WordPress – more than a blogging tool

March 7th, 2011 by Monika Jankowska-Pacyna

WordPress is an open source publishing application mostly recognized as a blogging platform. What many don’t realize is that it is a full content management system that allows users to create various sections and pages,making it a great tool for setting up websites.

A blog (also known as a “web log”) is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual (or a group of administrators) with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order and allow readers to post comments.

In our Spotlight this month, we feature how Sioux Hudson Literacy Council is using WordPress and other blogging tools to connect with students and followers. Their blog is set up using a WordPress platform.

Here are examples of other WordPress sites you might want to explore:

Our AlphaPlus blog is also a WordPress installation that is embedded within our website (we use Joomla to manage our online content).

From the examples above you will see that many organizations and individuals working within the literacy field are embracing the use of blogging tools, including WordPress. It is a great tool to provide updates, reviews, tips and opinions on specific topics.

WordPress can be set up in two ways:

1.      It can be set up and hosted for free by WordPress (there might be an extra fee for redirecting the site to your own domain name).

Users visit http://wordpress.com/, set up their account and are taken step by step through the process of setting up a blog. This blog is then hosted by WordPress. Various templates, plugins (additional features and tools) and a control panel called Dashboard are provided to help manage the content.

2.      It can be downloaded onto an organization’s or an individual’s own server or hosted by a third-party service.

Users visit http://wordpress.org/ where they find information and a link to download a free installation of WordPress. The downloaded version works in the same way and provides the same features, but it can be more customized as users have access to all source files.

Click here to learn more about WordPress features.

What makes WordPress more than just a blogging tool is the feature called “pages,” which allows users to easily create web pages. “About us” or “Contact us” sections are usually static pages (they don’t change often) and can be created using this feature.

Furthermore, through WordPress Settings, a person can choose if the WordPress will display a blog as a front/home page or a static page. If one prefers to have a welcome page with an overview of what an organization does or have quick announcements, then the blog section can simply be moved to be a sub-page accessible via a menu or link somewhere on the site but not displayed on the front page. It is this flexibility and pages feature that allows users to create entire websites using WordPress.

Here is an example of how WordPress was used to set up a website:

http://namle.net/

If you scroll down all the way to the bottom, you will see that the site is powered by WordPress.

Amazing, isn’t it! This is a very comprehensive website and some might even say it is too busy, but it illustrates how WordPress can be used for more than just blogging.

It is important to note that depending on the theme you choose, some of the features might not be available or the theme might not match your needs. It is worthwhile to explore the themes and look at previews to narrow down the design you would like. It is very likely that you will change your mind a few times and change themes as your work progresses and you narrow down the look and feel of your website.

If you don’t like anything, you can explore paid themes available from various websites as well. There are many companies that specialize in developing themes for WordPress. Simply search for “themes for wordpress” and explore the results.

Finally, please keep in mind that many organizations and individuals might not be very technologically savvy and although they decide to use WordPress to set up their blog or website, they often hire someone to help them with the design and set-up process. After the design is complete, they take over the management and maintenance of the site, using the user-friendly Dashboard, which cuts down on their costs. If you are intimidated by WordPress, consider this option as well.

And when you come across an amazing WordPress site, contact the owner and ask how it got developed.  Some might give you contact information for the designer; others might provide tips and hints, or even help you with your own set up!

Image: Rob Davies http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/microstock-photo-powersearch-plugin/