WordPress is one of the most used publishing platforms on today’s web and there are many reasons for that. I will try and explain some of them and get into the process a little bit deeper. I hope this will help potential clients get a better understanding of the power of WordPress and how it can be used to take your business to a higher level, increase brand awareness and help you position yourself better than the competition. On the other hand, for all of you starting a web design venture of your own, it will clear up a few things and hopefully help you with choosing the right tools for the trade and the means to handle them without losing valuable time.
Today’s living and working pace is definitely hard to keep up sometimes and thus you don’t want to lose time over things that you can do faster and more effectively. One of the most important things in that sense is a web presence. I am not going to go into all of the reasons why it is like that – there are many articles around the web that explain this in detail. It is a fact that small and big businesses alike need an effective way of creating and updating their website – keeping their name and thoughts alive in the virtual world – and this is where things have changed over the past couple of years. Static HTML websites are the thing of the past. Dynamic, engaging content took over the web by storm. One of the most important things that made this possible is the very existence of Content Management Systems – software for managing large amounts of HTML and other data. Basically, a Web CMS is the backend of a website. It allows you to manipulate content, categories, tags and add new features to site to make it even more interactive.
Blogging platform or a CMS?
Woprdpress started out as a mostly blogging platform, but in time, due to it’s ease of use and powerful free tools that can be implemented, gained momentum as a CMS for creating any kind of a website, large or small. First of all – it is completely free – all you need to do to try it out is to get an account at wordpress.com, take a few minutes to set things up and youre ready to start writing! If you know how to use Microsoft Word or any other similar product, making an article on WordPress is going to be a piece of cake.
WordPress is also very search engine friendly. The whole system is setup with SEO in mind, enabling you to concentrate on what you do best. Whether it is writing or design, you can take care of your own work, and not worry too much about the things you’re not interested in, or don’t have the time to deal with. If you have quality content, WP will make sure that it is optimized to give you the best possible results and rank your site as high as possible. Of course, I am not saying that SEO can be done out of the box – but it is really helpful to be able to set some of the major things up with a click of a button and in a very intuitive way (like writing descriptions and excerpts in a text box of their own, setting up permalinks to a SEO-friendly, canonical URL, etc.). Search Engine Optimization is more and more important every day, and became a science of it’s own, so on-site SEO is just a part of it. More on on-site and off-site SEO techniques will be published in the future articles.
Free themes and plugins
Since its start in May 2003, more than 200 million websites are using WordPress (data from Wikipedia). There is a large community with new WordPress themes designed every day. In the backend of your website, it is enough to click a tab, go through the repository of available themes, preview and activate a theme in minutes. Or, you can upload a zip file downloaded from anywhere on the web and to the same.
Depending on the theme you choose, it will take some more time to set everything up just the way you want it, so it is a good idea to ask yourself: “What do I need a website for?”. Usability is a key feature of every website -whether it is going to be a one-page-contact-info site, a blog, e-commerce site or a multimedia magazine, you have to keep in mind the very purpose and choose the theme based on that. You don’t the bells and whistles that have no function for you or your business and even if it is top-notch state-of-the-art technology or a flashy animation, always think: “Does it add any real value to what I am trying to accomplish?”. It is a trap that one can be easily caught into. Trust me, when I started using WordPress, one the most attractive things to do was go to the repository and preview all the possible themes, only to find out I lost more than a few hours testing and a previewing all sorts of different designs. And I didn’t even have any content!
There are two types of themes for WP – free and premium. More and more theme creators are turning to a free model with premium support and there are really nice themes out there.
Another important part of a good WordPress-powered website are plugins. These are extensions to the core functionalities that can be installed and manipulated independently and are used to improve the overall performance, design, tracking, etc. WordPress plugins are also mostly free, but there are also premium plugins, although so far I have used only one or two premium plugins that were really worth the money (usually most of the premium themes and plugins cost below $100).
There is a real danger lurking in the background of the plugin usage, not just on WP, but also on other platforms. Do not overuse them. Only use the plugins you really need, or consider finding hooks or filters that are more light-weight and just the functionality you need. every plugin installed results in a longer loading time, more server requests and can significantly slow down your website. Users are not patient. They will go away and never come back again, if the load time takes a few seconds more then they expect.
Another improtant part in wordpress development is the usage of widgets. Widgets are basically plugins used mostly in the sidebars or other widget-ready areas. They can be easily arranged through a drag-and-drop interface and usually have settings of their own, ao you can fine tune and improve the overall look and feel of you site.
As I am primarily a designer, WordPress really filled in the gap that I needed desperately. Finally I am able to make the design and implement it quickly and effectively with all the features that I need and do it all with just the knowledge of HTML, CSS, wordpress conditional tags and the usage of Google for everything else I don’t know about.
The appearance of frameworks and child themes made this process even better and more exciting. Frameworks are basically themes that give you a lot of nice functionality and speed up the design and coding process. They make it easier for the developer to complete the repetitive tasks and keep the code clean and nifty at the same time. They give a nice starting point and usually have a large community ready to help out if you run into problems. Some of the best WP frameworks are: Thematic, Hybrid and Sandbox.
This is just the basic information that should be enough to get you started with using WP, or at least consider using it in the future. Please let me know your thoughts – I will be adding new article to the wordpress category on Atraktor Studio website, so any suggestions, questions and comments are welcome.