I’ve been using WordPress for a little over a year now. Like most people, I’ve always thought of it as a simple blogging system… and that’s about it. It works really great for blogs (like this one), but a few months ago I used it to build a job listings site for one of my clients. Ever since that time I looked for additional creative uses for WordPress. Recently, I’ve been exploring the idea of using WordPress as a general purpose content management system (CMS). I’ve done a bunch of research, reading, and experimenting over the past few months. In this post I’d like to document some of my findings: sites of interest, handy documentation bookmarks, useful plugins, etc.But before I get into the specifics, let’s back up and cover some basics…
What is a Content Management System (CMS)?
As stated on Wikipedia, a content management system is “a computer application used to manage work flow needed to collaboratively create, edit, review, index, search, publish and archive various kinds of digital media and electronic text.” In practical terms, a CMS gives content managers (representatives from a company often called “authors,” “editors,” and “contributors”) the ability to add and update a site’s content in an easy to use environment, typically using a visual editor instead of dealing with the code directly. It also provides a system of managing links, publishing dates, approvals, user feedback, and much more.
What does it mean to use WordPress as a CMS?
Don’t get me wrong… I don’t believe that WordPress is the best solution for all CMS projects. I think Drupal, Joomla, Plone, and several others are fine choices for complex database-driven sites. What I like about WordPress is its simplicity. Sometimes I need a quick and easy solution for building a site that can be managed by non-techie folks.
Let’s take a look at some simple ways to use WordPress as a CMS. There’s an endless list of possibilities, but the following basic methods are the ones that I found most helpful when I was starting out. Please note that I’m linking directly to the original articles I read during my own learning process. I like to give credit where it’s due, but I’m also sharing some bookmarks in the process.
- Using a static front (home) page
- Creating a Custom Theme
- Creating Custom Templates
- Customizing the Permalink Structure
- If Page Has Subpages, Redirect to First Child
- Using WordPress as a Static Site
- Using Custom Fields
- Hiding and Rearranging Pages in the Navigation
- How to Install WordPress Locally on Windows
- How to Install WordPress Locally on Mac
- Customizing the Sidebar
- Using Custom Sidebars Per Page
- Using Gravatars in the Comments Section
Read the Fine WordPress Documentation
Sometimes it’s best to slow down and read the actual documentation. I know… it’s not what you normally do. It may not even be something you enjoy doing. However, WordPress has some great resources, plus there’s an extremely active developer community to help out when things get a little confusing. Go ahead and give it a shot. Here are some good starting points.
- Template Tags
- Conditional Tags
- Function Reference
- Theme Development
- Custom Fields
- Free Themes
It’s difficult to compile a comprehensive list of plugins for WordPress. The following plugins should be a good start though, especially for using WordPress as a CMS. I’ve used most of them from time to time. I haven’t tried a few of them on production sites, but they’re worth noting for future reference.
- Maintenance Mode/Landing Page
- Adds a splash page to your blog that lets visitors know your blog is down for maintenance. It can also be used to develop a site directly on the live server while simultaneously displaying a “coming soon” landing page for non-logged in site visitors. Disable the plugin when you’re ready to go live.
- WP-DB-Backup allows you easily to backup your core WordPress database tables. You may also backup other tables in the same database.
- WPML Multilingual CMS
- WPML makes it easy to build full multilingual websites with WordPress. It integrates multilingual content management with robust navigation.
- All in One SEO Pack
- Optimizes your site for search engines. Despite its name, it doesn’t do everything for you automatically, but it does provide some useful control of your site’s SEO features.
- The ShareThis WordPress plugin provides a simple way for users to add your post to many social bookmarking sites, or to send a link to your post via email, AIM, Facebook, Twitter and more.
- cforms II
- cforms is a powerful and feature rich form plugin for WordPress, offering convenient deployment of multiple Ajax driven contact forms throughout your blog or even on the same page.
- Advanced Search
- Advanced Search provides a bunch of advanced search options to tune the search by using a much more effective search method: MySQL’s fulltext search. It can be either used as a full-blown form on a dedicated page or it can be used in the sidebar as a lightweight form.
- Category Icons
- Assigns icons to categories and displays one or more icons in front of your post title or wherever you want.
- Search Everything
- Search Everything increases the ability of the default WordPress search, including: search categories, tags, pages, and much more.
- Breadcrumb NavXT
- This plugin generates locational breadcrumb trails. These breadcrumb trails are highly customizable to suit the needs of just about any blog.
- Dagon Design Sitemap Generator
- This plugin is a true sitemap generator which is highly customizable from its own options page in the WordPress admin panel.
- Google Analytics for WordPress
- The Google Analytics for WordPress plugin automatically tracks and segments all outbound links from within posts, comment author links, links within comments, blogroll links and downloads.
- FD Feedburner
- This plugin redirects the main feed and optionally the comments feed to Feedburner.com. It does this seamlessly without the need to modify templates, setup new hidden feeds, modify .htaccess files, or asking users to migrate to a new feed.
- TubePress displays YouTube galleries in your posts, pages, and/or sidebar.
- The SlidePress plugin makes publishing rich photo and video content a breeze. After helping create your SlideshowPro slideshow, SlidePress manages embedding the presentation within the posts or pages of your site.
- NextGen Gallery
- NextGEN Gallery is a full integrated image gallery plugin for WordPress with a Flash slideshow option.
- del.icio.us for WordPress
- del.icio.us for WordPress displays your latest del.icio.us bookmarks in your WordPress blog.
- WP e-Commerce
- The WP e-Commerce shopping cart plugin for WordPress is an elegant easy to use fully featured shopping cart application suitable for selling your products, services, and or fees online. WP e-Commerce is a Web 2.0 application designed with usability, aesthetics, and presentation in mind.
- WP-Print provides a printer-friendly version of any blog post or page.
- This plugin allows people to recommend/send your WordPress blog’s post/page to a friend.
- This plugin enable you to insert Flash movies into WordPress using the SWFObject library.