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WordPress

WordPress is a powerful and popular tool for creating websites and blogs. 

In more technical terms, it is an open-source Content Management System (CMS). Basically that means that it is a free tool available online and, because of it’s open nature, is constantly being adapted and used by people all over the world.

Access

As a member of the Middlebury community, you can access WordPress one of four ways:

  1. WordPress through Sites DOT (College / Schools | Institute) — learn about access to Sites DOT here.
  2. WordPress through MiddCreate learn about access to MiddCreate here.  
  3. WordPress through WordPress.com — learn about access to WordPress.com here.
  4. WordPress through a self-hosted domain

Explain WordPress, please.

Think of WordPress as a piece of software that helps you create a website. It’s not the only software you could use to make your site, but it’s a very common one to choose because it offers a ton of add-ons that give you more flexibility and control over the design and function of your site than many other options. It also separates the “look” from the “content,” which means you can easily change the design of your entire site without losing your carefully written “About” page or blog entries, for example. (This is different from options such as Wix or Weebly, where if you want to change the theme, you sometimes have to start your entire site all over from scratch.)

I’m confused.

Confusion over WordPress often comes because there are different ways you can access this software—some of which are free and simple to set up but limit your options, and some of which are a little more complicated to get started with but also give you more freedom of choice as to what is possible.

The way to access WordPress is commonly referred to as either “wordpress.com” or “wordpress.org,” but that’s not the most helpful to someone who is just starting out. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Middlebury offers different ways to access WordPress, so instead of the regular either/or decision that other people outside of Middlebury face, we have four options.

The four options again are:

  1. sites.middlebury.edu (College/Schools) or sites.miis.edu (Institute)
  2. MiddCreate
  3. WordPress.com
  4. Self-hosted domain

What’s the difference? (click here for summary)

A. Cost

Numbers 1 & 2 are free for the Middlebury community, and number 3 would be free for you whether you were a part of Middlebury or not.

Number 4 would involve paying for hosting and a domain in order to set up WordPress.

B. Availability

Numbers 1 & 2 are available to the Middlebury community.

Numbers 3 & 4 would be available to you whether you were a part of Middlebury or not.

C. Setup, Ease of Use

Numbers 1 & 3 are WordPress-specific options, and the software is set up for you and ready to use easily and immediately.

Numbers 2 & 4 give you a space where you can install the WordPress software for your use, but you have to specifically choose WordPress versus other potential options. Once you install it, you have to configure and maintain it, which is less intuitive.

D. URL/Web Address

Numbers 1, 2, & 3 by default come with a specific part of the URL that you can’t get rid of. If you want your URL to include “WinterHatHair” in it, it would have to be one of the following, depending on which WordPress option you chose:

  • sites.miis.edu/WinterHatHair or sites.middlebury.edu/WinterHatHair
  • WinterHatHair.middcreate.net
  • WinterHatHair.wordpress.com

However, numbers 2 & 3 both allow you to purchase a domain name to map onto your domain if you don’t like the free default option. So you could choose your own domain, just like for number 4.

Number 4 requires that you purchase a domain name, so if it were available, you could use one or more of the following:

  • WinterHatHair.com
  • WinterHatHair.org
  • WinterHatHair.me
  • WinterHatHair.net
  • etc.

E. Ability to Modify and Control Your Website

Numbers 1 & 3 are limited versions of WordPress. As a user, you don’t have any say over what plugins or themes you can install, but you also don’t have to do any setup of the software in order to use it, and you don’t have to worry as much about safety and security, because someone else is taking care of that for you.

Numbers 2 & 4 are full versions of WordPress, with unlimited ability to modify the code and add plugins and themes to your heart’s content. However, you have to have a place (or “domain”) to install the software, and then you have to install it, keep it up to date, do your best to make it safe and secure and protected from hackers, keep backups, and also maintain all the plugins and themes you’ve decided to use. Fair warning, you might one day break your site and not know why. Yet many people choose to go this route anyway because of the unlimited potential for greatness.

F. Accessibility After Leaving/Graduating from Middlebury

You lose access to numbers 1 & 2 when you lose access to your Middlebury email, usually 6 months after departing Middlebury, but there are ways to migrate your site before then. (Migrate your site from sites DOT | Migrate your site from Middcreate)

You never lose access to number 3, unless you delete your account or don’t follow the terms of service.

You lose access to number 4 if you stop paying the hosting provider.

In Summary

1. WordPress through Sites DOT (College / Schools | Institute

  • Free
  • For the Middlebury community
  • Easy to set up and use
  • URL contains “.miis.edu or .middlebury.edu”
  • Limited ability to control but less worries about being hacked
  • Lose access 6 months after leaving Middlebury unless you take action

2. WordPress through MiddCreate 

  • Free
  • For Middlebury community
  • Harder to set up and use
  • URL contains “.middcreate.net” unless you pay for and set up a domain name
  • Unlimited ability to control, but more responsibility to maintain
  • Lose access 6 months after leaving Middlebury unless you take action

3. WordPress through WordPress.com 

  • Free with option for paid upgrades
  • For anybody
  • Easy to set up and use
  • URL contains “.wordpress.com” unless you pay for a domain name
  • Limited ability to control but less worries about being hacked
  • Never lose access unless you delete your account

4. WordPress through a self-hosted domain

  • Never free
  • For anybody
  • Harder to set up and use
  • URL is whatever you pay for
  • Unlimited ability to control, but more responsibility to maintain
  • Never lose access unless you stop paying

Questions?

For help setting up a WordPress site, see our additional resources in Blogging and Web Tools. (Note that not all of these resources will refer to WordPress.)