WORDPRESS is the next big thing for the web! For those of you who have just heard of WordPress or aren’t quite sure what it is; WordPress is a [free] software platform for web and blog development. With over 65 million downloads, WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) on the Internet today and it is estimated that 22% of all new websites are powered by WordPress. The reason why — it makes your job of managing web content so easy. Additionally, WordPress has developed into an extensive content management system (CMS) and does not have to look like a blog, though blogs are extremely effective for online marketing.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a open source template processing system which serves up web content using a template design. The WordPress engine is developed using PHP and an SQL database to dynamically assemble HTML pages from templates and serve them on demand. All the content is stored in the SQL database and formatted using templates. Each template calls components of the WordPress codex (core template structure) to insert headers, footers, menus, content, sidebars, widgets, etc into the page. Templates are written with PHP, a server markup language which assembles and injects HTML code snippets into web pages. Since there are no static HTML pages, learning this structure can be a bit daunting for the new developer; but for users, this wonderful technology is all behind the scenes.
The Power of Templates
One feature which fascinates newbies is the ability to select from thousands of free and premium themes which, with a few clicks, can change the look of the entire website. Being an open source project, there is a large community of developers who create and share their themes. Additionally, there is a growing community of designers, developers and consultants who offer custom websites on the WordPress platform. The template driven design of WordPress allows users with limited technical knowledge to select from a large pool of design options and install/maintain a blog website. Theme and template customization should be done by someone with knowledge of the WordPress structure.
Other features of WordPress which have added to its popularity include a robust administration module, “the Dashboard”, to control user access, manage content workflow, install plug-ins, add widgets, and more. Recently developed functionality now allows users to build a custom menu system linking to pages, search results, blog posts, and external links. The ability to develop and manage a complex hierarchical menu was a key feature that evolved WordPress from a blogging platform to a full website development solution. Content management is greatly enhanced with the use of categories for web pages and blog posts. Specification of tags provides users and search engines with keywords and cross references to related topics.
Plug-ins and Widgets
WordPress allows developers to create their own modularized applications called “plug-ins”. These plug-ins are easily installed and turned off/on in the Dashboard. Most end users customize their website with several WordPress plug-ins. Plug-ins have been developed for specific industries like real estate while others are more generic like an online calendar, Facebook feed, and contact form. Many plug-ins are “widgetized” which means the plug-in creates a widget which the user can drag and drop into the sidebar on their blog. More complex plug-ins create new pages and posts with functionality such as product details and shopping carts in an eCommerce application. Some plug-ins require modification to the template to place the function, like a banner or slider, on a specific page or page location.
Themes and Child Themes
Modifying themes is tricky for the new user/developer as it requires knowledge of the WordPress codex and the structure of the theme being modified. WordPress uses a structure called “child themes” when the PHP code must be modified. In a nutshell, the child theme structure creates a special type of theme called a child theme which only contains modified copies of the parent theme. Unmodified files remain in the parent theme. This keeps all PHP modifications separate from the original (parent) theme so the modifications are not lost when a theme is updated. The modifications may not work when the parent theme is updated but the modifications are compartmentalized so they can be integrated into the new parent theme in a systematic manner.
The developer community publishes numerous themes which offer many different design options, however, it should be noted that not all these themes are written with a strong adherence to WordPress development standards. Many themes omit capabilities of the WordPress codex and may be very difficult to modify. Each year, WordPress releases a new, standardized theme embodying the better design principles from its developer community. These themes are named for the year of their release “Twenty-Ten” (2010) and Twenty-Eleven” (2011) and automatically installed with WordPress. The standard themes are good starting points for the user who does not want to customize. They include good photography for header images and employ a standard blog design. An easy customization is to replace the default images with custom images cropped to the same size – no coding needed! It is best to have a list of desired functions for your website, then review desired plug-ins, and examine the capabilities of the theme before making a final selection. Modifications for one theme are not likely to work with another theme.
Theme vs Framework
Developers who specialize in the customization of WordPress installations will likely start the design using a “framework” rather than a theme. Frameworks are like themes except they are designed to be modified. Frameworks create a full feature but flexible structure that makes it easy to turn on/off various components of the WordPress codex and may very well add their own structures such as drop down menus and multiple page layouts. Most frameworks begin with a blank page and standardized fonts/text markup. This makes it easier to apply a style to the entire website without extensive overriding of the embedded theme styling. The key considerations for designing with a framework is (1)the ability to entirely customize the visual appearance using CSS, and (2) the ability to insert HTML code virtually anywhere on the page by calling functions in the framework.
Getting Noticed by Google
WordPress is designed for search engine optimization (SEO). The specification of categories and tags helps search engines learn about the content on your web pages. Additionally, there are plug-ins designed to insert SEO information into your web pages so search engines, like Google, will find them more interesting. But the one thing that is even more powerful than the WordPress SEO design is your blog content. Bloggers are constantly adding new content and that is the food for search engines. When your website is integrated with your blog, the search engines index both your blog entries and your web pages increasing the visibility of your entire web presence. The more often you blog the more often search engines will visit your site and refresh its content.
What are You Waiting for?
Now that you know what WordPress is, why you should build your website on the WordPress platform, and the enormous options WordPress offers… What are you waiting for? For a limited time, I’m offering Miami area businesses a starter package (call for pricing) to get your WORDPRESS powered website and blog up and running within one week. Additional services are priced at standard rates or quoted at a fixed fee.
- Purchase domain name and web hosting for 1 year (additional $85 charge from godaddy.com )
- Install WORDPRESS software
- Create users and administrator profiles (up to 10 users)
- Create 5 page website w/ navigation menu (Home, About, Contact, +2 more informational pages)
- Create sticky post for your home page
- Write one news article with photo of local subject (ghost writer/photographer)
- Design and implement a custom color theme for your website
- Customize front page with sidebars and plugins (up to 7 plugins/widgets)
- Add company logo to header
- Install Anti-spam filter
- Install visitor and search engine keyword tracking capability
- Provide user training (up to 4 hours)
- Provide telephone support to key user for 2 weeks
OPTIONAL ADDITIONAL SERVICES:
- Research, test, recommend, and install additional plugins
- Install image slider in website header
- Integrate MailChimp signup form(s)
- Integrate RSS feeds
- Implement e-commerce plugin
- Design and implement a social media marketing program
- Add SEO capabilities and training
- Develop Internet marketing program
- Develop marketing calendar and write articles
- Build-out additional website content/pages
- Product and catalog photography
- Executive portrait photography, studio photography, architectural photography
- Design/produce catalogs and brochures
- Executive/celebrity biography and interviews
- Develop customer success stories and testimonials
Did I forget to mention, this website is built on the WordPress platform.