A New Web Site Host


Next job was to choose someone new to host my web site. As previously noted, I’d kindly been allowed some spare space on the server of some business associates for many years, but I couldn’t bank on their hospitality forever, and they weren’t able to host WordPress. So it was time to move on, with grateful thanks. Having chosen WordPress, and not having any unusual requirements, the choice of host was fairly open. US-based ones seemed cheaper, but somehow I feel more comfortable knowing my web site is spinning around in a UK-based server. Also, I have a page about UK-based services which ranks really well on Google, and people would argue that having this on a UK-based server helps with that ranking.

I searched for a few websites which might have reviewed web hosts, and indeed there were many. But more than a few looked suspiciously non-independent to me: either favourable to their advertisers, or worse, perhaps even (cleverly) set up by the web hosts themselves. I saw a few recommendations in forums, but again, wasn’t inspired to immediately sign up with one. What I did learn, however, is that I should look for a host offering good control over setting up the web sites, email, statistics and more, and that this could be done quite easily: look for a host offering CPanel. This is a simple interface to a massive range of capabilities, widely sold to hosting companies. And it does turn out to be excellent. The host should also offer Fantastico, which can be accessed through CPanel. Fantastico is a collection of third party scripts and applications, and an easy installer. The applications include WordPress.

So now I had something to look for, and it didn’t take long to find some hosts offering this. I wasn’t too hung up on pricing but found one host quite quickly (thanks AdWords!) which was very competitive and offered all of the above. The company appears to be based in Hebden Bridge, which is a lovely part of the country, and also passed my final test, by offering a company web site which was usable by Mac owners. That really shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for anyone in the IT business, surely, but it is. Sites tested only on IE and Windows with stupid javascript menus that don’t pull down, tiny text, and buttons which don’t work: we Mac owners have seen them all, and guess what? We walk away from doing business with you.

Fortunately for Nativespace, signing up with them wasn’t a challenge, so they got the business. Beware that the multiple site packages they offer only really give you multiple subdomains of the first one you set up with them; it doesn’t really matter, because you just alias the domain to that subdomain, but if you have one important one, set that up first. I didn’t: in fact, I set up my least important one first, www.therandfamily.com, as a test. That means although you appear to be looking at http://chrisrand.com now, you’re actually looking at http://chrisrand.therandfamily.com which I hope doesn’t turn out to be a problem.

I’ll report back on the Nativespace experience if there’s anything to report on!

Why WordPress?

Wordpress intro screen

So, why did I go for WordPress as my blogging software? Remember: application first, platform second. Zeldman.com puts it well: easy writing facilities, easy design facilities, standards compliant, and as the leading open-source application, you know that there’s plenty more development left in the tank. I’m not fussed that it’s free, although that’s a nice extra. And once I’d had a look, and realised WordPress did everything I needed well, I could see that there was a lot, lot more for me to play with in the future.

The clincher was that I quickly discovered that WordPress comes with built-in facilities for importing an existing Blogger blog (amongst others). This turned out to be so smooth I wondered if it had actually worked properly. It had. As standard, it assumes you have a Blogspot-hosted blog, which I didn’t, but there are plenty of workarounds if your Blogger blog is hosted on your own web site. The most obvious, which I used, was to republish your entire blog on Blogspot (it takes a minute or two, that’s all), then import it from there. Finally, delete the blog from Blogspot. Easy!

I’m looking forward to using WordPress, which is more than I can say for a lot of new software I’ve tackled.

The Blog is Back!

You’ll notice there’s a 10-week gap between this entry and the previous one. You may think the reason is probably because I couldn’t be a**ed to write anything while the sun was out.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, I haven’t been able to publish anything, because as with a lot of other users, Blogger has been having problems publishing to my non-Blogspot site. I realised some weeks back that the way ahead would be to move to a better blogging platform, so I firstly had to research which one (WordPress didn’t take long to push itself to the fore) and then I had to move the whole web site away from the server of some business associates (where I’d been blagging free space for ten years) to a proper, paid-for web host which could provide WordPress. More on where I went, and how it’s turned out, over the next few days.
In the meantime, to everyone at Blogger, thanks for the free service for all these years, and I leave you amicably.