Setting up a website using WordPress

I’ve set the 67 Bricks website up using WordPress as a content management system. Previously, I’ve used either simple static HTML pages, or a traditional, full-featured CMS. I decided to use WordPress here because it is easy to use, and has an ecology of templates written for it making site design much simpler. It also describes itself as a “Semantic Publishing Platform”, and for a knowledge-management company such as our own, semantic publishing is important.

Setting up WordPress requires very little technical knowledge: my ISP, Heart Internet allows you to do it with a few clicks in their script library, but even without that, it’s still simple. The changes that I’ve made to make it work as a CMS are:

  • Installing the Navigo plugin: which makes it easy to create a menu
  • Installing Search Everything: so pages can be searched as well as posts
  • Installing WP Last Posts: to put the text of the last few posts on the home page

Then, I created the bulk of the site using WordPress “pages”, and the news items as “posts”. I set the front page to be a static page under the Options | Reading menu.

To create a design for the site, I looked through the library of templates on the WordPress site, downloaded four or five that looked interesting, and tried them out locally. Having found a template with a good layout, clean HTML code, and a reasonable license, I then customized it to remove the sections I didn’t like, and to change the graphics – a much simpler process than building a web site design from scratch.

That’s really all there is to it.

So, what did I learn?

Setting up a website with WordPress is very quick. Installation of WordPress took a few minutes, installing plugins took maybe quarter of an hour, choosing and customizing a theme about an hour, and the rest of the time was spent creating content.

The WordPress way of separating content from presentation using PHP functions works well. This is more powerful than the pure CSS approach of CSS Zen Garden, since it allows different templates to display different content. An alternative would be to use XQuery: which would probably be more versatile, but the PHP developer community hasn’t had a wide take-up of XQuery and seems generally sceptical of XML.

(thanks to twenty3design for help with choosing WordPress plugins)