College Crunch: WordPress as a CMS
When we started the project, I knew it was going to be large in the number of pages and whatnot it used, but we decided to go with WordPress because it was a platform we knew well. Installing the blog, getting some plugins set up, and having a designer make it all look pretty was easy, actually using WordPress on a day to day basis has had some drawbacks.
When you have hundreds of pages and posts, set up in WordPress it can become annoying to manage. Slowly wading through the pages, or trying to search out what you want can be frustrating. The page management feels incomplete. Also, moving many pages from being a sub-page set in one area to being a sub-page set in another area feels awkward.
I have tried out numerous page management plugins, but they have either caused errors, or left something to be desired.
Listing out Sub Pages
As I created more and more pages, I needed to list them out, and doing the xhtml link for each page I added was a pain. I had to install Exec-PHP to allow me to add some PHP to the pages, and using built-in WordPress functions, I was able to automate the process.
The code I used to list out child pages:
Blog Posts are Less Important
Blog posts are only a small piece of the site. We knew we wanted to have a blog section, and that it was really going to be used to drive traffic and links, more than comments and community, but we left comments open and moved the blog section to the College Crunch Gazette. This left us able to use the front page for a variety of things.
We highlighted the blog posts pretty heavily on the front page, though only a percentage of our visitors come from the front page anyways.
Each one of our blog posts have an image attached to them so that on the front page we can use the Post Image plugin to highlight posts in an effective way. The posts that don’t have an image automatically show a graduation cap image on the front page. This has been great at drawing attention, but looks bad if the trend is to not include an image, as I am bad for not doing.
I am not a fan of WordPress’ built-in search, and even after taking some ideas from Joost de Valk’s make search suck less post, I am still not happy with the type of results it gives. I might push for us to switch to Google’s Custom Search, and integrate it as best as we can into the design of the site.
WordPress is very malleable, which is great, but it doesn’t come with very many, or very well thought out CMS features and that has been more than a little frustrating.
Sure, we could have gone with another platform to run the site, but that would have meant a learning curve, and learning curves slow down site development and launching. I really hope that more people take the time and energy to develop plugins for WordPress that will allow it to act more like a CMS, and that College Crunch will be able to continue without too much frustration until they exist.