Why I Used WordPress as a CMSThursday, October 7, 2010
To most people coming to this website, it’s nearly impossible to tell that the whole thing is built off of WordPress. Sure, you may see tell-tale signs of a blog-like structure on a lot of the pages, including comments and tags, but that’s about all that shows through. Apart from the actual blog section itself, it would be easy to assume that this was just a standard, static website.
Yet, it’s not. I created the whole thing into a WordPress theme from scratch, making sure each component had it’s own unique style. To those of you who have never used WordPress as a CMS (Content Management System), that probably seems hard. Truth is, it is hard. It took me months to get my head around the coding that was required and to make sure I had every little in and out covered. Now that I have, however, I don’t see myself turning back anytime soon.
What I’ve Learned
I learned a lot over those months — especially the amazing value and support of the design community online. As someone who had never ventured into the realm of PHP coding and theme creation, let alone installing a blog onto my own server, I could never have done it without you all. From my first step in deciding whether to use WordPress to my final upload, I was able to find everything that I needed to know from the great designers that have gone before me.
No One Said It Would Be Easy: I’d be lying if I told you that WordPress theme creation was simple. It’s not. Even someone who is well versed in PHP coding would still need to take some time to get acquainted with the terminology that WordPress uses and all of the things you need to include to make sure your theme works properly.
You’re going to need to read a lot. You’re going to need to experiment a lot. You’re going to use search engines a lot. You’re going to have to accept that you’re probably going to make mistakes and it’s probably going to take a lot longer than it would to make a normal website. It will be an adventure, but a rewarding one.
If you’re just looking for a simple website, you may be better off just sticking to a static one. However, if you want the ease of updating that a blog system allows, plus the many benefits of the thousands of plug-ins available, it might be worth the extra effort.
The Sky’s the Limit: One of the first things that attracted me to the concept of using WordPress as a CMS was the amazing versatility of it. With the right skill and time commitment, you can pretty much turn a blog into anything you want it to be. By utilizing custom page and post templates you can make each section look unique, while being able to update it from the WP control panel. There are easy functions that you can add that allow for multiple sidebars and footers, too, that can be styled completely separately.
Basically, if there’s something you want your site to do, there is more than likely a plug-in, code, or function to do it. It may take a bit of searching and testing, but I always found a way to do what I wanted.
The Pros and Cons of WordPress
- Easier updating than a static website. For example, instead of having to update every page a graphic is listed on manually, all I have to do is post it with the proper categories and the site does it automatically.
- Update from any computer that has a web browser. (So much cooler than using machine specific software.)
- One click theme switching. You can change the look of your site with only one click in the control panel, once the new theme is installed… then switch back to the old theme the same way, if you want.
- Pretty good SEO compared to manually meta-writing for every page of a static site.
- A lot of support and information from other designers. It’s a popular platform, so it’s easy to find some help. The help section of WordPress.org alone is quite useful.
- A ton of awesome themes out there. Even if you’re not a designer, you can find something that fits your needs — maybe even for free.
- Multiple users. You can create different user accounts so that more than one person can update the site, or even set up an easy membership system for your visitors to keep up-to-date with your site.
- Awesome plug-ins for a wide range of needs, including some great e-commerce ones that turn your site into a store without needing to do excessive coding.
- Easy to use for beginners and experienced alike.
- It’s completely FREE! This is one thing that WP has over a lot of the other CMS’s out there.
- Since it’s updated through your browser, it does raise the risk of hacking issues compared to a locally managed website on your system. Still, there are precautions that you can take to prevent this — some as simple as making sure you pick hard-to-guess passwords and usernames for your admins.
- Unless your theme is heavily coded with options for the control panel, you may have to edit the .php files to make some changes to the site. For the most part this can be avoided, but I’ve found a few things that seemed to be easier done if left in the .php rather than trying to do it through WP control panel itself. As WP keeps improving and upgrading, however, I think we’ll see a lot more options for a CMS type site that will make this less of a problem in the future.
The Biggest Reason
I’ll be honest, the biggest reason that I chose to use WP for this website (and my others) is because it’s so much quicker when updating it. This won’t apply for everyone, but when you’re dealing with a site like Crimson Sky Graphics, it can become quite a daunting task when you’re using a static website.
For example, lets say that I wanted to add a new Twitter layout to the old site. One the layout was made, I had to create 3 different preview/thumbnail images for use in different places of the site. Next, it was time to create a new page and copy-paste the contents of another layout page into it, before I can edit the contents to fit that new layout. After that, I had to go to every area on the site where it was to be listed (the multiple categories, including the “view all” category, and the front page) and add the information and thumbnails, all linked back to the layout page. Finally, I had to go to the forum to create a thread for the new layout so people could comment on it. This whole process could take me a couple hours to add only a handful of new content to the site.
Sure, the system worked. The old Crimson Sky Graphics was around for 4 years with that kind of update method. However, the busier I got with professional design and other projects, the less time I had to spend on doing this kind of manual work. This lead to less and less updating being done.
With the new WP built website, most of that process is automated for me. All I have to do is insert the new layout into a new post, select the appropriate categories, and it’s instantly added to all of the pages in the way that it’s supposed to be — even when it looks different in different areas.
This, to me, is the biggest benefit that WordPress offers to a resource website like Crimson Sky Graphics. Of course, the pros of membership options, multiple users who can add content, and the options for things like comments on all of the posts, are also huge benefits that I’ve found.
If you have or are planning to have a website that requires at least semi-frequent updating, want the freedom to do so from anywhere, and don’t want to get into hiring someone else to do these things for you or paying fees to use some of the other CMS options, WordPress may be for you. Whether you’re a novice or someone with a ton of experience in website management, it’s great.
I plan to share some of the tips and tricks that I learned in my building process in the future, along with some of the resources that I found helpful (those that I can remember, having regrettably not bookmarked them all properly). Hopefully it’ll be of some help to you, if you’re considering using WP as a CMS.
Do you see something on Crimson Sky Graphics that you like and want to know how it’s done? Feel free to leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do about writing a post on that topic.
Lastly, remember that, if you do want to use WordPress, but don’t want to do it yourself, you can contact me at any time for a free quote. I’ll design the custom theme for you and set everything up, just how you want!