wpfantastico.jpgIn this post I will go against the flow and present my case AGAINST using Fantastico for WordPress install and upgrade. This will also address multitude of questions I receive on why my Web 2.0 Wealth product doesn’t take advantage of this method.

I want to show you exactly WHY I think Fantastico does more damage to you then it has benefits, provide you with 3 reasons NOT to use Fantastico for WordPress and perhaps help you learn how to avoid the problems you might experience as result…

Now this article will not apply to you if you are simply using a default WordPress install with one of the themes that comes with it, completely unmodified and NO plugins. Perhaps even with minimum number of plugins and well supported theme you can quite easily enjoy the benefits Fantastico provides.

Yes, I said benefits because in particular case above Fantastico serves as an ultimate time saver by removing all complexity from WordPress install and upgrade, assuming your host is staying up to date with latest releases. However…

  • If you use multiple plugins, custom theme and actually trying to make your blog more interactive and engaging for your readers…
  • If you want to KNOW how WordPress works and be able to solve the problem as they come up…
  • If you plan to become a self-relying blogger…

You Should NOT Use Fantastico!

While I don’t claim to be an expert in how Fantastico works, my reasons provided in this article are based on personal experience and tests. Take them for what they are – personal technical opinion

Reason 1: Simplicity Creates False Sense of Security

Who doesn’t want to create a WordPress blog by simply filling out a few fields and couple clicks later have it up and running? Or what’s even better – upgrade the blog to latest secure version with ONE SIMPLE CLICK?

Yes, those are the options presented to us by Fantastico. In fact that simplicity alone perhaps responcible for allowing hundreds on technical novices to put their own WordPress blog on the web in a matter of minutes. That simplicity enabled multitude of people to have their own place to share thoughts, ideas, exchange opinion or simply give it as is! And yet, I state that…

  • This Simplicity Creates False Sense of Security!

While install of the blog part I can understand – Upgrade of WordPress through Fantastico is an ABSOLUTE EVIL! It might work for you once without any glitch, twice or however many times it might be but there will come a time when you click that Upgrade button only to learn few minutes later that your blog is a total mess!

And to make the matter even worse – EVERYONE can see that mess and you HAVE NO CLUE how to fix it. That is because from the very start you have chosen the path of least resistance and avoided learning process that comes with install of the blog and its initial setup. Simplicity of the install process and perhaps subsequent successful upgrades drove you to believe that it will ALWAYS be so and you have no need to know the inner workings of the platform you are using.

I know that it might seem intimidating but I highly recommend you get to know the platform you are using and with great documentation already available that covers every aspect of install and upgrade it is a lot simpler than you think! KNOWLEDGE is the power that will enable you to avoid the problems or fix them as they come up. Which brings us to second reason…

Reason 2: Upgrade Process Is Incomplete!

And before I get blamed for making false statement I want to quote one part from official WordPress Upgrade guide…

Note that during the upgrade process access to your blog may not work for your visitors. You may consider a plugin like Maintenance Mode.

Step 0: Before You Get Started

  • Just in case something goes wrong, make sure you have a backup. WordPress_Backups is a comprehensive guide.
  • Deactivate your plugins. A plugin might not be compatible with the new version, so it’s nice to check for new versions of them and deactivate any that may cause problems. You can reactivate plugins one-by-one after the upgrade.

Please note above the recommendation for Maintenance Mode and Deactivation of plugins. While I know for 100% that Maintenance Mode plugin is not part of default install and you have to get it in and activated and as such that recommendation is completely bypassed by Fantastico my knowledge with Plugins Deactivation is based on couple test upgrades I have done myself. In each case I didn’t see this step to be completed!

While in many cases this might not be an issue – major update to WordPress core often changes function calls as was the case with WordPress 2.3 and makes SOME plugins incompatible. Failure to deactivate them PRIOR to upgrade will lead to whole bunch of errors thrown on the screen and since Maintenance Mode was not activated – present it to your visitors and readers. How does that reflect on your professionalism? While your regular readers more then likely will understand – is that something you want to present your first time visitors with?

To make matters even worth – bad plugin might make your blog completely unavailable for login to admin interface and deactivate the offender! And since you made a decision to AVOID learning more about your platform of choice – more then likely you have no clue that solution is as simple as navigating through cPanel File Manager (or via FTP client) to /wp-content/plugins/ and simply renaming the plugin that throws errors to effectively deactivate it! But you wouldn’t know it – would you?

Which brings us to last and yet very important reason…

Reason 3: Upgrade Doesn’t Include Plugins and Theme

This is the last point I want to make and yet its importance should NOT be overlooked. As I have mentioned above major upgrade, such as one coming in March (2.5) generally includes drastic changes to the code. I have described some strategies you can use to make the process as painless as possible in my post “WordPress 2.4 Skipped, What Should You Do?” and steps within can be applied to any version.

But the point I want to make here is that official WordPress documentation should include one more step right before Step 3 and rename Step3 into Step 4:

Step 3: Upgrade Your Theme and Plugins

  1. Visit your theme developer site and make sure any fixes available to your theme applied to your installation to make it work with latest core version.
  2. Check for updates available to plugins your blog currently using via Admin->Plugins and make sure they are compatible with new version. Update plugins once compatability verified using this video tutorial and activate them one by one, verifying your blog functionality after each activation.

Now you can move to what used to be Step 3: Do Something Nice For Yourself. Now you really deserve it!

I hope that my 3 Reasons NOT to Use Fantastico For WordPress install and upgrade explain my personal take on the process and answer the questions I receive from people on Web 2.0 Wealth product. In fact I follow my own guidelines and provide my customers with a path that fully addresses concerns above, minus the complexity since I already do all the work and verify compatability prior to distributing upgrade.

Perhaps you don’t agree with my points and I would love to hear your feedback but either way – if I only managed to raise awareness and make you rethink you current strategy I consider my goal accomplished. Let me know what you think!