Despite setting up several WordPress blogs before, I’ve never actually set one up using the free hosting option. It’s an interesting experience setting one up to see all of the restrictions placed upon users that are otherwise easily manipulated when hosting the blog yourself (or rather, on a server).
The dashboard is largely the same– you can manipulate pages, add content, edit posts, and all of the other standard WordPress functions available within most themes or templates. What it lacks, however, are the “real” customization options. With most themes, you are not able to edit the CSS at all, and are forced to deal with the advertisements from the theme owner. Some of them are nice enough to allow you to change simple things– background images, colors, and maybe the font family– but nothing much past that. I can’t edit the headers, the footers, or for that matter, a majority of my very own site.
It’s almost crippling.
All of this functionality I’m normally used to has all seemingly vanished. I’ve developed themes for a few clients, and I can’t even choose to use them. WordPress limits you to using the themes they have set out for you. I can add a logo, edit a tag, or make new categories, but I cannot add something unique to the “character” of the blog– I can only change the content.
But that’s what CSS is to HTML– a way to add character to your web page. I’m inspired by projects like http://www.csszengarden.com/ that showcase the same exact content on a page, but offer a number of variations transformed by manipulating the page’s elements. Making this WordPress is like having all of the HTML, but taking away all of the fun of CSS. It’s like going to a restaurant and telling the chef how to prepare the meal for you. It might turn out all right, but in the end it’s not the reason why you came. WordPress is a powerful tool, but they could do so much more if they just let people experiment with their product a bit more.