Ever since I began creating websites in 1998 I knew the importance of being able to easily find and update website content. In the early days it was pretty common for web sites to be run off a “flat file” system. This meant that every time a client needed to edit a page on their website they would need to contact the web developer in order to make those changes happen. Well, unfortunately in the early days that is the type of websites I built and after signing up 30 or so clients updating websites became a huge headache. So what did I do? I picked up a book and learned ASP. One of many programming languages used to create dynamic websites. I also began to research Content Management Systems (CMS) in order to make my life and the sites of my clients a lot better.
Hmmmm… Have to Find Something Better
In those days there was not a lot to choose from, and most content management systems were very expensive. With this knowledge in hand I set out to build my own CMS and most of my clients enjoyed years of their sites being built upon this home brewed system. As a one-man-army I quickly found that updating and keeping my CMS ahead of the game and dealing with clients was becoming another hassle. So with my experience of building my own CMS I began to search for another solution. I ran into many candidates such as Joomla, DotNetNuke, Drupal, Expression Engine, etc. I even worked for a company that built their own solution as well. With each of these systems there were pros and cons. Some were very easy to set up, but had little documentation. Some had a very high learning curve, but were very extensible. Others were hard for clients to use, and absolutely ugly on the back-end! After a little time with all of these a co-worker of mine mentioned that WordPress was becoming very robust and could even be used as a CMS. My first thoughts were that this was ridiculous as WordPress was just known as an application for blogging. Who would take me serious if I built sites with WordPress?
WordPress It Is
I began researching WordPress heavily because I really respected this co-workers opinion and knew they would not lead me in the wrong direction. I installed WordPress for my own personal website and began tinkering with it’s inner workings. Once I got under the hood I could easily see that this system was very robust and even if I did not have the many years of web development experience that I do I would still be able to at least get a simple site going with WordPress. My heavy knowledge of PHP and coding in general, would allow me to rewrite or create anything with this system! I was excited and thankful to find a system with so much documentation on the web and a large community of users. Plus it is open-source which is perfect for a small website developer as myself. So off I was converting many of my client’s sites to this awesome platform and encouraging them to learn the system in order for them to be able to make updates to their websites without calling me.
WordPress.com to WordPress.org
As of this writing WordPress is becoming a household name in the web development world. More than 20 million sites are run off the CMS and even more are being created every waking minute. Some bloggers continue to use WordPress.com for the free service and a 1-click install of the application. Others choose to develop sites using WordPress.org. Our clients all benefit from the use of WordPress.org. There is a huge difference in what you can do with WordPress.org in comparison to WordPress.com. I will go over the difference in another blog as it would take a good bit of discussion. WordPress.org allows you to download your own copy of WordPress and install it on your own servers. Many people do not have the time or inclination to learn how to do this so we at Jeca Designs do it for them.
WordPress 3.0 is the Future
If I was to tell you WordPress will be the only platform people will be using in the future I would be lying through my teeth. That would be like saying Apple will come to dominate the computer world and Microsoft will be wiped out. Or that Ubuntu/Linux will be a light weight netbook operating system leaving the yet to be released Google OS in the dust. Nobody really knows what will happen, but one thing is for sure having a choice is a good thing! With the pending release of WordPress 3.0 ( currently the release candidate is available and installed on my personal site ) we will see that WordPress is going to be a heavy weight contender in the world of true content management systems.
What’s new with WordPress 3.0?
New default theme: Twenty Ten
No more seeing the horrible default white and blue theme that came installed with WordPress by default. Now every blog will come equipped with Twenty Ten that features a much prettier layout and easily customized header image.
Unique admin username
Previously when installing WordPress you were forced to use the username “admin”. This lead to security concerns as only one portion of the login had to be hacked, the password. Since all hackers knew that the default username was “admin” it was much easier to brute force their way in to a WordPress site. I would always manually delete this user from the database and have to recreate the admin user, but now WordPress 3.0 will allow you to do this from the start.
Now it will be even easier for non-programmers to create custom menus in WordPress. You will be able to mix up categories and posts to create some really unique menus for your website.
Adding a custom background color or image to your site will be as easy as clicking a few buttons. Not a huge addition, but cool none-the-less.
The merge of WordPress and WordPress MU
WordPress MU (Multi-User) allowed developers to create a network of sites all administered from one central site. An example would be how I have set up my personal site. The main site is www.auz1111.com, and I also have the site www.bendbeerbottles.com (coming soon!) running from the very same WordPress installation. Makes it much easier to administer many blogs. WordPress and WordPress MU used to be seperate entities, but now they have been combined into one. You can find out how to activate this feature here or call us up for some help.
Custom post types
My favorite update for this version is the ability to create custom post types. This is going to be the sole feature that allows WordPress to finally come into fruition as a true content management system. Before, we had to always create post with the same fields ( Title, Content, Excerpt, etc.). Now users will be able to create their own custom post types. For example what if I wanted to create content just for the beers I am sampling? I could create a post type containing fields for Appearance, Taste, Smell, Mouthfeel, and Drinkability as I have done on the soon coming www.bendbeerbottles.com! Truly awesome and a long time coming!
WordPress still has a good ways to go, but I am willing to bet it will be around for a very very long time. As I get better with writing my own custom templates and plugins I look forward to contributing back to the community. After all it is an open-source project and up to us to keep the project evolving through the years. We at Jeca Designs can’t wait for the official release of WordPress 3.0 and look forward to building our client’s web sites with this powerful tool. If you need some WordPress help or are looking to have a site built with WordPress please contact us.
June 17, 2010 Update: WordPress 3.0 is now available!