A friend wants to develop a corporate web site and wanted to get my advice on what CMS he should use. As usual I asked him what did he want to do with it and got a judgement about his technical skill. The website he envisoned was one of the simple ones, with basic information and he was not exposed to any web site management before or to managing raw HTML. I advised him to use WordPress for it. However, he knew that WordPress was a blogging engine and felt that I was trying to tackle him cheaply.
So here goes my justification for why WordPress makes a lot of sense for many simple web sites, including the non-blog ones. The shorter version is that WordPress provides good infrastructure of web publishing and gives you tools to build an interactive web site. And I think this is common knowledge in the WordPress community.
Pages and Posts
WordPress supports two basic types of content – Pages and posts. Pages are used to hold information that is valid for a bigger span of time. For such content, a change overwrites the earlier content. Posts are used for content which is more dynamic, like news and updates. In stead overwriting with changes, such content builds an archive.
Now, any web site that represents an entity – company, product, educational institution or an individual, at least in today’s age, has both such types of content. Providing news and updates and their helps keep the readers and customers uptodate through subscriptions.
The recent versions of WordPress also lets you set one of the pages as the homepage. You can do away with the blog and archives look and create a corporate user interface. In a blog the posts take over the entire web site, whereas in a non-blog web site the pages get more dominant.
Sometimes you might have more than one content types for which posts are suitable, like news and articles. In such a case you can use the categories to differentiate between the two. The categories can be hierarchical and there is no limit on the number of categories you have. This is one of the best tools to use for content classification.
Feed is one of the most used techniques by readers to keep themselves updated. WordPress generates feeds for both pages and posts and various other queries, which you can offer to your reader and customers. It is also quite popular that these feeds can be easily converted to emails using various services. What this means is that you can reach out to the web, feedreader and email users by just publishing the content once.
The default theme looks very blog like and has a specific layout. However, that is just the theme, you can easily create your own to satisfy your needs.
Permalinks are the URLs that are easy to read and easy to remember, without the question marks and ampersands. WordPress has a flexible way of constructing the permalinks and lets you create your own schema. Not only that, using code, you can even add your own terminology within the permalinks.
Easy administration interface
All said and given, administration of a web site is one of the biggest hurdles in maintaining it. WordPress provides an easy to use administration interface for writing and managing content, and configuration of the web site.
There is a lot of talk about the WYSIWYG editors, but I usually advise people to use the default editor that comes with WordPress. It is the best balance between ease of writing text and HTML both together.
Having said that WordPress does come with a WYSIWYG editor, and there a host of other plugins for it.
Roles and Permissions
WordPress also sports a simple but effective roles and capabilities system. This is extremely useful if you appoint different people for managing the web site configuration, managing content or adding the content.
Comments is something I believe all web sites should borrow from blogging. Comments can be used to interact with the readers and customers. They can contact you or contribute to the content or report problems using them. Comments are supported for pages as well as individual posts.
Not only this, WordPress comes with the Akismet plugin which can save a lot of your effort and time in dealing with spam.
Saves Effort and Time
Because of so many inbuilt features, WordPress can save you a lot of effort and time of development. Most of the times it is development of the theme and configuration of the web site. Not only for development, but WordPress, which requires PHP and MySQL is also easy to deploy with many hosts. This also makes WordPress most suitable for doing pilot projects and prototypes.
Other than these, WordPress is completely open source and has built a huge community around it. It is extremely difficult to miss the huge amount of themes, plugins and third party tools built around it.
Whether it can be used for complex web sites or not is completely dependent on the developer’s skill, however it surely is suitable for many simple web sites, including the corporate ones. Hopefully this will help the skeptical ones realize that you can do more than blogs with WordPress. This is not to say that other tools are not effective, but they can be an overkill many times. I will continue to recommend WordPress for many simple web sites, it really makes sense.