More WordPress Woes

Earlier this week we received an email from a potential client who'd taken out a WordPress deal. They were working with a company that provided WordPress hosting for a monthly fee, a basic installation, a bit of tutoring and then, they'd been left to their own devices.

The result was weeks of frustration and a chaotic one page website. It wasn't their fault. It probably wasn't the WordPress company's fault. The two just weren't a good fit. The client works exclusively in Word - it's what his profession uses all day every day - and this, coupled with a meagre understanding of picture file sizes and WordPress' 'distinctive' back end had taken its toll. And the more time the client spent trying to fix the site - and get the value for money he'd been hoping for - the worse it got.

We're going to try and convince him to move away from this unsuitable - for him at least - platform and build something straightforward using Rapidweaver. We'll include a self-hosted blog and leave the build open for adding more CMS-style features going forward. These will be customised to fit in with his way of working.

We'll let you know how it goes.

WordPress? No thanks...

Just over a year ago, we announced that we'd be offering WordPress as a platform for clients who wanted to be able to manage their own websites. With such a huge installed base and so many excellent themes, it seemed like a logical choice and despite our reservations - about security of neglected WordPress installations, mainly - we embarked on this new path with enthusiasm.

But no matter how much we wanted to like WordPress and no matter how pervasive its influence and adoption, we just can't bring ourselves to build sites using it. This is in part because WordPress increasingly feels like a behemoth on spindly legs, massive torso always in danger of over-balancing (a bit like something from a Dali painting) and in part because the program we use to build sites - Rapidweaver - has come on in leaps and bounds in the last 12 months.

The deciding factor however, has been the arrival of technology which allows us to build custom content management pages with instructions specific to each page, element and person who's doing the updating, that is streets ahead of anything that's possible using WordPress. The result? The easiest, most customisable content management system imaginable which makes updating the content on your websites a doddle, especially when compared with the cack-handed way that WordPress tries to implement this.

So farewell WordPress. You tried, we tried, but some things are just not meant to be.

It's your job too

From time to time we'll get an email or phone message from a potential client that sets alarm bells ringing. It's usually along the lines of ‘I need a website. Just a few pages. How much?' We'll reply by trying to find out what the site's going to be used for, get an idea of the content, any technical features and so on; and to explaining that we'll be able to give an estimate after we've got some more information. Sometimes the prospective client comes back with more info and the job progresses; and sometimes the line goes dead.

We're usually grateful in either case. A client who's interested and engaged, who has an idea of why they need a website and what they're trying to achieve is serious about making it happen. Someone who 'needs a website, just a few pages, how much?' doesn't sound as though they're very serious at all.

Of course, you may understand that you need a website but are uncertain about where to start. That's understandable and it's why we created our Free Website Checklist. Download it and you'll find 20 simple questions that will help us understand what you're after and decide whether we can help or not.

Managing Content

CMS screen
For a while now we've offered clients the ability to update the content of their website without having to keep coming back to us for help. This is known as a Content Management System - CMS for short - and is a good, cost-effective solution for customers who need to update parts of their site regularly - perhaps to list special offers or new services. We're now pleased to offer a brand new, much more powerful way to manage your content, using our own customised CMS that makes it easier than ever to change text and photos, add video or even create custom slideshows. There are some simple rules of the road to follow but all you really need is a web browser and a bit of confidence and you'll be away in no time.

Of course, not everyone needs a CMS. In fact most people only change the content of their site once or twice a year. If that's the case, we're more than happy to help out.

How to add your own photos and videos

Although blogs are a great way to add all sorts of content to your web site - including photos and videos - there are circumstances when you need to present a group of photos or videos together in a portfolio. If that’s the case, you don’t necessarily need some fancy or complicated content management system. Instead, we can set up pages on your site that act as containers for content that’s stored on external services that you can update whenever you want.

Here’s an example:
  • create a free Flickr account
  • upload a series of photos there together with tags and captions
  • sit back as they appear automatically on your website, styled to look as if you’d uploaded them directly
  • add or remove photos whenever you like
  • also works with Picasa, 500px, Instagram and others

Here’s another example:
  • create a free YouTube account
  • upload some videos of your band playing together with a description of each one
  • after YouTube has done its stuff, they’ll appear on your website, styled to match the rest of your content
  • add new videos and get rid of old ones whenever you like
  • also works with Vimeo

What about adding my own content?

What is content management? Some people seem to think it’s the ability to completely manage their own web site, adding, removing and editing content, creating new pages, re-jigging the design - in fact, letting rip at everything that visitors see when they land on the site.

Here at Hove Web Design, we’re not so sure.

It seems to us that content management should be exactly that - the ability to manage defined chunks of content, specified from the outset and integrated seamlessly into the site so that the owner can update the content that’s important to them without having to pay for the web designer’s time, but without disrupting the look and feel and organisation of the site. There are several ways you can do this.

  • add an external blog that can be edited from any web browser, styled to fit in with the look and feel of the site
  • add ‘hooks’ to external services like YouTube, Vimeo and Flickr that allow website owners to add new content to those services as usual and have that fed through to their own website automatically
  • add areas of the site - for example news or special offers or price lists - that can edited using external services like Google Docs or a DropBox-enabled text editor
  • add areas to the site that can be edited using a built-in editor accessible from any web browser.

In blog entries to come we’ll be looking at each of these in a bit more detail and explain how they work and how they can be used.