Everything else

WordPress as a CMS


The Old Days

Every web developer has, at some point, experienced this: They build a great looking site for a client, then they spend forever making tiny little changes every few weeks; changes like – “Please can you change the title on the homepage from ‘This is our shop’ to ‘Welcome to our shop’?”. Of course, the normal response would be “Sure I should be able to do that later this week…” but then the client has to wait while their developer works through a heap of similar changes on other sites, not to mention all the other projects they are working on. These little changes cost the developer time and the client money. It’s not an ideal situation for anyone.

Everyone that can relate to the above scenario, like me, probably spent many hours asking themselves whether they could teach their clients how to make simple changes and update their own content. Some may even remember the time they did try get the client to do it, normally it’s followed (quite quickly) by THE email saying “I think something has happened to my website” … you then get an instant sinking feeling as you realise that perhaps it would have been easier to change the page title rather than to rewrite a whole webpage because “something has happened”.

Enter the CMS…

Content Management System

CMSs have been around for many years, and when I made the move to developing websites this way, I was won over instantly with how easy it was for an end user to update their own content and make simple changes, changes that previously would take days or even weeks weeks for the developer to get around to.

The other thing, and from my personal perspective, one of the most important, is that you’d have to try really hard to make mistakes with a CMS website. This a big thing as it means no more emails with a subject line “My website is looking odd”.

Having worked a with a few different CMSs, some are more technical than others and some are more restrictive, hampering the end user in terms of what is achievable. All of them, though, do what they’re meant to do well.

WDL have been developing in CMSs for many years, but it’s only in recent company history that we’ve made the move to WordPress. Having spoken to my fellow Front End Developers, we all agree that WordPress allows us to offer more to our clients in terms of functionality because it is more robust and adaptable than other CMSs we have experienced.

Welcome to the family

WordPress was originally a blogging system (the quote is from WordPress.org):

WordPress was born out of a desire for an elegant, well-architectured personal publishing system”.

Today the blogging part is just one of the things WordPress does, and like everything WordPress does, it does it very well indeed.

WordPress is an impressive piece of kit, it has all the functionality you could ever want, plus if there is something extra you want from it, you’ll probably be able to find exactly what you’re looking for. As I write this there are currently 28,650 plugins, many of them, just like WordPress, are completely free of charge. This number is growing all the time.

Even now when I look for a plugin to do something or provide some functionality I need for a particular build I can’t help but smile when I find the right one and discover, as I invariably do, it does everything I want plus a whole lot more.

A perfect example of this is the advanced custom fields repeater plugin, which I used while building a site recently for a skills and training provider.

They needed to showcase all of their employees on a single page. I could have just entered each one individually; name, job title and a photo, which would’ve been easy for me as a developer. However, when I build a site, one of my build aims is to make it as easy as it can be for the user to update, so I went hunting to find a plugin that would help… enter stage left – advanced custom fields repeater plugin.

In the admin I set up a field called ‘employee’, told it that each employee needs a name field, job title field, department and a picture and now every time a new employee joins the team it’s just a simple case of clicking ‘add’ to include someone.

I’ve since used this plugin to create a gallery page for a construction company website, and a mortgage rate table for a financial services business. I dare say that list will only grow.

WordPress is open source software with developers all over the world working on it all the time. If ever you need WordPress to do something or you get stuck, the documentation on both WordPress.org and the huge library of plugins are truly phenomenal, and as if that wasn’t enough, a quick search in your favourite search engine will usually return the right answer quickly. The forums are aimed at everyone – from novice bloggers right the way up to seasoned web developers.

When you start to use WordPress you quickly lose the “I’m a WordPress user” feeling and start to feel part of the WordPress family. It’s the most widely supported of all the CMSs I’ve ever used, and if you don’t know the answer, someone will.

Content Publishing

Have you ever used word processing software on a computer? You have? Excellent, you can update all the content on your own website then.

It really is as simple as that.

Throughout the admin screen in WordPress you find WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor boxes. These little boxes are magical, they can transform the most novice user into a content publishing wizard!

Adding content is just like in your favourite word processing software, make this text bold, this text can be italic, even adding links to email and other pages is a doddle.

Adding images is a simple case of dragging and dropping. You want a YouTube clip right In the middle of the webpage? It’s easy to simply copy the embed code (right click on a YouTube video), paste it into the WYSIWYG editor and voilà, YouTube video on the page. Simple.

With the addition of page templates, you can make as many new pages as you like, give them the page template you think looks and works best and then the page will look just like all the rest. It stops confusion with different page layouts and keeps the consistency throughout the site.

One of my favourite functions in WordPress is the ability to set the publish date and time of any changes you make. If you have a big press release but you don’t want the world to see it until the 1st of January, simply create your post/page, keep adding content and set the publish date. You can go back and add or remove as much as you like, safe in the knowledge it won’t be visible to the masses until your chosen day.

The best bit is that all of this is achieved through a web browser, enabling you to access and update your site from any computer anywhere in the world! Got something you want to shout about on your website? You can do it from the quiet carriage on the train.

Never again will you have to hear your web developer say “Sure I should be able to do that later this week…” with WordPress this week, is this minute, and the very best part, if you change the content yourself, it won’t cost you anything!

So with the ability to change the content where and when you need to, you can make changes while quietly having coffee in your favourite cafe, with the money you just saved!

Everything in the technology industry gets old

I have an old mobile phone, I don’t like change, and in the technology world change normally hurts you in the wallet.

With WordPress being completely open source it means that whenever a new update is released, whether big or small, the update itself won’t cost a penny. Of course we recommend that any update is upgraded properly and safely, and for this you might want to contact a professional.

WordPress don’t do mobile phone upgrades, but if they did…

We think that WordPress offers the perfect balance between an easy to use interface for our clients and a wealth of functionality that’s well-supported by a community of users and developers.