WordPress and Catalyst

by John Eberhard

WordPress is a blogging system, arguably the best. But because it is so easy to use, many people today also use it to develop whole web sites.

Using WordPress as a platform to develop a web site allows the site owner to log in and easily make changes to the content of the site themselves. When I say “content” I am referring to the text and pictures. (To make design changes you need more web design knowledge.)

This easy access to the web site – allowing the site owner to make content changes – seems to be very appealing today, and so more and more people are opting to have their sites designed in WordPress or a similar Content Management System (CMS). I like WordPress because I feel it is the easiest to learn, and for that reason it appears to be becoming the most popular.

I started working with WordPress a couple years ago and in the last year have made several sites in WordPress (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Then finally I made the leap and re-designed my own site in WordPress and put the new version up live last week.

Themes

Once you set up your site in WordPress, you have to select a theme. A “theme” is their word for the overall design for the site. You can select from hundreds of pre-made, free themes. Most of these are pretty plain and so most people have a custom design done for them, which is then converted into WordPress format.

Initially I created custom designs and then had someone else convert these to WordPress for me. Then I discovered a custom theme called Catalyst, which you buy and install, and it then gives you hundreds of design options. So now I use Catalyst to create my designs. It has a bit of a learning curve to it, but overall I think it’s a great product.

Other Advantages of WordPress

Other than the obvious advantage that WordPress allows you to make changes to your web site yourself, there are a number of other advantages.

1. Easy, site-wide changes: With WordPress you can make changes to the design or to the navigation, and you just have to make the change once and it goes into effect for the whole site, rather than making the change on every page. This is probably more important for designers.

2. Plugins: WordPress has hundreds of what they call “plugins,” which are small programs that work within WP to give you added functionality. Here are examples of some of the available types of plugins:

a. Photo Galleries: There are some really high quality photo galleries available. I like the NextGen Gallery the best.

b. Google Analytics: You can hook up Google Analytics to your site so you can track visitors, in about 10 minutes.

c. Forum: You can set up a forum on your site pretty easily.

d. Polls: You can run polls on your site.

e. SEO: You can install a plugin that makes it easy to implement search engine optimization on your site.

f. Events Calendar: You can put an events calendar on your site.

g. Forms: There are a number of plugins that make it easy to create forms for your site.

h. Facebook and Twitter: There are plugins that make it easy to interact with your Facebook and Twitter accounts, such as showing a feed of recent activity.

i. Buddypress: This is a plugin allowing you to set up a Facebook-like social networking site of your own. I haven’t used it but hear it is pretty easy to work with.

j. Share: You can add “share this” type buttons to allow visitors to share a page on social media sites.

k. Backup: You can get a plugin that makes it easy to regularly back up the contents of your WordPress site.

l. Nivo Slider: A “slider” is a new term for a slide show. Nivo makes a really slick slider that you can set up on your WordPress site (it comes free for Catalyst owners). I set up one of these on my home page, and it has really cool transition effects between the slides.

Overall I think that moving to a WordPress site has a lot of advantages today.

Categories: CMS

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