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7 reasons to use WordPress for a small business website

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WordPress can help small businesses

Which Content Management System (CMS) to use for small businesses that wants to update their website content? There are many options available for a small business and these may seem bewildering. In this post, I will give 7 reasons why WordPress is one of the best tools to support your small business website.

Self-hosting

With WordPress installed on your hosting server, you remain in control of the site, its software and its content. You are not at the mercy of a third party being responsible for maintenance and upgrades; you have complete control. You can choose to manage the whole thing yourself, or you can pay someone to do the maintenance and upgrading for you, as necessary. You will need to make sure that your chosen web host is capable of supporting WordPress on their servers (most are).

Plugins

If the standard setup does not do what you want it to do, there are masses of extensions to the functionality of the platform available as plugins. All that is needed is for them to be downloaded and activated and they are ready to use immediately. Plugins offer a huge amount of flexibility to your WordPress installation, making the functionality fairly bespoke depending on the plugins that you install.

Community support

If you have problems with your installation, there is a vast community of professionals who are able to assist, unlike other more specialist platforms, WordPress is built on PHP and MySQL, which are languages that are readily understood by many developers and other professionals. As WordPress, PHP and MySQL are open source platforms, there is a huge amount of information and support available as well as a very active and supportive WordPress community. If you have any problems or questions, you will find it fairly easy to get an answer (and no question is too trivial, believe me!).

Flexibility

As WordPress is open source and has a great community following, it offers flexibility and ease of use. Indeed, one of the biggest advantages of WordPress over other platforms is its user-friendliness: you don’t need to understand programming languages, PHP, HTML or MySQL to use it. You can just log in, click and type. Often, it is considered to be ‘only’ a blogging tool but its flexibility is astonishing at accomplishing many different tasks.

Open source and free

WordPress is built on an open source platform and is itself open source. It is free to use for any purpose (personal or commercial). This has to be a huge benefit for any small business or not-for-profit organisation with a limited budget. Also, it is simple to learn and it is quick to keep your site up to date and fresh, so resource use can be minimised and you won’t need to go on any expensive or time consuming courses.

SEO and Standards compliant

WordPress takes much of the pain out of ensuring your site is Search Engine friendly and automatically completes many of the tasks that have to be completed every time new content is added to a web site. It also ensures that new content is compliant with the latest web standards and that your site is accessible and visitor friendly (depending on the theme that is used to display your content). It does all of these essential things out of the box, allowing you to get on with running your business.

No coding necessary

Unlike some other platforms, you may never need to touch a line of code. All the HTML, CSS, PHP and MySQL takes place in the background, where it should be. You don’t need to be an expert in web technologies to use it, which leaves you time to ensure your content is great. With many websites and some other CMS platforms, you would need to have a knowledge of some coding to update, change or add to your existing content. With WordPress, this is not necessary, saving you time and money.

And finally, one more for luck…

Branding

You can easily make your web site look and feel the way you want it to with bespoke themes. A theme is a set of ‘templates’ that wrap around your content so that it looks the way you want it to look. Whether you have a brand identity, or an existing web site that you want to pull your blog into, you can theme your installation how you want. There are many existing themes available (some for free) if you want to use something off the shelf. But if you want something bespoke, you can easily get it designed and developed for you by a WordPress expert.

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Upgrading to WordPress 2.8 – Don’t panic!

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WordPress - how to have an error free upgrade

Yesterday I upgraded my WordPress 2.7.1 version to WordPress 2.8. I approached this with some considerable trepidation because I remember how easy it was a few weeks ago to install the blog for the first time. In my experience, anything that is easy to install is hard to upgrade! So, I took a cautious approach and I’m really relieved I did. If you are considering upgrading to WordPress 2.8 from earlier versions make sure you back up ALL your site files AND your database first.

Most people I have interacted with over the last 24 hours have had an easy time upgrading, but there is a significant group (me included) who have had problems. It is not clear why these problems have occurred – whether it is to do with hosting platforms or certain plugins. Here is what you can do to make your install as safe and easy as possible:

  1. BACKUP. Make sure you have complete back ups of your site files AND your database immediately before you start any upgrade process. This is essential in case anything goes wrong and you need to revert to your previous state. Store these files on a different server or on a local hard drive rather than on the server hosting your installed WordPress.
  2. DEACTIVATE all your plugins. There are some plugins that are incompatible with the new version of WordPress, or require further upgrade before they will work. Some plugins will cause either a complete failure of the upgrade, or may cause serious and catastrophic failures following the upgrade. Having them active during the install could cause conflicts. Do not take any risks with active plugins while you are upgrading.
  3. DO NOT USE AUTOMATIC UPGRADE. This does not work consistently on all hosting platforms and with all installed versions of the application. I seem to have problems with automatic upgrades for plugins and the WordPress application, as do many other people.
  4. DOWNLOAD the zip from WordPress.org http://wordpress.org/download/ to your local drive and unzip it.
  5. Use an FTP client to go to your remote server and DELETE
    • wp-admin
    • wp-includes (except wp-includes/languages if you have an older version installed)
    • readme.html
    • wp.php
    • xmlrpc.php
    • licence.txt
    • wp-content/plugins/widgets (if you have this installed)
    • wp-content/plugins/hello.php
    • wp-content/plugins/akismet/
    • All other files in the root EXCEPT those mentioned in 6 below.
  6. DON’T DELETE:
    • wp-content/ (except those mentioned above in step 5.)
    • .htaccess
    • wp-content/images/
    • wp-config.php
  7. UPLOAD each folder separately in the following order:
    • wp-admin/
    • wp-includes/
    • wp-content/plugins/hello.php
    • wp-content/plugins/akisment/
    • wp-content/plugins/index.php
    • all the files in the root directory (except wp-config-sample.php)
  8. In your browser, go to www.yourblogdomain.com/wp-admin/
  9. If asked to upgrade your database, click the button then log-in as normal
  10. Identify any plugins that need to be upgraded, download them, delete them from your server in your FTP client, then upload the new files. Again, do not use the automatic update feature while upgrading, especially if it is unreliable on your system.
  11. Activate each plugin one by one and test that the server continues to work. Some plugins cause a 500 Server Error sometime after they have been reactivated and this could be the next time you log in. If this happens, it is most likely to be a plugin error and it is best to activate plugins one by one over a period of time.
  12. Any plugins that do not work (I have had problems with All-in-one-SEO and YARPP), delete from your server, delete from your local drive, download again and upload fresh copies, try again. If they still cause problems, you won’t be able to use them until they have been updated by the developer.
  13. Check all of your SETTINGS.
  14. Check that your blog posts are visible and showing.

Troubleshooting

When I first installed version 2.8, I followed the quick process and this resulted in not being able to identify the /wp-admin/ address; so I could not log into WordPress. This is when I followed the procedure above and managed to install a working version of the upgrade WordPress 2.8.

Since then, I have had problems with new versions of all-in-one-SEO, which will not activate and YARPP, which causes an ERROR 500 “Internal Server Error” on my server. I am hopeful that manual installs of fresh copies of these downloads will resolve these issues.

Interestingly, when I try login to my WordPress install, I sometimes get an ERROR 500 message and have to retry several times….

If you are having a similar problem with this or future versions of WordPress, try reading my update to this blog post.