Although at times I complain about it, I do truly enjoy my status as the only person in the Catayst writers’ group without a formal background in IT. I believe that it does, as Michael tells me time and again, give me a unique perspective on the field.
It is from that perspective that I write my articles; none more so than today.
Recently, I had the not-so-pleasant experience of trying out different software for my blog. I run a personal website that I’ve recently expanded from a simple blog to a source for information on cooking and food preservation. Not only did I have some immediate needs for the new information I was puttting on the blog, but I also anticipated having needs that my current software (WordPress) would not be able to fulfill (things such as fillable forms, searchable lists, and more). At least, not in any easy or elegant way.
So the search began. I investigated two other website-building options: Joomla and Drupal. Well, to be perfectly honest, I only truly investigated Drupal; I looked into Joomla briefly and determined that it wouldn’t fit my needs. More precisely, I tried Scribd and found that it was too difficult for me to grasp quickly (of course, this is just my own experience; others may find they absolutely love it).
I spent an entire day exploring Drupal; I downloaded it and installed it on my server, and then began building my website.
Twenty-four hours later, I’m back on WordPress (much like a misbehaving spouse, grateful to their partner for giving them a second chance after having strayed: “Oh WordPress, I’m so sorry and it will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.”), and appreciating it more than ever.
So what have I learned from this experience that you could learn from (because really, why else woud I write about it if not to help all of you out)?
First, I learned that “more complex/difficult/advanced” does not necessarily mean better. I thought that the increased flexibility (and as a result, increased complexity) of Drupal would be an advantage to building my website, but this is not always the case. Think of this phenomenon as occurring on a curve; not enough flexibility will hinder you, but more flexibility is useful only to a certain extent. After that point, more flexibility/complexity will begin to get in your way just as much as not enough of it will.
Second, I learned (firsthand) the adage about test-driving software on a local host (such as your desktop computer) before installing it on your server (and deleting your old software). If things don’t work out, you’ll have a LOT less work to do. Think of this as a safety net, just in case you need to change back. I would have easily saved myself four or five hours of work, even though some of the work was unavoidable because I changed my theme.
Third, I learned that failure is always an option. Specifically, I learned not to be so tied to the success of any new venture that I can’t admit that it’s not working, and that I need to try something else (or even return to my old software). Perhaps a better way to think of it is not as failure, but as a way to explore and determine the best option for you and whatever you’re developing. Would it have been better for me (and my website) to stick with Drupal, becoming increasingly frustrated with my own inability to grasp it (and becoming increasingly vociferous about it on Twitter, which really helps no one)? In this case, giving up the Drupal experiment was the best option (for me and for all 1800+ of my followers on Twitter).
Finally, I learned the best lesson of all: Try it, try it all, because it’s the only way you learn. I may have switched back to WordPress from Drupal, but I’ve taken the lessons I learned from my Drupal experience and used them to improve my website on WordPress. And ultimately, isn’t that the lesson we should learn in all our endeavors – on- and offline?