Moving to Mexico: Chapter 8

The WordPress Blues

OK, so I’m going to be a writer, blogger, whatever. And I plan to be paid for this. First, write something. Check. Second, build a simple WordPress site to display my wares.

WordPress is supposed to be simple. It is not.

If you do not believe me, do a Google or YouTube search on the topic “WordPress help” and you will find over 2.5 million results. WordPress is not as simple as it seems.

Now, Google “WordPress difficult to use” and you get 175,000,000 results.

A few statistics:

    • WordPress released its first version in 2003.
    • It is available in over fifty languages.
    • It took 112 “person years” to develop.
    • It is the #1 Content Management System.
    • It can be downloaded in less than five minutes.
    • It has been downloaded over 19.7 million times.
    • 27% of the Internet is powered by WordPress

And they do all of this with just 532 employees. (I believe that. I’ve tried calling their helpline. They don’t answer so they must be pretty busy.)

Opening my WordPress site, USAdios.com, has proven to be a maddening experience. Starting the site is easy, and free. According to an online expert, “A fifth-grader could do it in five minutes.”  But when you try to customize it, that’s where the fun begins.

WordPressHas technology advanced so much that even a “user-friendly” page builder like WordPress is beyond me? I have learned that it is beyond many of us. There are thousands of companies and programming experts who make their living creating these “user-friendly” sites that elementary school kids apparently do in their sleep.

Recently, I was visiting a good friend and his family, and his mother was astounded that I could access DirecTV on my iPhone 8 Plus.

“You can watch TV on your phone?”  She asked.

“Of course.”  I said. “It’s been this way for years. Don’t you have DirecTV?”  I asked. She nodded, and I agreed to check her phone. It turned out, she had the application on her phone so all I needed was her username and password to get it working. She could not remember either one. After thirty minutes on the phone to the Philippines help center for DirecTV, we gave up. We were so frustrated and refused to spend any more of our visit letting tech let us down again. Mind you, the lady I was helping is in her eighties. Bless her heart! But she really just did not comprehend something that was simple to me. I must seem like an incredible fool to my teenage son when I ask him to teach me about Snap Chat. He refuses.

It’s been that way with my WordPress site. I’m trying to learn everything I can on my own, accessing Google and YouTube for help when I get stuck. A recurring problem is that my screen never matches the screen the lecturing YouTuber is showing. It’s close, but there is always something missing.

  • Want to change your Permalinks? It’s under Settings…nope.
  • Need to access your Dashboard quickly via the toolbar? Set this in your personal User Settings…no, it’s not there.
  • The tutorial is using a theme called “oceanwp”. That theme is not accessible.
  • I paid $300.00 for 12 months of the top access with WordPress. My site still shows “free”; limited access.

Uggg!!!

WordPressIt goes on and on. I go from wanting to separate two simple pages to having to create a Gravatar to needing to change my pseudonym (did you really think Tom Collins was my real name?)  It is a maddening rabbit-hole that leads me from one dark tunnel to another, hopelessly lost and confused.

Bullet point number 2 above had two “quick” fixes. The first one did not even register on my screen and the second one involved actually altering the code of my WordPress site. Are they kidding? WordPress is supposed to be simple, user-friendly and the answer to no-coding site builds. It’s not always true. It turns out that WordPress is hosted on different platforms and guess what, they’re all different. Major versions of the site are released every 152 days, so the ball keeps well hidden. Great.

It reminded me of the time my mechanic told me how to check if the heater core in my truck was damaged.

“There are two rubber hoses that connect at the firewall. Remove them, flush each with a garden hose for a few minutes, then switch them and reattach. If the heater doesn’t work after three days, the core is probably toast.”  He explained.

After two hours and some pretty bloody knuckles, I called him.

“These hoses really don’t seem to want to come off. I’m afraid of damaging them by pulling too hard.”  I said.

“I guess you just have to know how hard is too hard.”  He said. I had no idea how that was supposed to help me, but his words were true. When you’re faced with fixing something completely foreign, being blocked by step one often halts the whole project.

I can just hear the WordPress users laughing at me right now.

“Man, you must be one simple guy!”

I hope not. However, that was the attitude of the WordPress help desk person. I’m sure he would have loved to sell me some “help.”  It turned out he was not really with WordPress. I think he was with a third-party company that touts themselves as WordPress gurus, there to help.

“Have you considered the level of SEO you need? There are a lot of third-party plugins and hacks we can use. Have you looked into the plugins repository or PHP scripts?”  He asked.

Sorry, no sale.

After I bought my Business Plan upgrade ($25/month), I was given a 30-minute phone/screen-share counseling session with a WordPress technician. We spent the first five minutes going over the “rules” where she set my expectations low.

“We can’t accomplish much in just thirty minutes.”  She said, and I expected an upsell pitch but did not get one. I had my list ready, so I hit the number one issue:  transferring my domain name from GoDaddy.

“I can’t really tell you much about how to do that without an authorization code.”  She said. “You will have to talk to your domain provider.” This was a classic customer service move:  the transfer of responsibility.

WordPress“I think I have one.”  I replied and quickly searched my email. I had tried this before and failed but remembered that GoDaddy had sent me something. I found the email and gave her the code. It failed, but we were prompted to get a new code, which worked.

“Seven days from now, you should have the domain transferred.”  She said. “Was there anything else?” I scanned my laundry list and tried to find issue number two.

“How can I create a Blog page where my entries will be itemized separately? It seems that they all just land on my Home page.”  I asked.

“That’s how it’s set up.”  She answered.

“OK. Can it be changed?”  

“You need a plugin that will itemize each entry, but you can’t get the plugin until your domain is transferred.”  She said.

“What’s a plugin?”  I asked.

“It’s a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to your site that is written in PHP programming language, or perhaps other assets such as images, CSS and JavaScript, for seamless integration enabling source code customization acting as an add-on to a web browser giving additional functionality.”  She explained.

I hung up.

In less than twenty minutes I felt that not only had I not learned anything, but the things I thought I knew were most likely wrong. It was as if a NASA scientist had asked a difficult question about astrophysics and I had answered, “Green”.

I was a moron in their world. That was clear. But listening to someone who is most likely a low-compensated phone expert who had just eviscerated my brain from my body made me feel, well…stupid.

As I stared at my blank WordPress site, I wondered.

Was it really this difficult?

Should it be?

The good news is this:  if you are wrestling with WordPress, you are not alone. The bad news is that it appears the difficulty of using this “simple” blogging site will only intensify.

If you wish, take a look at my current site:  usadioscom.wordpress.com. Soon, it should be just usadios.com…. I hope. More on this struggle later.

To read the previous installment, click here!

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