Monday, 2 January 2012

Wonderful WordPress: Why It's My Default CMS

Type "WordPress sucks" into a Google search and you would be forgiven for thinking that maybe there's something in that assertion. There are about 29,000 results for that search term, after all. However, I personally think that WordPress is an excellent program so today I'm going to give you five good reasons to choose it for CMS.

To be perfectly honest, I was of that opinion myself a few years ago so my first blogs were built on either Blogger or b2evolution, which are both excellent blogging programs. It was when I started using it for business purposes that I saw the light and the scales fell from my eyes.

5. It's standard

When I mentioned b2evolution as a blogging platform, few of the people I spoke to had heard of it. Since I promote myself as a designer/developer, I needed to learn how to use it whether I wanted to or not, and now that I'm accustomed to working with it I have to admit that the only thing about b2evolution that attracted me was that I found it easy to customise without having to change the theme.

The fact is, when you go on the Linked In discussion boards, even people who actively criticise WordPress have at least heard of it. And potential customers and business partners want it and want me (or whoever) to be able to work with it because they too have heard of it. Let's face it, having WordPress design and development as a skill on my CV looks better than b2evolution, PHP blog or Blogger - all of which I have worked with and can use to good effect.

4. SEO friendly

There is a multiplicity of SEO plugins you can get for WordPress. As it is you can change the meta tags in the settings menu, use keyword-rich content when writing posts, add a title and description which you can then hide if you're using the Weaver or Suffusion theme, add descriptions to images, and add heading tags to your content as I have done here (I use Heading 3 a lot, but sometimes Heading 4).

The way you present your content is important for the search engines. What never works is a huge text block o' doom in a font with no variation and images with no alt attributes. While the SEO plugins help, you need to check your content for relevancy and popularity — if your subject and content are too common it'll sink unless your blog is popular. You also need to update your blog regularly, get backlinks, etc.

3. Easy to customise

Believe it or not, the thing that put me off using WordPress for blogging before was that I found it hard to customise. It wasn't until I discovered the Suffusion theme that I realised it could be bent to my will, then Ed Andrea of Dash Help told me all about Weaver, and now I'm sold on that. There are thousands of WordPress themes and many are free. It's the "free" part that gets me every time.

The trouble with some of the premium ones I've come across is that they're hard to customise because they're very much the designer's baby and he or she doesn't want them changed. Suffusion and Weaver are, by contrast, designed to be customised and give users a great deal of choice of widgets to use, positions for the widgets to be in, different layouts, and the opportunity to change the appearance in almost every way.

I can change the colours, images, header heights, widget positions and number of sidebars in Weaver or Suffusion without making changes to the core files, which makes it ideal for newbies. Many themes allow some level of customization in the theme options menus and there are plugins that make it easy to add CSS to posts and pages. However, those of us with more advanced skills can alter the code in the PHP and CSS files to suit ourselves.

2. Easy to use

It's very simple to use, especially if you're new to blogging. Just enter your text and off you go. You've got enough without adding plugins to add heading tags to your titles (just click on the down arrow where it says "Paragraph" and off you go). Just click on that button with the rows of smaller buttons on it. That's "Show/hide the kitchen sink" and it reveals this second row of buttons. But you can add plugins to enhance the editor if you like so you can add more text styles, change the font, etc.

When I started work on the Acore website I was dealing with a client who already knew pretty well what he was doing, but you don't need to be internet savvy to learn to use WordPress. Most of it is self-explanatory and I've always found the help forums and documentation helpful.

1. Multi-purpose

Despite complaints in the Web Professionals Connect Linked In group that WordPress doesn't have enough extensions to work as well for CMS as Joomla, I've found the opposite to be true for myself. Mind you, I don't ask it for much: I simply ask that it lets me add the content I want in there with perhaps a few pictures, some JavaScript, the odd iframe, a video or a photo gallery or slide show. I don't really use it for the purposes it can be put to, e.g. selling products online because I use ZenCart for e-commerce. You can also get it to work as

 UseWhat I'd normally do And the difference is...
A websiteBuild a HTML website The client can edit this himself without much help or advice.
A shopBuild a ZenCart shop and use their free pages to add introductory content ZenCart offers more in the way of layout. For a small shop operation this is fine - or maybe I'm just biased.
A forumBuild a forum using SMF or PHBB3. None that I can see, apart from requiring WP to be up and running because it's a plugin, not a stand-alone program.
DirectoryMake a list in Excel, then upload it and change it as and when required Saves me the bother of doing all that.
Job boardUse Jobberbase, a free opensource jobs board program None that I can see, apart from requiring WP to be up and running because it's a plugin, not a stand-alone program.

There are many more plugins you can get to use WordPress for purposes other than blogging. I don't believe I've even scratched the surface. I'd no idea till today that you could use it for social networking. And the best thing about this is, many of these plugins are free. Of all the ones I dug up in my brief search, there are sure to be free ones that are just as good.

Well, that's my opinion. What do you think?

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