The move wasn’t technically difficult, there are things to watch:
1. Permalinks. These are not customisable with wp.com. You’re stuck with the WordPress format. I’ve no idea if this is good or bad for search engine optimisation. I don’t care.
2. If you worry about search, the trick is to switch format a couple of weeks before making the move, otherwise Google gets confused. I started on this path, but the rest of my preparations went so quickly the new format was only in place about five days before the switch.
A year later Google Webmaster Tools tells me traffic is still looking for those old format links. The lesson here is if you think you may switch to WordPress’s host in the future, start using the permalink format now.
3. I moved the domain name. There was no control over the time this happened, it happened at 11pm so I was effectively offline for about nine hours – this may not bother you. I don’t know how many people saw a dead site, in those days it would have been around 100 visitors. Any damage is fixed now. Another time I’d need to rethink how I’d do this.
4. I paid extra for WordPress.Com’s custom design and used my own twenty ten child template. It didn’t look great, so I had to switch to a new template – this was the trickiest part of the process and I still don’t have it perfect. A year later I’ve shut all the custom stuff down and have a stock WordPress theme. Dammit, this is THE stock theme. People come to my site for words – I can use pictures to make it look better.
5. Originally there was zero flexibility over the iPad and smartphone templates – this was almost a deal breaker for me. A year on and the problems are largely solved thanks to a responsive theme.
6. There are a few minor irritations. Mainly lack of design flexibility. I wanted a simpler life, so I’ll just have to put up with them.
7. On the plus side, the .com site is seven times faster than my hosted site, requires almost zero maintenance, has barely gone offline in a year, gets more accidental traffic and is free. The downside is I’m less in touch with WordPress coding – something I think journalists ought to get used to. To get around this I’ve built a couple of other sites.