, but quite restrictive) and get a custom/nicer wordpress template over there. Make the blog content the primary landing page, and then all my portfolio work as a secondary, but still lovingly presented and relevant.

Sounds great! Except.....

1) I would lose all my SEO and links and everything. I would probably still keep this blog running but everything would die. I'd probably have to rebuild my subscribers again and I'd really miss you all if you didn't follow me over.
2) I know a teeny bit of html but no way could I deal with a custom wordpress thing, with code and all that. I could install it in my root directory, I'd get that far, then I'd have no idea.
3) This all sounds like it's going to take more than a sunday afternoon. I work full time. Help will be needed, help which I can't afford.
4) I'm scared of messing with things in case it all goes tits up.

So, I don't really know. I want to change things up, but I just really don't know where to start. There's a few peeps on my twittersphere who could probably give me advice but generally, I'd have to muddle my own way through. Argh. All I know is that the way things are is not really helping: I'm paying for a domain name which is getting less hits than my free blogspot page. And blogspot isn't really that cool.

Incidentally, my website is down right now and I have no idea why. Which is slightly worrying. I'm sure it's probably just godaddy being weird and it'll be back soon, but I don't like it. Make it come back!

What do you think, minions? Is it worth the hassle, to switch and be all spangly under one domain name, or just stick how I am and be all amateurish but safe. Your insights are very much welcomed, I am trés confused.


Tati said...

Hi Rachel!
Well, my blog was on blogger too, and I've switched to Wordpress. It's fully hosted in my domain, my blog, my site, my shop (actually it's another wordpress blog) and even a journal, that's just a category that doesn't appear on home page. It's great for artists like us, I totally recommend! There are plugins for everything you want, specially a gallery for a portfolio page.

You can also use your own domain in your blogger blog, like But as I can see, it's better you move it to wordpress! It's simple, and you can import your posts (with all comments and categories). Install wordpress is simple too... I host my site on Dreamhost and it already has an "install" option.

Anyway... If you have more doubts, keep in touch!


dean said...

Hey! Funnily I'm just in the process of setting up a wordpress and moving from blogspot so thought may as well share.

Unlike you though I'm pretty much just starting up so I don't have to worry about subscribers and stuff, which would seem like a problem as I doubt you can automatically update their subscription to your new address once you change etc.

Although I believe there’s an option where you can transfer all your posts from blogspot to your wordpress quite easily, but haven't got round to doing that yet.

I'm hosting my site on dreamhost, they have this one-click install option where it makes installing wordpress quite simple, and I guess then it's about finding the template that suits you best and changing it how you need it.

Definitely worth looking into, as I'm pretty much hoping to do what you've mentioned here, by having the blog as the main focus with access to some kind of portfolio or gallery leading of it.

All the best.

Rachel said...

Thanks for your comments guys! Really helpful.

Seems that you both use Dreamhost... my domain is already on (who always seem a bit complicated to me, hmmm) but I'm sure there's a fairly easy way of doing it- I installed indexhibit with little problem.

I think I will look more into it, I'm just mainly worried about losing subscribers and messing stuff up! Heh.

The massive advantage is that things will look SO much nicer once they're integrated into wordpress- I really need to start looking more professional.


Anonymous said...

Wordpress (self hosted) is without a doubt the way to go.

Dreamhost, heart internet, and 123reg etc all offer one click wordpress installs, it means you don't have to mess around with mySQL databases, you literally just click 'install' and the host does it for you. It's always simpler to have your domain ( with the same provider as your host (the servers which deal with the info and traffic), so consider a hosting package from one of the above, or another that offers one-click installs, and then transfer over your domain. You could also get a new (shorter?) domain, and put a redirect on your old one to push people to that, that's a less fussy, but slightly more expensive (you'll own 2 domains) option.

Once you have wordpress set up, like Tati said, you can very easily transfer all posts and comments, if you scroll a bit through this: there's a step by step guide on how to do that.

RE subscribers, you can make sure you do a blog post about people changing their feeds, and people who viewyou outside of a feed reader can be transferred via a really handy bit of code:

Once it's all installed, it's useful to have an FTP (file transfer protocol - an easy way of getting files (themes into your WPcontent/themes folder, plugins into their respewctive folder) to/from your computer/server) client installed, and a simple code editor if you want to tweak the .css (cascading style sheets - these tell themes basic things like colours, layout, fonts etc) of themes. On mac I recommend cyberduck for FTP and smultron for editing (they work very well together) and on PC Filezilla is well respected. You can also upload via the wordpress dashboard, but that option allows much more flexibility with single files (for example switching the header files for your own header image in a theme)

Hope that helps.

Rachel said...

Thanks Anonymous!

I already have a domain, and server space from godaddy, isn't it going to be massive effort to switch?

I don't know anything about mySQL so this sounds like it's going to be hard =/

Do you think my domain needs to be shorter then? I thought is quite an alright size?

That's cool to know I can do a subscriber redirect, thanks!

I already use filezilla to upload so yeah I can just keep using that I suppose.

Hmmmmm. Complicated.

Anonymous said...

I just did a bit of googling and it looks like godaddy have improved their provision substantially, so you might not need to worry about mySQL (though you don't need to worry about that, really, I'm an artist with no formal tech training and now build simple WP websites for people, just remember, google is your friend)

But yes, I found this guide:

if you check out the comments, you can see that the godaddy reaction is quite mixed, but it is simpler to stay with them. Moving your domain to another company is not hard, it just takes a few days, when you sign up somewhere new there'll likely be an option 'transfer an existing domain', bit of a pain, but not at all complicated.

I'd say not to worry about hassle - but choosing the best option now. You're going to be doing lots of admin and tweaking anyway, so may as well get it as good and simple as you can while you're at it.

I'd also point out (in case wires are crossed) that the redirect code is not for rss subscribers, but actual site visits.

Hope none of this seems patronising, I just don't like people not explaining their acronyms.

Try not to think of it as hassle - think of it as really valuable skills you're learning. Good luck, and if in doubt, google it.

Rachel said...

Ha yes, gotta love google.

Thanks so much for the info (and googling stuff for me!), I think this weekend I'm going to sit down properly and have a good ol' read.

Yeah, I know it will be worth it in the long run, and I guess the hassle is just if it all goes wrong.. I actually enjoy this sort of stuff once I get going. Building my website using indexhibit was pretty fun ^.^

Ah ok, no it's not patronising! Definitely better to understand everything.

'If in doubt, google it' I pretty much live my life by that!

Thanks so much for the help random passing stranger! I guess keep reading my blog for updates on how much of an epic fail this becomes (or not!) optimism, ah. xxx

itslikeart said...

Hmm its a toughie! I have the same problem!
I started a blog cause i was lazy/didn't have time to update my website and i've had my blog for over a year now its taken a while to establish itself but its there now and I know wordpress is better and I should install it in my domain, but I just dont know where to start or if it would be worth all the extra effort... html frustrates me and coding it would send me over the edge!
I think, like in the first comment - you can install blogger in to your website which is what i might try... i just dont know how to do that eeek

If ya figure it out give us a shout hehe

Rachel said...

Hmmm I know, but I think it will be so worth it in the end!

If you go in the Settings bit, I'm sure that's how you link your blog to your domain. As anonymous says - if it doubt, google it!

How about we both embark on the Great Switchover together? We both have domains, both want to use wordpress.... maybe we can help each other out?


itslikeart said...

we should do! you any good at html? I want to try and redesign my website to incorporate my blog so it all functions together and looks nice.
I once installed wordpress in to my old website yeaaars ago when it was simple and new, so im sure with googles help we could figure it out

Sian-Louise said...

Hello Rachel,
It seems you're getting a lot of opinions about this, it's a hot topic. I have the same problem, have been wondering for a while about what to do. I know there are a lot of good blogs on typepad and tumblr seems to be a popular one. My problem is that I have so many hits on my wordpress blog (but I think that is due to the lego research that I've done coming up on google so much.) And moving it all over to my domain will be like starting again....but I suppose that could be a good thing - kind of like a new start! From a Design point of view, you can have much more control with the design of the new blog and it'll look much more professional. As for subscribers - put a link on your old blog to your website where they'll see your work first then think 'ooo this is good' then they'll look at what you're writing on your blog too. Like a central hub of all things that you do, a one stop shop if you like. I'm babbling now! I hope all is well, Are you visiting D&AD this year? my work is being shown!

David Airey said...

Hi Rachel,

Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for the shout-out.

I think it'll be worth biting the bullet in the end, and switching across. It sounds as if your mind is already made-up.

One option (if you don't transfer your posts from here to there) is to start a fresh blog, and for a little while, run it as well as this one, intermittently directing your readers here across to the new one.

Whatever you choose, good luck!

Rachel said...

Rachel - Ok lets do it! I don't have a free weekend now until the 10th so I'll have to start then. Scary biscuits!

Sian-Louise - Thanks for your comment, I definitely agree on the ol' hits conundrum. I too am thinking a fresh start might be really great though... considering my current state of mind on my current might be just what i need... but I won't talk about that because it's dangerous. And I should be grateful I have a graduate job. Bad Rachel.
No I couldn't make it to New Blood this year! I'm too poor to afford to get into London on weekends as well as every weekday, plus the weather was too amazing to justify the tube. I would have loved to have come see your work :( Was it really good? Did you get any good portfolio advice or interest in your work? Did you also feel the slight pangs of despair as you saw the work of other amazing students round the country? No? Just me then.

David - Thanks for stopping by! Really nice of you to comment on my lowly blog :) Yeah I think you are right; my mind is made up, I just need a) the time and b) the courage. Heh. Yeah I thought about that actually, I think I will do the two posts on both blogs thing for a while, good idea. It will give people a chance to switch over too, if they want to.

Thanks for all your help guys! Just watch this space now as the hilarity unfolds....

itslikeart said...

nifty! july works for mee for whole website/blog recreation integration business!! I'm away until 10th anyway, so it seems like a good time to get web savvy! :)
whats your email address x

Rachel said...

It's at the top; contact [at]

:) x

Phil Thomas said...

Am actually looking into this at myself for similar reasons, but obviously I haven't properly used my blog in years so losing it isn't a big deal, and my domain name is well out of renewal.
Looking at Wordpress a lot for it's mobile blogging capability as blogger's is nonexistent.
Come August I should be back to doing stuff again :D