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It’s All Come Down to This!

Some of the New Stuff

After having to learn how Content Management Systems work (well, kinda), I’m honestly happy that I did. These things are all the rage right now, and as further research shows, for good reason.  And you know what? If I want to get a job in this field, then I’m gonna have to keep up with what’s new.

Personally, I’m the kind of person to learn about a lot of things, rather than specializing in one thing. Doing so helps me stay open to a lot more work, as well as constantly learning about a lot of things.

… And Now the Important Stuff

I think the most important thing I learned about was WordPress. This gave me an insight on how the major CMS’s work. Of course, this doesn’t mean that learning others like Joomla and Drupal will come easy, but I feel that my experience in WordPress made my life a bit easier.

I do have to give some credit to WebsiteBaker, as this helped solidify why I love to use CMS’s, and just how convenient they are. Further working with it showed me however, that it does have its limitations that WordPress does not. What this showed me was that each CMS really does have its ups and downs.

Going Back to the Structure

… of this course.  I honestly really enjoyed it. I know some people aren’t huge fans of the blogging, but I liked it. Using the examples of the course, it helped me choose on what CMS to learn, and what plug-ins to choose. Having to explain my reasoning on my choices helped solidify them. Also, the timeframe of learning the CMS’s I think worked very nicely. Using the simpler ones, then later to the more complex ones was nicely done.

In Conclusion

Learning all these CMS’s really makes me want to do a Jack-of-all-trades kind of thing, just to keep myself available as much as possible. Learning the CMS’s was very insightful, and will further look forward to what becomes the “hip” thing I have to pull my hair out in order to understand how it works.

Scheduling Made Easy!

Which One to Use?

Setting events and reminders for yourself (and others, even!) is very useful. Having events “etched in stone” on a calendar within a website can prevent a lot of confusion. For example, a business has an upcoming event for their co-workers and said co-workers realize it’s coming up. If no one knows when exactly it is (maybe not even the higher ups. I mean, you never know…), being able to check the website for all the information you need is pretty darn swell.

The next question is, as the heading says, which one to use? When it comes to WordPress websites, there are tons of different types of plug-ins; and calendar plug-ins are no exception. One I found to be particularly interesting is called Calender.

Don’t let the rather unimaginative name fool you, it’s pretty nifty.

The Reason to Use it

Alright, the first thing when comes to looking for a good plug-in is to check its credibility. After some searching some websites, I’ve realized that some people think pretty highly of it. Not only that, but the plug-in itself has over 200,000 downloads. I mean really, if it’s that popular, it’s gotta be pretty good, right?

Well, it’s also got some pretty good features.

  • It lets you look through each month of the year with simple drop down menus.
  • Each event is color coded for ease of identifying.
  • Hovering over the event makes a small little bubble pop up with more in depth information.

In Conclusion

Using calendars not only for yourself, but especially so for businesses are really necessary to keep everyone up to speed. The one I would recommend is the plug-in called Calender for WordPress websites. Just like the subject of this blog, I’m going to keep this short and sweet. It’s a good plug-in with plenty of features, so go use it!

Which Contact Form is the Best?

Built-in?

Contact forms; forms in which you can contact the people of the website via forms. It’s very convenient, as you can contact them without the need of backtracking to your email service of choice just to tell him/her of how a good job they’re doing(Just an example, ooobviously).

From messing around with it, WordPress can do contact forms itself, but from doing all the coding yourself. This is a simpler route (or a more complicated one, depends on how filled your cup is), but then comes the main attraction to plug-ins. Spam blocking! No one likes being spammed, and I’ve seen many contact forms advertised for their spam blocking abilities.

What plug-in to use?

The one that I would recommend is one called Clean Contact! It’s a very simple contact form, and well, this little snippet from the website says it all:

“The plugin has minimal configuration and can be used out of the box. It is intended to be a simple contact form that is familiar to your users, and doesn’t require them to jump through hoops to send you an message.”

Not only is it simple, but it’s also capable of advanced spam blocking. Really, that all that needs to be said.

Why use it?

The way I figured, everything I’ve stated above is enough of a reason why to use it. Of course, because of its simplicity, it can’t do some of the fancier things without quite a bit of tinkering, but that simplicity is amazing if you just want to get one going.

As I’ve also said a dozen times, them advanced spam blocking capabilities; they’re pretty nifty to have. Lastly, this blog recommends it near the top of the list, so it’s got some credibility behind it (along with the 50 some-odd thousand downloads).

In Conclusion

Clean Contact is the contact form to use. It’s simple, easy to use, with good spam blocking capabilities. So, just like that there contact form, I’ma keep this short and sweet: Go use it!

Taking the Easy Way Out… Or Maybe Not?

WordPress Themes

Alright, so I mentioned in my previous blog that templating for WordPress is a bit on the complicated side. In my opinion, if you ever want to be taken seriously as a web designer, then learning how to do this can be a good start.

Now, when it comes to templating, how do you start on such an endeavor? I would recommend a good start is to start Googling (I will post some more specific resources on the basics later on in the blog). Another good way to get started is to take a look at other templates. Taking a look at the code and all the files will be overwhelming, but it’ll help you with my next point: taking a template and modifying it.

Taking a pre-existing theme and modifying can help greatly, and fiddling around with them can help you realize how the template system for WordPress works. If anything however, I should use this as a training exercise. If you were to use a template for  anyone else, or for yourself (maybe), then I would say creating your own would be better.

Why is Designing Your Own in the End Better?

Well, for starters, it gives you more credibility. If you were looking for a job, and your only method of dealing with WordPress templates is modifying pre-existing ones, it wouldn’t look as good as making your own. Plus, it’s a good learning experience, as it’s kind of like the next step above modifying templates. Much like everything else, the only way to get good at it is to actually do it.

Once you have successfully made your own, that means you’re also able to help others as well! For example, you can be helping others with your resources, and your own methods and shortcuts for creating the theme. I mean, you never know, you might end up teaching a group of your very own students one day the basics of templating for WordPress!

Good Resources

As I mentioned earlier, here are some good resources to use:

This is from the main WordPress website. This is a good place to read up on the different parts of making a theme from whom better than the creators themselves?

This place I found to be pretty good for an actual in depth look into making a theme, rather than discussing it.

This place is a collaboration of tutorials, with the first couple really catching my eye. Those talk about making a bare bones template, which is a really good place to start for building a theme.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, WordPress theme creation can be on the complicated side. With how big the community is, there’s tons of places to look out there for tutorials and resources to look at. For starting however, I would recommend also taking a look at and modifying pre-existing templates; if only just familiarize yourself with the templating structure. The most important thing about being a templating beginner?

Keep It Simple. If there’s one thing to keep in mind when starting out, is making a bare bones template. So out of all my resources, I’d say take a gander at that last link there. Starting simple will help you not feel overwhelmed when making a template, and from then you can expand your knowledge, and therefore, template making capabilities.

WordPress Is The Hip Thing To Use!

What Makes It So Popular?

So, in a previous blog, I’ve mentioned how huge WordPress  is. On their home page, they show some of the major companies that use their CMS. I mean, if CNN and New York times use it, then there’s gotta be something to it, right?

I’ll start off by saying that it’s free to use! Who doesn’t like free?

Again, making a call back to a previous blog, it’s got a lot of the criteria of a good CMS. It’s a database driven system, so it’s very robust. You can have multiple users, with permissions, so you don’t have to worry too much about clients messing with the code.

This is where such popularity comes into play; the community. Have an issue? I’m sure someone else has already asked about it. And if they haven’t? Well, you can go and ask on their forums, I’m sure they have the answer.

Why Learn It?

Well, WordPress is seen as a blogging CMS. A lot of its default features treat it as so, but it can also be used to create a regular old website.  It does take some tweaking with, and that’s one reason why people should learn it! It can be to show people that it’s more than just a blog CMS (and even garner more clients that way).

I started to cover other reason above, mentioning that it’s got a lot of the qualities of a good CMS. Another big thing to consider is that search engines love WordPress.  It has great Search Engine Optimization (SEO) pretty much built in.

Another good thing comes with such a large community: plug-ins! If there’s something you wish WordPress could do, someone’s probably made a plug-in to do that. Even then, just looking around the internet seeing what plug-ins are out here, you might come across some good ones to use that you’ve would’ve never thought of using.

Should Other Designers To Learn It?

To keep it short and sweet; heck yeah! It’s a robust CMS with tons of features and plug-ins with a large community backing it up. Since it is so popular, tons of clients are going to ask for it, simply because “it’s what everyone else is using”. Also, if people see it as a blogging CMS, then that’s good too! All company websites should have a blog anyway.

In Conclusion

In short, WordPress is popular because it’s good. It’s robust, free, and easy to install. It has a lot of qualities that makes it a good CMS, and something every designer should learn. I would say some of the more advanced features of WordPress (an example being creating a template for it) takes some time to learn, but with a large community to help, it shouldn’t be that much of an issue.

CMSimple vs. Website Baker. Round 1. FIGHT!

What Are They?

CMSimple and Website Baker are both Content Management Systems. As you know from my previous blog, CMS’s are the hip thing to use. These two in specific, are a little simpler and easier than other, more advanced ones.  I have pitted them against each other to the death (ok not really, but I am  pitting them against each other) to see who will come out on top.

Installing

CMSimple:

CMSimple, as its name would imply, is very easy to install. All it really takes is to move the CMSimple folder to the htdocs folder (this folder is where you put stuff you want to be made public on the internet) and you’re done. Simple as that!

Website Baker:

Alright, because Website Baker requires a database, it’s a little bit harder. Just like CMSimple, you drag the WB folder to the htdocs folder. Then you have to create the database, which will take research if you don’t know how to do that. Then you go to the WB folder from your browser and continue the installation process.

Features

CMSimple:

This CMS has very simple features. All you have to do is login (no username, you just need to input a password) and from there, you can edit and create pages. There are plug-ins you can add to do some fancier things, but overall it’s pretty straight forward.

Now, the confusing part. To create pages, there’s no “New Page” button. It’s explained when you install it, but you use the H1, H2, and H3 tags to add pages (H2 and H3 being sub pages of the H1 and H2 respectively). It takes a little getting used to, but it’s a neat concept once you get the hang of it.

Website Baker:

Website Baker has more features than CMSimple. Instead of just needing a password to login, you can create accounts to log in and even give each of them different permissions!  Also, you can add droplets and add-ons (pretty much plug-ins) to do some fancier stuff with your website.  The cool thing about some of this is that you can even make your own on the spot if you want.

There are more advanced features you can do with your website, although it does require some research (such as multiple content blocks and menus). Once you get the hang of it, you can do pretty much anything (even creating a store on your own website by adding some code created by the Website Baker community in a jiff!).

Templating

You know, this is really one of the things I feel both are very similar in. They both require very simple website templates to be used on the website. All you need to do is take a website’s basic layout, and plug in PHP code in each section of the website, and that’s pretty much it! A Website Baker template takes a little bit more, but it’s the same concept.

Editing & Backing Up

CMSimple:

I really like how easy and simple it is to edit content on CMSimple. All you gotta do is login right from the page you wanna edit, add or remove any content you want, save, and that’s it! If you know what you’re doing (which only takes bit of research), the quickness of how you can edit and add content on your website can reach lightning speeds!

Every time you edit a page, CMSimple automatically creates back up of your content. Very convenient. The CMSimple folder is small, so copying it to multiple locations (it’s a pretty small CMS unless the website has tons of pages) can be easy and quick.

Website Baker:

Alright, so Website Baker is a bit more sophisticated than CMSimple when it comes to editing. With multiple users and permissions, allowing who edits what is very convenient for those who don’t know much about coding and websites. Also, you can organize your pages much easier, as well as a similar organization of sub pages as CMSimple.

Because of how much more robust Website Baker is, it’s not as simple to back up a Website Baker site. Not only does it take backing up the WB folder (which is quite large), it also requires backing up the database. Knowing how to do so will take some research if you don’t know how. Also, if you move the website to a different server, you would have to reinstall Website Baker for it to work.

So, Who Wins?

That’s right! Website Baker. Why? Well, Website Baker is a database driven CMS, and something I would be more inclined to use with a client. With the use of permissions, as well as a more sophisticated method of editing content, I believe it is a clear winner.

What’s With Those CMS’s Lately?

What can CMS’s do exactly?

Content Management Systems do exactly as their name implies, but what they do is to make it easy. CMS’s allow you add, modify, or delete content with WYSIWIG editors (pretty much imagine the basic functions of Microsoft Word to edit website content without the hassle of dealing with Microsoft Word). This makes it way easier to edit the content, and much faster too.

It also has more advanced features as well. It allows the user to organize their content, manage their images, and customize the look of the website without having to necessarily log into FTP (which means having to use a 3rd party program to access your files for the website). Let’s say if you need to modify a small piece of content on a website. Instead of starting up and logging into your FTP, you can log into the CMS straight from your browser, modify the content, and be done within seconds!

Also, you can have multiple people access the CMS with permissions. What if you want someone to work on a website, but don’t trust them handling sensitive files? Well with a CMS, you can let them log in to modify content, but will not be allowed to access certain files; all because of permissions. Of course, the strength of these permissions depends on the CMS…

What makes a good CMS?

Speaking of various CMS’s, there are tons of them out there. How would a person know which one to choose? Well, here are some ideas to think about:

  1. Is the CMS flexible? Can it change according to your needs as they see fit?
  2. Is it able to play nicely with Search Engines?
  3. Does it have good support? Incase anything goes wrong, how fast can it be fixed? Also, the ideas of extensions for the CMS. For example, plug ins and various other features added into it made by other people.

After taking some of these ideas into account, I’d have to say the best advice is to do your research. Start off by looking into the bigger CMS’s, and then going from there; seeing what other people have said, and then forming your own opinion based on that, plus your own experience of course.

SEO

Alright, so I’ve dabbed earlier into Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and how a CMS helps with that. The thing is though, how exactly does it do that? Well, the first thing to think about, as outlined here, is dynamic URLs. CMS’s help create the URL for a page for you in a manner of helping Search Engines find your pages better for you, rather than thinking about one yourself (this is from the experience of using WordPress, the very CMS I’m using!).

Another thing is easier creation of meta tags. Instead of having to code them in yourself, a CMS allows you to type in the words and does the rest for you. Really handy stuff.

One last thing a CMS helps is with the coding. Especially for the inexperienced, making search engine friendly code can be a nightmare. CMS’s can do most of the harder stuff for you; or if you are more experienced, makes it a lot easier to manage.

Why learn it?

Well, not only does it make life easier, but they are growing ever popular. So popular in fact, that most companies nowadays looking to hire a web designer search for ones with experience with CMS’s. As someone once told me, you can’t be a successful web designer if you have no experience with content management systems.

In conclusion

Content Management Systems are the standard for making websites. Thankfully, a lot of the major ones are free to use, and just requires some experience and research to use properly. They make the websites much more client friendly to manage as it requires little to no experience in website editing to create, modify, and delete content on the website. Not only that, but also how search engine friendly they are made helps the website, as it becomes easier to find. With how fast they are growing in popularity, it really is essential to learning how to use these things. Heck, you can even make a career out of it.