Category Archives for "Applications"

WordPress or Flat HTML / CSS?

The last two Thursdays, I’ve looked at the pros and cons of using WordPress.  Today: is it right to always use WordPress (or another CMS) or is flat html / css better in some cases?  (HTML and CSS are the mark-up and formatting languages used on all websites.)

Many designers build sites from scratch; this is not always a good idea.  If you are working with a designer, especially someone who is a volunteer designer, you need to decide between WordPress (or some other CMS) or flat html /css.  It is important you make this decision independently of your designers experience.  Do not make the wrong decision because your designer can’t do the right one!  You don’t need to understand everything, just enough to make the right decision.

A temporary site or a brochure site (where the client simply wants to duplicate their printed brochure online so people can see what they offer) might be designed using html/css.  If you decide later you want something more complex, it is not usually a problem; setting up a WordPress site is very easy.  However, if you find you have a lot of traffic to a brochure site, you transfer to a WordPress site.  If you’re expecting significant traffic it’s always best to start as you mean to go on!

So, run through this checklist.  If the site does not meet any of these criteria, you may choose html/css.  Once you’ve decided, you will need a designer who can deliver your decision.  Use WordPress if

  1. the site will be more than a few pages and expected to do some complex things
  2. you know the site will need to be regularly updated
  3. you are going to make the changes to the site, not the designer.
  4. your site will have a lot going on in the background
  5. you need the functionality of any WordPress plug-ins or know you might add new functionality in the future.

If you have a html / css site and it’s working for you, please comment about it and leave a link.  Do you keep it up-to-date yourself or do you pay someone to do it for you?  How does this work?

Six Drawbacks Using WordPress

Last Thursday, I showed you 10 reasons for using WordPress.  There are some disadvantages; although outweighed by the advantages you need to be aware so that you don’t have unrealistic expectations.

WordPress is a doorway to everything you need for a website, easily to hand.  However, to use WordPress, you need to overlay it with a theme.  Once you have a theme it’s like trying to paint your entrance hall through the letter box!  In other words, you may need help to get your WordPress site running properly.  Fortunately there’s lots of help around.

So, here are five things to watch out for:

  1. It takes time to understand any content management system.  WordPress is no different from other platforms.  So, if you pick a theme and want to adapt it to your requirements it can be quite difficult at least until you’re used to the way WordPress works.
  2. Security is an issue because WordPress is so popular.  Every crook and idiot in the universe seems to target it.  There are some good plug-ins that look after all this for you, but you need to install them, keep them up-to-date and be mindful of good housekeeping.
  3. Good housekeeping means installing updates as soon as they become available and maintaining your site.   You must install updates because they enhance site security but they can crash your site.  This happened to me last week and it is a pain!
  4. Good housekeeping includes the need to back up your site.  This is fairly complicated to set up but easy once running.  If you don’t do this, you can’t be certain you’ll recover your site should it crash!
  5. Plug-ins are variable in quality and some of them are not reliable and can jeopardise your site.  So choose the popular ones, where you can be certain of their reputation.
  6. As soon as you install WordPress, you have a massive site, even though initially you won’t use all its functionality.  It gets bigger when you install plug-ins and if you install too many it can slow your site down.  This is not an issue I’ve encountered too much, although some people do complain about it.

So, what has been your experience using WordPress?  Almost certainly, you will have found it’s brilliant once you’ve set it up.  It’s the set up that’s the problem.

10 Reasons to Use WordPress for Your Website

There are many content management systems (CMS) available.  Several are suitable for community organisations and in time I may post about most of them.  Today I’ll make a start with the pros and cons of using WordPress for your website.

WordPress is possibly the most common CMS, with about 20% of websites worldwide using it.  This means it is a reliable system, its issues well-known and unlikely to disappear.  Here is a list of the advantages you might like to consider.

  1. WordPress is open source, which means anyone can view the code and program the CMS.  Whilst this is not something likely to interest a beginner, it does mean there are a lot of people who can help when things go wrong.  You’re not tied to a single designer or a single company.
  2. There’s no charge for WordPress.   There are some issues about free stuff online but the big advantage for community organisations is that WordPress is accessible on a small budget.
  3. Because so many websites use WordPress the issues are well-known.  So, if you encounter a problem (and there are always problems!) the chances are there is already a solution.
  4. huge community supports WordPress and so it is hard to see how it could vanish overnight.  Support for a smaller CMS that belongs to a single company might vanish should the company fold.
  5. It is usually less work than designing a site in flat html and css.  Whilst you still might need help from a designer, the chances are it will be a lot cheaper to put the site together.
  6. It is easy to work alongside your designer.  As soon as you set up the site, you can log in and make changes.  So, design can be about walking alongside and not leaving it all to a designer to deliver a finished product.
  7. There are a many plug-ins and widgets that make the site customisable.  You can do almost anything with relatively little effort.  Many plug-ins are free and the ones you pay for are usually reasonably priced.
  8. Similarly there are many themes and frameworks that can help you design the look of the site as well as its functionality.
  9. WordPress started as a blogging platform and so any WordPress site can include a blog.  This is more flexible than it sounds because you can use blogs in many ways.
  10. Apparently WordPress is search engine friendly.  What this means is you can structure your pages and blog posts so that search  engines can find them with relative ease.

Next time I’ll look at six disadvantages of using WordPress.

What has been your experience?

Technique: How to put your Site Together

The words technique and technology come from the same Greek root, techne, which means ‘hand’.  The Latin equivalent is manus, from which we get the word manufacture. So,the heading technique covers the hands-on aspects of website design and maintenance.

If you engage a designer or consultant to manage your site, this heading will help you understand what they are doing so that you can engage in constructive conversations.  If you are going it alone, it will help you appreciate what is possible with your CMS.

Maintenance

When cars became cheap they had major implications for organisations.  The same applies to most technological innovations.  Telephones, typewriters, faxes, desk-top computers … all changed the way organisations work.  A website is a technological innovation.  Just because it is a set of text files on a server somewhere in the world, doesn’t mean it makes fewer demands upon your organisation.  Websites become moribund because their organisations are unable to adapt to their use.

How do you keep your site up-to-date?  It is best to plan what you want the site to do before you go online.  However, many organisations inherit a moribund site and lack the resources to carry out a major review.  So, whether you do it yourself, ask an employee or volunteer to do it or engage a consultant / designer, what do you need to understand?

CMS

I shall name common problems and techniques and show you how to steer your own site.  This is important even if you engage someone else to look after your site.  If you understand what they’re doing, you can make suggestions and stretch the boundaries in realistic ways.

Applications

There are loads of applications (software tools) that might potentially be helpful.

  • Social media can support your website or do the job you need without a website
  • Analytics – how do you get and interpret information about your site’s performance?
  • Search engine optimisation, keyword research and all those things that affect how your site functions.
  • Loads of applications help you write code and prepare graphics and animations for websites.
  • Content management systems
  • Various cloud resources help you share stuff online.

Many of these are free and some are very expensive.  How do you make the best choices? If your designer is using an application, how can you follow what the designer is doing?  I’ll interpret the jargon and explain what to expect.