Red Devils on WordPress.com
Published March 11th, 2010 under General
Recently we were approached here at PixoPoint by the goal tender for the Canterbury Red devils ice hockey team, Vince Mitalas, about building a custom website for his team. They are a low-budget community organisation which competes in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League and needed to improve their online presence for very little cost. Their original site consisted of hard coded .html files as a simple static site. Our initial suggestion of a full-custom designed and coded, hosted WordPress installation was beyond their budget, so we suggested an alternative which has slashed their costs considerably yet allowed them to create their own WordPress powered site with a design which matches their branding and includes all of the functionality they requested, including a contact form, email subscriptions for news posts, no commenting functionality (they didn’t want a traditional blog) and the ability to add photo galleries and videos. The final result can be seen at http://reddevils.co.nz/.
What we suggested was for them to use the hosted WordPress.com service. This is not the regular self-hosted solution that you can download from WordPress.org, but the hosted system which allows you to create your own blog/site within minutes. We have suggested this previously to those who can’t afford a more traditional solution, but have found it an uphill battle convincing people that WordPress.com can indeed meet their needs in exactly the same way a self-hosted solution would.
Misconceptions about WordPress.com powered sites
Traditionally WordPress.com has only been suggested as a low-budget option for those who can’t afford to upgrade to “proper” hosted setup, however for the Red Devils, we were able to meet all of their requirements without losing anything that they required in their site. We were also able to integrate their teams branding into an existing theme very quickly through some simple CSS upgrades.
The following is a common comment we receive from potential clients when suggesting using WordPress.com for their site.
But you can’t upload themes to WordPress.com and we need our own design
However, despite this, we had no trouble at all in redesigning a WordPress.com site for the Red Devils which suited their needs perfectly by using the “CSS upgrade” option. This costs a mere US$15 and allows you to totally modify the sites CSS. This gives huge power over how the site looks and behaves. We were able to use this to add a new background image, totally change the text colours, remove all remnants of the commenting feature of WordPress (even when comments are disabled their are still occasional bits of text mentioning the comments feature).
The following is another common comment we receive on suggesting clients use WordPress.com to power their site.
No, I must have my own domain for branding purposes!
This is also a fallacy as there is a “domain upgrade” option available for another US$10. All you need to do is to point your domain at the WordPress.com name servers, purchase the upgrade, add the new domain to your list of domains and it will automatically start working and all your own URLs will redirect to the new one automagically. Apart from the small unobtrusive link back to WordPress.com in your footer, no one will have a clue that you are using the WordPress.com service.
And last, but not least, the following is another common comment we receive on suggesting clients use WordPress.com over a self-hosted solution.
But I don’t want a blog, I want a website!
Ignoring the obvious fact that a blog is actually a website, it is entirely possible to make a WordPress.com “blog” look and behave in a very “non-bloggy” way. You can either ditch the blog functionality entirely and go for an entirely static site, or you can use the method we used for the Red Devils site by removing all mentions of “blog”, turning off commenting and stripping out any errant text which may appear in the site related to the commenting functionality, blog categories etc. This gives a simple list of news items on the front page to ensure that their site visitors see the most important/current content first up. They even use the sticky post feature of WordPress to ensure that news items they want to ensure readers see first are always at the top of the home page.
What other upgrades are available
There are a suite of different upgrades available for those who need them. The Red Devils did not require any of the other available extras, but depending on your requirements you may find some of the other options useful, in particular the ability to remove the occasional advertising which WordPress.com serves to your sites visitors.
The beauty of using WordPress.com, is that not only does it cost almost nothing to setup (US$25 for the CSS and domain name upgrades), but you don’t need to bother maintaining a WordPress installation since they handle everything for you. You also don’t need to worry about DOS attacks, security or any of that stuff as the WordPress.com team have a terrific track record of handling such things spectacularly well.
The clients opinion
The Canterbury Red Devils have been very happy so far with the end-product. For negligible up-front cost they have all of the features they wanted for their site, a slick design, their own domain and to the casual observer it looks like the Red Devils have a regular self-hosted WordPress installation.
They have gone from an awkward to use static site which they couldn’t update, there were no RSS feeds, no email subscriptions, no photo galleries and they couldn’t give non-technical users the ability to edit their site. They can now have multiple members of their organisation editing the site with no fear of the site breaking or something going catastrophically wrong. They effectively have infinite bandwidth to handle any potential traffic spikes, their sites security is handled by the best experts in the business and their site loads lightning quick since it is hosted on the massive 1000+ server stack of WordPress.com.
Special thanks to Vince Mitalas from the Red Devils who worked with us on this project and who has been adding all the content ready for the sites launch today.
Getting your own WordPress.com powered site
If you don’t have the CSS coding skills or simply want someone else to handle everything for you, please get in touch with us as we are very keen to build more of these hosted setups. If it matches your requirements, they are an inexpensive way to enter the online world without losing any of the professionalism of the regular self-hosted WordPress installation.