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idratherbeskiingonwombats
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Wordpress - as a website developer, is it worth learning?

Apr 2, 2012 8:00 PM

I've always made websites with Dreamweaver using HTML, CSS, and Jquery. If the client wanted a CMS, I used CushyCMS or Pagelime. I haven't done an eCommerce website, but if I was called upon to do one, I guess I would have installed Shopify or something similar. 

 

I've been thinking I should learn how to create custom websites for my clients powered with Wordpress. My reasoning for that was that it provides a free CMS and shopping cart solution for them, plus who knows what other goodies are available?? I imagine a plethora of fabulous stuff that I can put on their websites very easily, like discussion forum pages and opt-in newsletter buttons and other magic widget thingies.

 

I have a new client who has specifically requested a Wordpress site, so now seems to be the time to learn. However, having spent a whole day already trying to get my head around Wordpress, and reading a few comments on the forums here, I've realised it's actually not that easy! Certainly not the magic carpet ride it says it is! I think it'll be quite a learning curve for the client, and maybe Cushy is a better option for clients who just want a simple CMS for their business website.

 

What do others on the forum think? Is it worth a developer going to the effort to learn Wordpress? Is there any advantage to my clients? Does it have a free shopping cart solution?

 
Replies
  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 2, 2012 11:10 PM   in reply to idratherbeskiingonwombats

    Wordpress is VERY popular and it's not going away anytime soon.
    As far as I know, it's at the top of the list when people think of CMS's.

    I would absolutely learn it. It's gonna be around when many others fade away.

     

    I was irked when I kept hearing "how easy it is" and tried to find out... how hard it could be.
    But like anything else, once you get to know it, it's not a problem.

     

    I'm not at the level where I could create my own Wordpress theme from the ground up. I'm still confused about many of the ways of Wordpress.

    But I've gotten FAR better with modifying themes.

     

    I have about 3 of my own Wordpress sites which I use to mess around with.
    But they all have actual purposes so this forces me to figure it out.
    Why don't you just get your own (self hosted - else you won't get full control) and mess around with it.

     

    This e-book http://rockablepress.com/books/rockstar-wordpress-designer helped me figure a lot of it out.
    Though at one point the book totally lost me. But I'm sure it'll make sense soon.

     

    Bottom line though, the entire time I've been creating websites, clients have been asking me for a way to let them do the updating.
    It just seems like a good move for your business to learn Wordpress and start offering it.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 2, 2012 11:50 PM   in reply to idratherbeskiingonwombats

    Yes it's worth at least investigation Wordpress. No, it's not that easy to get your head around.

     

    What you have to do is determine what it is you want your client to have the ability to do. Personally I can't see a reason to give a client FULL CMS control of a website because they will create a train wreck in only a few days. No CMS is a subsitute for a professional web developer.

     

    What I'm leaning towards is implementing Wordpress into sites of say 20-30 pages or less, where specific area/pages of the site can be updated by the client. Anything bigger then its my opinion that the company probably needs help updating the site and should employ a professional to do so. 

     

    You don't need to take onboard the FULL capabilities of Wordpress just isolate the bits that fit in with YOUR workflow NOT Wordpresses workflow.

     

    With this in mind my approach (at the moment) is to build a site as normal in Dreamweaver and then integrate Wordpress into it so I have control rather than what is the normal procedure where Wordpress takes control and you have to jump through hoops manipulating other peoples themes and css files.

     

    Many Wordpress tutorial you'll find on the net are outdated or assume you know more than you do about Wordpress and leave you 'hanging'

     

    After Googling around I found what I believe to be one which is fairly easy to follow and shows you how to turn a static html website into a Wordpress CMS website.

     

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o2XcHqQbRY&list=UU0f9NbKjUUbnL2cOa12EN IQ&index=81&feature=plcp

     

    The tutorial above is very basic BUT very understandable, you have to then build on it to take advantage of more Wordpress features like adding new editable 'content blocks' and 'global post areas'.

     

    Wordpress in its original form is very powerful but rather complex to understand as the pages are made up from compiling a number of other files into one page. If you have been used to building in Dreamweaver then this will most likey NOT be a comfortable workflow for you. The video link above shows you how to avoid this and yet still get some CMS fetaures into your site.

     

    Personally I think Wordpress 'out of the box' is either for amateurs or those who are extremely advanced in html,css and php. Those inbetween are well advised to sift through Wordpress and disregard the bits that will cause issues. Take for instance the automated menu system. May sound good but what happens when your client adds more menu buttons to your carefully crafted horizontal menu bar. Depending on the space it could we'll break it very very easily. So you need to know what bits of Wordpress to include and what bits not to.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 3, 2012 12:11 AM   in reply to osgood_

    Thanks for that link! I'm gonna check it out now. That's one problem with Wordpress, it's hard to find tutorials and such that talk to the absolute beginner.

     

    And a reminder, if you create a wordpress site for your client, you could always limit their access to Author or something so they can't mess up something vital on their site. 

     
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    Apr 3, 2012 3:18 AM   in reply to John Stanowski

    John Stanowski wrote:

     

     

    And a reminder, if you create a wordpress site for your client, you could always limit their access to Author or something so they can't mess up something vital on their site. 

     

    Yup, I havent got to that bit yet but there are other plugins I've come across that provide the client with a 'barebones' interface so they don't go snooping around too much and do something which may have dire concequences.

     

    At the moment I'm just trying to shape Wordpress into something that's useful to me and I can kind of understand what is going on. I feel a bit vunlerable just letting Wordpress 'out of the box' do its own thing without really knowing what it's doing and how to fix it IF any probelms do arise.

     

    The way I'm using it is NOT really the way it was intended to be used but if it brings some CMS features to the site and as a results I can retain a certain amount of building control then it will suit my purposes and maybe others too will find it useful.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 3, 2012 3:44 AM   in reply to osgood_

    osgood_ wrote:

     

    ...so they don't go snooping around too much and do something which may have dire concequences.

     

     

    I have found that the people I have built sites for in WP need a lot of coaching to get them to use the site with any degree of confidence.  You need to factor in the follow-up work to your development time.  It gets more complicated for them if they are not web-savvy and you want to encourage full use of social networking which WP shines at.

     

    A couple of things that helped me get a bit closer to understanding WP includes using child themes, getting to grips with The Loop (in progress) and separating content with category pages.

     

    Martin

     
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    Apr 3, 2012 4:05 AM   in reply to martcol

    martcol wrote:

    I have found that the people I have built sites for in WP need a lot of coaching to get them to use the site with any degree of confidence.  You need to factor in the follow-up work to your development time.  It gets more complicated for them if they are not web-savvy and you want to encourage full use of social networking which WP shines at.

     

    A couple of things that helped me get a bit closer to understanding WP includes using child themes, getting to grips with The Loop (in progress) and separating content with category pages.

     

    Martin

     

    Yes......I should imagine If you present the client with all the buttons available in the Wordpress interface they are going to be very confused.

     

    The way I'm attempting to use Wordpress is on a very basic CMS level whereby clients can edit certain pages and add pages to certain sections, i.e., add more news stories, change programme schedule, update menu, update an image, etc etc.

     

    I don't really want them trying to add other main menu items, surveys or photo galleries etc because I believe you have to maintain the integrity of the presentation if youre a company trying to attract clients to buy from your site or use your services. I've seen far too many sites that deteriorate over time because a client has access to do what they like through a CMS.

     

    Plus as you say Wordpress is no different to any other software program........ you have to spend time getting to know how to use it. In my own experience once a client realises that they have to spend some time getting to grips with something they'd rather not the shine wears off quite quickly.

     
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    Apr 3, 2012 4:12 AM   in reply to osgood_

    osgood_ wrote:


    ...once a client realises that they have to spend some time getting to grips with something they'd rather not the shine wears off quite quickly.

    I currently have a site that I invested hours and hours in and now seems to just sit occupying a tiny piece of the WWW.  I think I was always more enthusiastic about it than the site owner.  It helped me learn about WP but it is a huge disappointment to see it just sitting there doing nothing! Ah well.

     

    Martin

     
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    Apr 3, 2012 1:17 PM   in reply to idratherbeskiingonwombats

    Remember, WP is open source which means everybody has access to the code it uses.  If you build a WP site for your client, you MUST include a maintenance agreement.  Despite what many people think, WP is not plug & play & walk-away.   It has to be regularly maintained to keep the site secure & stable.

     

    Every few months, WP issues a new release to improve security and fix bugs.  It's important to get these new releases. But sometimes they are not compatible with older themes and plug-ins.  If you get stuck, you may need to revert back to the older installation. And the only way to do that is from backups of your MySql data and site files. NEVER upgrade WP without checking the quality of your backups first.   Also, disable all plug-ins before you upgrade.  Then debug by enabling plug-ins one at a time.  If all goes well, the site upgrade could take less than 1 hour.  If things go wrong, well... it could be an all-nighter.

     

    Lastly, do your clients a favor and use strong, encrypted passwords (the kind you can't remember). Change Admin to something less obvious.  Use the security plug-ins to thwart multiple log-in attempts. The more preventive measures you take to secure the site & database, the less chance it will be breached.

     

     

     

    Nancy O.

    Alt-Web Design & Publishing

    Web | Graphics | Print | Media  Specialists 

    http://alt-web.com/

     
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    Apr 3, 2012 11:44 PM   in reply to idratherbeskiingonwombats

    idratherbeskiingonwombats wrote:

     

    Thanks for the advice. I did try the above link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o2XcHqQbRY&list=UU0f9NbKjUUbnL2cOa12EN IQ&index=81&feature=plcp, but the tuturorial and I seem to be slightly out of sync... I've done something wrong, or my setup is different to his, or something. I couldn't get my theme page to show, although it did show on the theme selection as 'broken'. But I will persevere. Can anyone shed some light on that?

    What do you mean by 'although it did show on the theme selection as 'broken' ?

     

    Once you transfer the homepage.php into the Wordpress default theme folder and you have made the homepage.php the 'front page' of your website what shows when you vist the website?

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 4, 2012 1:25 AM   in reply to idratherbeskiingonwombats

    You have to keep playing with it. Little by little you catch on.

    I'm not one to talk because I'm still far off from doing everything I want to with it.

    But when I started messing with it I just tried different templates and got used to the way it works.

    E.g. Add a category, then you have to remember to add the catergory to the menu. Stuff like that.

    Then I start changing the styles only. You can do that under Appearance/Editor and choosing the style.css file to edit.

    I used Firebug to help me figure out what selectors I needed to change. Problem with that is there aren't always classes and id's on a lot of stuff.

    From there I started to change templates.

     
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    Apr 4, 2012 3:10 AM   in reply to idratherbeskiingonwombats

    idratherbeskiingonwombats wrote:

     

    But I’m giving up on that method as outlined in that video, anyway – it’s not as straightforward as it seemed.

     

    Pretty straight forward you just need to play around with it a bit....like finding the right loop, which has probably changed since that video was released. I think its in the content-page.php in the default themes folder - get_content();

     

     

    idratherbeskiingonwombats wrote:

     

     

    I figured that if I’m going to go to all this mind bending effort and give myself a headache, I may as well learn Wordpress the proper way. The method he outlined in the video seemed a bit like a quick fix. Would you agree? I

     

    Quick fix.......we'll depends what you want to do. Personally I feel I have more control of what Wordpress is doing using this method as opposed to Wordpress doing what it wants. Plus if you want to take advantage of all the widgets then its most probably not the method for you...but once again though youre using widgets and software of which you have no-idea how it works so in the future if something should go belly up how are you going to fix it.

     

    Why would you really want to cut your page up into header.php, side-bar.php, footer.php and homepage.php when you can just have one complete page?

     

    The method in the video is really for those who want to maintain control of their designs whilst bringing some features of a CMS to their website. Giving a client some control to edit parts of their website is desirable but giving clients something which is far too complicated and they can easily break is not the path I personally want to take. If its a personal website then the skies the limit...it don't really matter.

     

    What I have done is sifted through each file in the twenty-eleven default theme folder and got rid of all the ones not required. Why have lots of files which are completly useless hanging around your theme folder....much harder to troubleshoot if something goes wrong. I've also found a script that only allows access to the 'pages' section of the dashboard menu which is all the client really needs. Why would you want them to mess around with setting and profiles and users and all the other generically available stuff?

     

    I'm just sifting out all the rubbish that gets thrown at you when you first login. All the useless feeds and news panels that is not applicable to a client, WTF is that there for?

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 4, 2012 7:33 AM   in reply to idratherbeskiingonwombats

    The biggest problem I've encountered with WP is finding the relevant files when you want to make some small change, like adding a custom CSS div or changing the verbiage in the footer. Something that would take 5 minutes in DW might take an hour in WP.

     

    On the upside, one of my clients broke her site and she sent me a box of cookies after I fixed it.

     
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