X Reasons To Consider A Business Plan on WordPress.com

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WordPress

WordPress.com has come a long way since its early days of offering a simple way to get into blogging without having to worry about how to set up a self-hosted WordPress site.

I know some people use WordPress.com as a stepping stone to a self-hosted site. I did. I wanted to host my own site because I wanted to be free of restrictions. What that meant in those days (this is back in 2007) is that I could put Google Adsense adverts on my blog.

And I was attracted to the idea of getting to grips with how to do it at all – how to set up a database, how to set up the config file, and all the other bits that go to making a web site. It was nerve-wracking at first. I was afraid that everything I did would break the site and leave me lost in a maze.

It didn’t happen, but what I did get into were the twin notions of ‘optimisation’ and ‘security’.

Optimisation includes using keywords that accurately reflect what the site is about. That way, when someone searches in a search engine such as Google or Bing, your site is likely to be tagged because your keywords fit well with what the page on your site is about.

But optimisation also meant making the site fast to load. As search engine optimisation experts said – it didn’t matter how attractive your site looked, or how perfectly apt the keywords were, no one was going to hang around long enough to see your site if it took a long time to load.

That led on to well-coded versus poorly coded themes, to plugins that optimised CSS and Javascript, to database cleanup tools, gzip, expires headers, memory allocation, and more.

Security meant long and complex login passwords, and it meant keeping themes and plugins up to date. I had to destroy one site when it got infected with a virus that I introduced when I tried out a theme from a dubious source.

I tried to clean up the infection but in the end I nuked the site. That meant first extracting the xml file with the text of the blog posts, then deleting the database, the themes, and the plugins, and starting from scratch.

Not something I would recommend, but I learned from it. One thing I learned was to put a security system in place to prevent it happening again.

Oh yes, and to take regular backups. And store at least one copy off-site.

Later, much later, I built a WooCommerce store. I didn’t have a product in mind, just the desire to build a store with WooCommerce. That’s another thing that has got easier over the years. The setup wizard is good and the explainer videos are excellent.

But it also means that security has got to be nailed down because customers will be signing up, creating accounts, giving their credit card details, and expecting to receive stuff.

And backups becomes a much bigger issue. It’s one thing if your blog posts go missing – sad, but only sad for you. If your customers’ data goes missing, you are going to be responsible for cleaning up the mess.

Some of the front runners for taking payments on WooCommerce stores don’t take any sensitive details on your site. For example, Stripe puts a little popup on your site at the payment stage, and the information your customer puts in is encrypted and sent straight to Stripe.

So you would think that takes care of credit card security. Not so. If your site is hacked, the hacker can, for example, execute a ‘man in the middle’ attack. Your customer thinks they are going to Paypal or Stripe, but secretly they are being led off to something that looks like them but really it is giving your customers details to the hacker who has put a lookalike page over the real page.

That’s just one issue. They are not impossible to overcome – after all, WooCommerce powers an awful lot of stores both big and small – but you have to take steps to keep your site secure.

A Good Web Host

A good web host will complement the hard work you put into making your site load fast. A bad web host will overstretch resources, fail to guard your site from having its resources hogged by another site on the same server. It can even let in a hacker via the level above your site on the server.

A good web host will take regular backups. And they will make extra backups available to you so you can store them somewhere else – a copy on your hard drive and a copy with something like Amazon AWS, for example.

Managed shared hosting is an option, where they take care of optimisation, backups, and security – with a bigger monthly cost.

A virtual private server (VPS) is the next step up, but that requires a lot more technical skill. There are services that will act as a kind of intermediary or control panel to help set up your site on a VPS, but if it is already starting to give you a headache, it’s something to think about further down the line.

It takes a lot of reading to find accurate data on good versus bad web hosts. I generally look at Review Signal’s benchmarks as a starting point.

A fast web host on shared hosting with cPanel should be around $20/month. Access to top-notch WordPress themes that show off your store to its best advantage will be, let’s say, $100/year. WooCommerce itself is free, but you might need some extensions to get your store to do exactly what you want. Or maybe not. So that’s $300/year or more.

WordPress.com has a business plan that enables you to use your own domain name, use any of their premium themes, add plugins, change the CSS, set up WooCommerce, and set up Google Analytics. It also offers unlimited storage, but I can’t see that being an issue because it would take a huge store with many thousands of products to make storage an issue.

I have the Premium plan here on WordPress.com. It’s one step down from the business plan, which I haven’t tried. I haven’t tried the business plan because my partner and I already have our e-commerce store set up on a self-hosted site and I can’t see any reason to change.

But if I was starting again I would look at the WordPress.com business plan option (affiliate link) because the two big things that are taken care of – optimisation and security.

Here’s the list of what the business plan offers for £20/month in the UK (not sure what the cost is in other parts of the world – click the link and find out – it should geolocate to wherever you are).

  • Google Analytics support
  • Unlimited storage
  • Remove WordPress.com branding
  • Custom Domain Name
  • Jetpack Essentials
  • Email & Live Chat Support
  • Unlimited Premium Themes
  • Advanced Design Customization
  • monetisation (WordAds, Adsense and affiliate ads)
  • add plugins

The Competition

Squarespace (£21/month in the UK) and Shopify ($29/month) are the front runners.

I think the biggest reason I would choose WordPress.com over either of these is that if at some point I wanted to self-host my store, I could export all my settings/database information/themes/etc . I don’t think you can do this with Squarespace or Shopify.

The Greenwich Foot Tunnel under the Thames

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Photography

Tamara and I were in London yesterday. We happened to see this small building, which is the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

The tunnel goes under the Thames, 15 metres below the river. It runs from Greenwich on the south side to Tower Hamlets on the north side and was opened in 1902 with lifts installed in two years later.

New lifts were installed when the tunnel was renovated in 2012. There’s a plaque that you can see lower left of the photo, the details the history of the tunnel.

It’s odd, really. We go under the river by tube (London Underground) and don’t think about it for a moment. But the idea of walking under the river – that’s a different feeling.

Model Drama

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Photography

I cut out the confusing backgrounds (the display cases at the exhibition at the V&A that I talked about in my last post) from these models to show these pieces of drapery to their best effect.

The last image is just plain weird. And though it is nothing more than paper mâché, don’t you think it has a certain presence?

Beetle Dress

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Environment

Last week, Tamara and I went to the Fashion and Nature exhibition at the V&A in London.

Dress from the 1800s decorated with the wing cases of the beetle Stemocera aeqisignata

I was in London a couple of weeks before, and Tamara asked me to go and scout out the exhibition, which I did. I thought it was a fashion exhibition, not realising that the thrust of it was the damage that fashion does to the natural world.

The lower floor of the exhibition was about days gone by – about ostrich feathers, and tortoiseshell, humming bird wings, and bear fur.

The upper floor was about the damage that modern processes do, from plastic fibres leaching into the waterways, to the chemicals used to manufacture clothes.

I think we are all inured to the damage done to the living world in days gone by, but the sight of a line of tiny, dead humming birds lying there in the exhibit, got to us.

They were killed many years ago to decorate hats.

So tiny, so defenceless.

Stemocera aeqisignata

The photo here (excuse the phone camera quality in poor lighting) is of a dress decorated with over 5,000 beetle wings and parts of wings from the Indian beetle Stemocera aeqisignata.

Can you see the iridescent green of the decoration? The man in the accompanying video explained that the colour comes from tiny prisms in the wings.

That is why, unlike dyes that fade, the colour is as fresh as the day the wings were plucked from the beetles in the 1860s.

Dress from the 1800s decorated with the wing cases of the beetle Stemocera aeqisignata

Colour Backgrounds behind quotes

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WordPress

Colour backgrounds behind quotes in Gutenberg

If you use Gutenberg and you want add a splash of colour behind a paragraph of text, you go over to the sidebar and you will see two tabs.

One says Colour Settings and the other says Advanced.

When you open the Colour Settings you see two palettes of colours.

You can change the colour of the text and/or the colour of the background to the text.

And you can either choose one of the colours that are there or you can click on the multi-coloured circle at the end of the swatch of colours and make any colour you want.

Here is a short paragraph with the background colour a nice rose pink.

But if you make a quote, the Colour Settings tab disappears, leaving only the Advanced tab.

If you open the Advanced tab you will see that it says ‘Additional CSS Class’.

I wondered what it meant until I realised it was an invitation to create a CSS class.

(Actually, the ‘until I realised’ took quite a while…)

The little that I know about classes is that you should name them something that is not likely to have been used elsewhere in the main code. So I named it ‘quote-thing’. Catchy, eh?

Stage 2 was to add the CSS to the CSS section in the Customiser. It has to refer to the class and it has to tell the class what to do. So I said it should make the background a specific colour (#ebf2f5)

And I wanted to put a bit of padding around the quote so that it didn’t look like it was sitting in a straightjacket.

Here is the code:

/* background colour for quote */
.quote-thing {
	background: #ebf2f5;
	padding-top: 15px;
	padding-right: 15px;
	padding-bottom: 15px;
	padding-left: 15px;
}

You can see it in the duck-egg blue background colour to the quote that begins ‘RICHARD JEFFERIES AUTOBIOGRAPHY, The Story of My Heart…’ in the previous post Spes Phthisica and the Heights Of Consumption.

Spes Phthisica and the Heights Of Consumption

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Spes Phthisica and the Heights Of Consumption

A while ago Tamara bought me a book, ‘As Kingfishers Catch Fire‘, and I opened it and started reading where it fell open, at the chapter on the skylark.

You can see the words spes phthisica near the end of the text that I have quoted here, and I wondered whether the authors were being figurative or whether it was a real medical condition.

RICHARD JEFFERIES AUTOBIOGRAPHY, The Story of My Heart, tells us almost nothing of its author’s short, sad life. It was written in 1883, as the tuberculosis that would kill Jefferies began to show itself in bloodspotted handkerchiefs and digestive complaints. He would live for four more years, long enough to see his third child die of meningitis, long enough to write his mesmerising post-apocalyptic masterpiece, After London. He was thirty-eight when he died, the age I will be when these words are published, and he’s buried in Broadwater Cemetery, Worthing, not ten minutes’ walk from where I grew up, on the rim of land between the chalky South Downs and the sea. The Story of My Heart is the record of Jefferies’ spiritual development, of the way that, through nature, he accessed his ‘strong inspiration of soul thought’. It is a lavish, joyful book, some passages coming close to madness, touched perhaps by the spes phthisica that is said to induce a kind of euphoria in consumptives…

I looked up spes phthisica and found that it is a medical term that means a state of euphoria occurring in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis.

The phrase is pronounced SPACE THIZICA.

I also found an article that suggested that the Romantic poets and artists were romantic precisely because they suffered from TB and were given to romantic euphoria because of spes phthisica.

As we know, TB causes anaemia and worse symptoms. And anaemia is characterised by a deathly pallor to the skin.

Because of that effect, the article also suggested that various pale and ghostly figures that appeared in Romantic books and paintings were the deadly embrace of TB.