There are a few things you want to set up before switching your domain over. Actually quite a few. We’ll cover two in this post, with the third (choosing plugins) in the next in this series.
The two for today:
- Importing your Beta Blogger posts properly with new WordPress semantics, and
- Updating your theme from Beta Blogger to WordPress.
A Warning About Imports and Permalinks
Assuming that you’ve already installed the very latest version of WordPress (version 2.3.2 at the time of this writing), you’ll find that importing from Beta Blogger is an easy and mostly happy process. Apart from one important thing.
Your permalink structure will change. In particular, it will change from
[blog url]/[year]/[month]/[shortened version of post title]
[blog url]/[year]/[month]/[day]/[full version of post title]
by default. The last part of the permalink structure is called a “post slug” in WordPress.
This change can totally ruin your day later on when you switch domains. I know it ruined mine. The part that can’t be changed without hacking WordPress is the post slug.
Fortunately, there’s a plugin nowadays called wp-maintain-blogger-permalinks; before then, you had to hack the import code. I didn’t know about this before I moved, and now I wish I did! This can be installed after the import too, apparently. I know little else about it, since I haven’t tried it, but this is definitely worth a look for you.
The Import Itself
Insanely easy. On your WordPress dashboard, go to Manage -> Import and choose Blogger. The rest follows.
The import will take care of both posts and comments. Awesome indeed.
From Labels to Categories and Tags
WordPress has two levels of organization: categories and tags.
- Categories are the buckets in which you organize posts on your blog. You can think of categories as being like sections or areas of your blog.
- Tags, on the other hand, are keywords, not really tied to less granular sections.
Blogger only has labels, so there’s no distinguishing between sections and keywords. WordPress imports all Blogger labels as categories.
Whether you want to have a zillion categories, or a few categories and tags is obviously up to you. I chose the latter approach, because categories are less convenient to apply than tags: you have to checkmark them in a form each time, and with many tags, that form becomes long and cumbersome. Whereas tags can simply be typed in an input box below your post.
To selectively convert your categories to tags, under Manage -> Import there’s a utility called “Categories to Tags Converter”. Do the natural thing. Your hand might get sore checkmarking a ton of little boxes, but I think it’s worth it for your later sanity.
Choosing a Pre-Selected WordPress Theme
That is, if you don’t want to preserve the look of your old Blogger blog to your new WordPress blog. If you had a pre-made theme in Blogger, I think the answer is clear: choose a WordPress pre-made theme. There are hundreds of them out there, unlike the 20 or so in Blogger.
You can play around with themes under Presentation -> Theme.
Unfortunately, a self-installation of WordPress out of the box comes with no themes other than the two default ones. They’re alright, but geez… save me from thousands of Kubrik clones with blue gradient headers. Still, with the right application of new colors and/or a header image, Kubrik isn’t too bland (under options for Presentation -> Theme->Options).
Give that there are hundreds of WordPress themes out there, you might want a smaller selection to try for. Most importantly:
- You probably want a theme that is “widget-ready”. This will make it easier for you to play with widgets, which are just like the ones you had in Blogger, only a little bit different—you’ll find them under Presentation -> Widgets.
There are tons of themes over at http://www.wpthemesfree.com/, but here are a couple of sites with more select choices:
- Blog Perfume, which also has articles about plugins and more for WordPress
- Problogger: 10 Remarkable (and Free) WordPress Themes
- Blog Themes Plus
A warning about GridFocus: it’s Skellie’s favorite theme, but she likes a lot of control over her site; it’s not widget-ready, and you need to mess around with the template files yourself. Still, it’s one of the snappiest and best-organized themes.
Recreating Your Old Theme
If, on the other hand, you want to preserve the look of your blog—like I did—because it’s unique and distinct and you spent some serious time sweating over it, you’ll have your work seriously cut out for you.
Fortunately, Blogger themes—due to their mostly CSS nature—lend themselves towards transferral, given that you have a fair amount of CSS knowledge under your belt, via the Sandbox theme. Out of the box, it doesn’t look like much, but the structure of the code generated is such that CSS can be powerfully used to radically alter its traditional look. Most of Spontaneous Derivation is based upon Sandbox, in fact. Here are more examples of what you can do with this theme.
For more help, see cre8d Design’s excellent series about WordPress theme creation.
So what walls have you run into?
I haven’t yet covered every single caveat of a move from Blogger to WordPress (like all the plugins you’ll want to install to recover functionality lost in the move).
So to that end, what else have you noticed missing when you made the move from Blogger to WordPress?