This is in response to this blog post which seeks to explain how to build a “static” Website using WordPress.
I have built at least four Websites using WordPress as a content management system (CMS).
I read this post hoping to learn something that would help me improve my existing WordPress sites and build better sites in the future.
Instead, I think the methods laid out in the post are not helpful and, indeed, may even be counterproductive in the long run.
First, the method described in the post would make it impossible to have a blog on a static WordPress site. It is easily possible to use both pages and posts in the construction of a site, even if you don’t have a blog. Posts could be an excellent way to update “specials of the week” on a restaurant site, for instance.
Secondly, the post fails to mention that there are some excellent resources on using WordPress as a content-management system (CMS).
- Joost de Valk has written what he calls, “The Definitive Guide To High Rankings For Your Blog“. When I first saw the title, I said to myself, “Either that person has a huge ego or this is an incredible guide.” It is most definitely the latter.
- Ian Stewart undersells his guide with with this title: “Use WordPress As a CMS: Plugins, The Bare Minimum“. Indeed, it is extremely comprehensive in how you can use plugins to accomplish some of Joost’s suggestions.
I do not claim to have the knowledge of either of these writers. But I do feel that I can advance this discussion. Here’s how:
- WordPress plugin updates: I typically spend about two-to-four hours a month installing updates. Plugins often get newer versions and it can cause trouble if a plugin is not up-to-date. The One Click Updater Plugin has helped me with this, but I think you still need to check plugins frequently.For instance, I recently checked on a client’s site that has been live for several months. I noticed that the contact form was not appearing correctly. I then saw that the a new version of the cforms plugin had come out… but I hadn’t installed it on this site.Here’s the note that came with it:
Version 9:cforms v9.0+ comes with a new and cleaner method of storing all settings. Before you upgrade and migrate your existing settings, make sure you’ve made a backup of your current WP database (and possibly your cforms form definitions) !Then commence with a manual upgrade, including proper plugin de-activation and re-activation, followed by the guided data migration.
BACKUPS: pre v9x form backups are not compatible with v9. If you have to restore your old backup file, you need to downgrade cforms again.
Generally: if you’re upgrading from an older release I recommend to read the HISTORY.txt file to follow-up on all the enhancements and bug fixes, they may require re-configuration of your settings (e.g. date-picker, WP comment form feature etc.)
It is important to note, that WP’s auto update process is far from flawless, ie. it may overwrite any of your custom settings (CSS theme file, background images, font files etc). Please always make backups of files you need to preserve!
With v8.5+ cforms supports a separate custom user folder to store your tailored CSS, font and image files! Simply create the folder:
and move your CSS (including images!), font & background image files (CAPTCHA) to it.
When I did, the form reappeared. So, once a week, I at least need to check each client’s site to make sure something like this hasn’t happened.
- WordPress system updates: Keith Dsouza’s WordPress Automatic Upgrade plugin is the first plugin to which I have donated money in a long time. WordPress is becoming an increasingly powerful platform, and that often also means more complexity. After upgrading WordPress manually in the past, watching this plugin in action made me realize just how much time I would have spent doing the upgrade.
- Navigation: The basic WordPress navigation system is weak. Every page that you make visible in the default WordPress theme is listed down the side of the page. There are some excellent plugins for customizing navigation based on pages (rather than posts) which work well for Websites. The leading plugin in this regard is Ryan Hellyer’s WP Multi-level Navigation Plugin.I have used this on just about every site I have made in WordPress.That said, I think it could be improved upon by people smarter than I. Here are my thoughts. Right now, you can only have a solid design in the horizontal bar. I wish it was easy to have a repeating design for each top-level navigation element. I would like to have third-level navigation. Ryan charges extra for these and I have not gone that path yet.
- Security: Michael Torbert’s WP Security Scan plugin ought to be an essential piece of every site. WordPress is far from impenetrable, but this makes it much more difficult for someone to hack your site.
- E-commerce: I have downloaded and configured the WP-E-commerce plugin. But, I have not had a retail customer who is selling online. I am working with one such client now, so hopefully I will be able to update this.
- Enterprise-class sites on WordPress?: I have built small sites on WordPress for artists and business-card type sites for professionals. But is WordPress stable and secure enough for a medium-sized company to use? I’m not sure. I have tried to find people who have, but I have yet to hear from anyone who has done this.
I don’t think it is easy to keep up with the latest plugins for using WordPress as a CMS. One of the great things about WordPress is that people are always coming out with new, useful plugins. So, I am not going to try to publish a complete list of plugins.
I would like to hear your thoughts. Please let me know if you have answers to any of my questions, or if you have learned tips from developing WordPress Websites.