In this Wordcamp Montreal session, Brian Rotsztein explored how WordPress can be used as an CMS. Everything that follows this italicized paragraph is based on his presentation, and does not represent my own ideas.
Brian started off with an overview of what a CMS was — namely, software that allows you to update a website. In face, Brian argues that even a Twitter client is technically a CMS because it updates Twitter.
Now, WordPress is a more advanced CMS because it can be used to both power a blog and manage a website with static pages. It allows you to add text, media, edit sections, manage users, and add comments. So it actually allows you to do a lot more than many basic CMSs that power many conventional business websites.
The point is that a blog is a website. The only difference between a blog and a website is its purpose. So you have to start thinking of how Wordpress is being used by the end users.
Why WordPress is Such a Powerful CMS
First off, it’s free. This save you money on resources that you can reinvest in something like marketing, design, etc…
Second, it’s really easy to use. It’s easy to install, and its user interface is very intuitive and easy to use.
Third, WordPress is extensible, adjustable, adaptable, versatile, and flexible. Essentially, it can accommodate a lot of different features and integrate them quickly.
Fourth, there a ton of themes available. Many of them are free, but even the ones cost money are relatively cheap and represent great value for the degree of design and coding talent you get when you buy one.
Fifth, there are the plugins. So many features and functions can be added on, and your site can be adapted as needed. Also, the average WordPress installation can usually handle 40-50 plugins, meaning you can get very custom with your site.
Sixth, it has a strong community behind it. If a bug or glitch arises, there is a vast amount of forums, docs, and message boards to help you trouble shoot your problem.
Seventh, WordPress is mobile compatible. Between apps and
Eighth, it is modular by nature. There are 3 mains parts to it: (1) content, (2) design, and (3) programming. This means you don’t need to know all 3 to do any of the individual one — i.e. you don’t need to code to update content.
Using WordPress as a CMS
The first thing you want to do is go to your Reading settings and choose a static page as the homepage. This way, the index page won’t feature the reverse chronology of your blog. Of course, you’ll have to create a page called “Home” with the appropriate content in advance.
Next, go to the Permalinks section, and set the URL structure to only feature the page name. For example, change www.example.com/2009/08/post-name to www.example.com/page-name
Third, you want to disallow comments. Go into the discussion settings and un-check the box that reads “allow people to post comments on new articles”. This will deactivate comments on all future posts. For any previously created page that have comments active, simply go into the edit setting for those pages and deactivate the comments box.
WordPress also lets you set up a page hierarchy. For instance, you can create pages with sub-pages. This allows you to feature only higher level “parent” pages (such as product category pages) in your navigation menu, and exclude sub-pages (such as individual product pages) from top-level navigation.
WordPress Plugins and Themes
What WordPress doesn’t do out of the box, there are many plugins and themes to add on that functionality.
First off, you can install premium themes to really customize your site. These cost a few bucks, but are often very worth it for the design/functionality that you get. Also, there are CMS specific themes that will offer custom functionality that is ideal for using WordPress as a CMS.
Of course, you also want to rank well in search engines. There are several themes and plugins available (both free and paid) that allow you to optimize your site content for search engines.
As for managing the website, WordPress out of the box support different user permissions, meaning you can give different users different levels of access to changing content. There are also some plugins that allow you to make user permissions even more nuanced and customized.
And when you are making major changes, some WordPress plugins offer a “maintenance mode”. This allows you to take the site offline and put up a maintenance notifications while you work on it.
When it comes to maintenance, though, you want to back everything up first. Several plugins are also available to do this. So if anything ever goes terribly wrong during maintenance, you can always roll everything back to before you started tinkering with things.