Experience of WordPress as a CMS

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I’ve known for a while that you can use WordPress as a small-scale content management system, but I’ve not had the chance to put it into practice until last week, when I worked on a site for which it was an ideal fit: a client already using WordPress for blogging, a relatively small number of pages, an existing design which could be readily adapted.

All the same, there were a number of challenges. First there was an existing two-tier menu system. I felt this needed to be user-managed rather than hard-coded, so new pages could be added to the second level. I based my solution on the Fold Page List plugin, but with a couple of minor additions to make the menus more customisable: per-item CSS styling and menu-specific text.

The site required a contact form, for which I used the excellent cforms plugin, which is a model of what a plugin should be: flexible, easy to get to grips with – and it works.

I also installed SEO Title Tag, Add Meta Tags and Spam Karma. Something like SEO Title Tag is vital if you have any desire to optimise your pages for search engines (and why would you not?). A good meta description is also important, not so much for achieving a high position in result lists but in getting users to click on your listing.

Once I’d migrated all the existing content to wordpress pages, the site was more or less finished. Quite a painless exercise, on the whole.

One caveat, though about WordPress as a CMS: if you have a page hierarchy, page permalinks will reflect that, so for example if you have an ‘about me’ section under which there is a ‘my hobbies’ page, the permalink will be something like ‘/about-me/my-hobbies/’. If at some future date you decide to move your ‘my hobbies’ page to a different section or to the top level of the hierarchy, its so-called permalink will change. This is a major drawback, but one for which I’m considering a solution: watch this space.

Consider me won over to the idea of WordPress as a CMS, though. This very site is currently at the workshop being rebuilt along those lines…

7 Responses to “Experience of WordPress as a CMS”

  1. Neil

    Personally, I always use WordPress as a small, adaptable CMS for clients, but using blogging software for small company projects feels inappropriate. This has led me to investigate alternatives – Drupal is clever but counter-intuitive, Expression Engine is v.nice but costs money. At the moment, I’m thinking of using MODx. Do you know it at all? If so, what do you think?

  2. Alfred Armstrong

    Neil, I don’t know MODx but I’d be interested to hear of your experiences. Another thing I currently find missing from WordPress is the ability to define different content types (apart from blog entries and pages), although I think it’s get-aroundable, probably.

    Drupal is too complex for typical small sites to be worth the trouble, certainly. Joomla is easier to set up and it’s better for e-commerce, if that’s relevant.

  3. Kian Ann

    Hey Alfred,

    Joomla! is a great CMS for small businesses to use.

    But I love WordPress as a CMS too, so much easier to configure and install.

    Then again, maybe its just because I’m not used to Joomla yet. 🙂

  4. Alfred Armstrong

    Kian Ann, yes, WordPress is easy to get going with. I find Joomla a bit overwhelming, frankly. I had a quick look at MODx and I think once it gets a bit more mature and people start authoring extensions for it, it could be quite something.

    But work-wise at the minute, everything’s turning out Drupal.

  5. Wayne Smallman

    I’ve been looking at using WordPress as a CMS for a couple of clients.

    But as Alfred knows, I’m not luvin’ WordPress and it’s arcane template architecture…

  6. Laura Whitehead

    Hello Alfred (I’m from South Devon, so nice to meet another fellow web dev locally!).
    I’ve used quote a few CMS for various clients (Drupal, Joomla and so on), WP is good and easy, but I’m really following and working well with Modx. It takes a while to get your head round it all, but it has amazing potential, and very usable and as a designer let’s you be in control; you can create what you need and adapt what is already there. I’ve been mainly working with Modx now for about 8 months, and the forums are really very friendly and supportive with whatever your query. The only poor part of Modx is the blogging side, which isn’t really what it is meant for anyway! It can be done and well, although I’m still fumbling with the blog side, which WP does infinately better!!!
    Give yourself some time and give it a go. Happy to talk if need be.

  7. Alfred Armstrong

    Laura, I had a play with Modx and the impression I got was it seemed to be about building pages much more than the backend, which seemed a little thin. I could be wrong, but it felt more like Smarty with a nice admin GUI than a proper framework or CMS.

    Please correct me if I’m mistaken!

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