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WordPress Customization and using WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS)

Introduction
WordPress is the most popular blog software in use today.  I think of WordPress primarily as a user-friendly content management system (CMS), with blogging as only its most obvious application. WordPress is online software that enables website owners to easily write and post articles to their website. Website developers and designers can customize WordPress to have any desired look, feel, and functionality available on the web today.

The flexibility of WordPress makes it a great tool for a variety of scenarios. Our company has customized WordPress to provide content management for several projects. In some cases, someone simply wants a basic blog website to post articles. We create a simple customized design and the blog website is ready to go.  Sometimes we use WordPress as a content management system in which the public website does not appear to be a blog, but the site owner can update the content of the site using the WordPress editing tools. We also integrate WordPress into existing websites so that a website can have a separate blog page that is consistent with the design of the whole website.

Getting Started
WordPress is free. You have a choice of using the WordPress hosting server (go to www.wordpress.com for more information) or installing and using WordPress on your own hosting server (go to www.wordpress.org for more information). We strongly recommend that you have WordPress installed on your server because this enables you (and/or your web developer) to have maximum flexibility to customize WordPress for your needs. If blogging is just a hobby and you want to post a few articles, using the WordPress server is fine. However, if you want more options and flexibility, work with a web developer/designer who will set up WordPress on your server and work with you to customize it.

Once WordPress is set up, you simply login to the WordPress administration page using your login name and password. Once you login, you have access to the WordPress tools.

Update Content Easily
At the heart of WordPress is a set of tools that enable you (the website owner) to add/edit/delete posts (articles). You may also add/edit/delete separate web pages. The tools include a basic online word processor in which you can easily type in and edit text. You can do basic formatting and even insert hyper-links and images. You do not need to know anything about programming or HTML. If you do know some HTML basics, you can do even more.

If your website has multiple authors, WordPress allows you to have a separate login for each author, and the author’s name can appear with the article.

You can assign “categories” and/or  “tags” to each post to help organize your blog or website content. WordPress also automatically organizes your posts by date so that you can easily display an “Archive” listing on your website.

WordPress also enables you to select whether or not you want to allow website visitors to post comments. If you allow comments, you can easily edit or delete comments as you see fit.

Extending WordPress using Plug-ins
Many free third-party “plug-ins” are  available. These plug-ins are little tools that easily install and integrate with WordPress.

On this blog page you can see two examples: ShareThis and Tweet-this. These plug-ins enable site visitors to easily share information about articles on this site.

Other plug-ins we have used for client projects include: a newsletter tool, opinion polls, tag clouds, Amazon.com Affiliate Program. Many other plug-ins are available and we hope to continue to find useful ones.

Sometimes we find that it’s just as easy to program a function ourselves. For example, it’s easy to include Google Ads in a WordPress site (or any website). Other examples are: Pay Pal e-commerce, Google maps, and Google calendars.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Friendly
WordPress pages generally perform quite well in search engines. Pages with links to categories, tags, archives, plug-ins, and RSS feeds are rich in keyword links and phrases. Having a site that is updated frequently also improves search rankings. Enabling site visitors to post comments makes a website more interactive, interesting, and popular.

On the Technical Side (for programmers)
WordPress is a set of open-source PHP files combined with a mySQL database. Generally, you do not need to modify the basic software, although occasionally I have made little tweaks. WordPress enables you to select a “theme” and/or create and customize your own theme. The theme includes several PHP files and a CSS file. You can add PHP and CSS files as needed. With some practice and experience, customizing WordPress becomes easier and faster. You can even develop your own plug-ins to provide custom administrative tools for the website owner.

Conclusion
This article is a broad overview about WordPress as a platform for content management and blogging.  Many online resources are available that provide in-depth instructions for both WordPress authors and developers. WordPress has become a key tool for our business and development work. We are interested in doing more WordPress projects, so please contact us if you want to start a blog website or incorporate a blog and/or content management into your website.

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