Ed: This article is part of the 21 Days of WordPress Tips
WordPress goes a long ways towards providing you a fully functional Content Management System (CMS), but I’ve found there are still a lot of problems that you’ll run into when using it “out of the box”.
Here’s the major issues:
- Too many unnecessary links – Comment moderation, links, import/export and theme management are just a few examples of what is unnecessary if you’re using WordPress for a standard small business website. All of these options cause a lot of confusion on the part of the client. These are options that they just don’t need to see. Plus, all it takes is a client messing with the “Settings” of the site for a few minutes for them to completely screw up the site.
- Too many options on the Write screens – Will you’re client even know what a “trackback” is? Is there even a for comments? On many sites these only create confusing clutter.
- Managing page hierarchy is complicated – A drop down box for page parents and an input field for page order is confusing and extremely involved when you want to make a lot of changes at once.
- The TinyMCE buttons aren’t editable – Sometimes you’ll want more options. Sometimes you’ll want less.
In the past I’ve spent a considerable amount of time hand coding/hacking a WordPress installation to customize it to exactly what I need. Thankfully there are now plugins available that fix all of the above issues:
Problem #1 – Too many unnecessary links
Solution #1 – WPlite
WPlite allows you to easily manage which sections of the WordPress admin panel are available to the client. It shows a list of check boxes for every backend page that you simply click and save to turn off/on.
I usually setup the client with an Editor account and keep all the options available for the Administrator. This way you, as the developer, can have access to all the plugins and settings you need while keeping it locked down for you client.
Here’s a typical list of things I shut off with this plugin:
- Settings and all sub pages
- Plugins and all sub pages
- Links and all sub pages
- Comments (depending on if they have a blog/news section or not)
- Tools and all sub pages
This only leaves Posts, Pages, Media and a couple other options available. It cleans up the interface for easy use for the client while still giving me access to everything I need as the admin.
Problem #2 – Too many options on the Write screens
Solution #2 – WP-CMS Post Control
This plugin gives you control over ALL of the options on the post and page Write screens. With the introduction of WordPress 2.7, they give you some control, but nothing like this.
You can control the uploader type, turn off/on revisions and autosave and turn off message boxes. However, the best part of the plugin is what I showed in the above screenshot. You can control which sections even show up. 99% of your clients won’t need to modify the author, comment settings, excerpt, trackbacks, etc. So simplify the page and remove it all
Problem #3: Managing page hierarchy
Solution #3: pageMash
With a default install of WordPress, the only way to manage the page heirarchy is on the individual Write screens for each one. And if you want to change the order of the pages outside of alphabetical, you are stuck inputing numbers into each one. Extremely clunky and hard to use. Not to mention, if you decide to make a major change down the road, reordering 50 or 100 pages of content would be a nightmare.
This is where pageMash comes in.
Through a very slick, simple Ajax interface, you can move pages around easily. You can reorder them, move them to a child of another page or anything else you need to do in your page hierarchy. You can click here to see a demo on the plugin author’s site.
Problem #4: The TinyMCE buttons aren’t editable
Solution #4: TinyMCE Advanced
The default install of WordPress comes with a standard set of formatting buttons for the TinyMCE WYSIWYG on the Write screens. Obviously, one size will not always fit all. There will be times you want to scale back the available options and times you’ll want to add more. TinyMCE Advanced adds 15 plugins to the editor and allows you to choose which ones show and which ones are hidden, plus how they are arranged
This is another very slick, easy to use AJAX interface. At the top you have the buttons that are currently installed and underneath you have all of the available options. Drag them back and forth to create your perfectly customized TinyMCE WYSIWYG.
4 solutions to 4 common problems in using WordPress as a CMS
Obviously, there are more considerations to make that will be specific to each web site that is built, however these four plugins solve four of the biggest issues I consistently ran into.
Next Monday: I’ll continue the WordPress as CMS series by walking you through how to brand your client’s installation of WordPress to match you firm’s identity.
January 5, 2009