Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Switching from Movable Type to WordPress – what to expect

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Following on from last week’s post about Movable Type Open Source being discontinued, and Wednesday’s post about WordPress plugins, here is another post for thoseĀ  considering switching from Movable Type to WordPress. I’m intending to cover the differences – both the good and the bad.

1. Installation and upgrades are easier

Installing WordPress is a doddle – especially if you use a host that offers a ’1 click install’ feature in its control panel. But even a manual install is very simple. Everything goes into one folder, and usually you don’t have to mess around with permissions.

Updates are also far, far easier than in Movable Type. WordPress will install security updates automatically (for example the update from 3.8 to 3.8.1), and bigger updates can be installed with minimal fuss. If your permissions are set correctly, you won’t even need to use FTP – just a couple of clicks in the WordPress dashboard. This is a good thing as you can usually expect a WordPress update every one to two months.

Plugins and themes can also be updated very easily too – again, popular plugins will issue updates regularly.

2. There’s a greater variety of plugins

The WordPress developer community is far more active than Movable Type’s ever was. Generally speaking, if you can think of something that a plugin could do, then someone has already made one. Note that the WordPress plugin directory includes some very old ones that may not work on modern WordPress installs.

3. There are plenty of themes, but they’re harder to create

Like with plugins, there are many themes out there and plenty are listed on the WordPress web site. Some more advanced themes will cost money, however.

If you want to create your own, then you will probably find it more difficult than Movable Type, which had an excellent custom theme system. You could try installing Smarty for WordPress, which allows you to use Smarty themes – these are a bit closer to the Movable Type theme syntax. However the plugin is designed for older versions of WordPress and may not run on version 3.8.1, the latest at time of writing. I haven’t tried it.

4. Posts and comments are faster

Because WordPress doesn’t need to create static HTML files, creating new blog posts and posting comments is much quicker. However, if your site gets a lot of traffic, I would definitely consider installing a caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache. This will deliver similar performance to the static pages that Movable Type created without the slow page generation. Without a caching plugin, visitors to your blog may find it a bit slow, and it’ll be more prone to downtime if you post something that receives a lot of hits.

5. You can have multiple blogs in WordPress too

Once upon a time, WordPress only supported one blog per installation, unless you used a fork called WordPress MU. That fork was rolled into WordPress 3.0, so you can have multiple blogs running from one installation (called a ‘Network’) like you can with Movable Type. You will need to make some edits to the ‘wp-config.php’ file to enable this, and it’s best to do so before you set your blogs up. On this server, this blog has its own WordPress installation but I also host a couple of other sites which all use one WordPress Network installation. User accounts can be shared between blogs.

6. Spambots will be more attracted to your site

With the number of Movable Type blogs small and falling, many spambots now primarily target WordPress blogs. So you will need an anti-spam plugin if your blog allows comments and trackbacks. Akismet is included with WordPress and it does quite a good job at stopping spam from being published on your site, but it also requires a lot of maintenance as you’ll need to log in and delete comments. I’d suggest using the Bad Behavior plugin to help combat spam as I find it more effective.

You will also find that bots will try to get into your site. Never, ever, use ‘admin’ as your username as bots will try to get in with this and common passwords. You may wish to install the Limit Login Attempts plugin to thwart those attacks and automatically block rogue IP addresses after a certain number of failed attempts.

Also, you should make sure that you regularly install updates both to WordPress, its plugins and its themes, in case any security bugs are found and patched. Again, automated bots will attempt to exploit known flaws in old versions of these, which could result in a load of spam appearing on your blog. See Hardening WordPress for more.

7. There is plenty of good documentation available

In the olden days, I found WordPress’ support lacking. The ‘Codex’, which is a wiki with help documents, used to be a bit rubbish. Nowadays it is much improved and should be your first port of call if you need help. But if not, there are many, many web sites out there that explain how to do things with WordPress. I’ve even written a few posts of my own, when I’ve found something that I’ve thought sharing.

This goes back to the ‘bigger community’ thing – because so many more people are using WordPress, there are lots more places to obtain help from. Usually, a quick Google search is all I need to fix a problem.

One Comment

  1. As someone who’s just made the move, I’m finding these posts super handy mate. I’ve installed Bad Behavior based on your suggestion. So thanks for that. And yeah, I was blown away by the number of plugins available for WordPress.

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