WordPress, WordPress, WordPress!
Below is the first part of Jann’s interview with Kalynn Amadio of ACT LOCAL Marketing. The podcast with Kalynn focuses primarily on WordPress Websites and how it has evolved into the go-to solution for small and medium businesses. Kaylnn and Jann take turns delving into the mechanics of WordPress and the advantages of using a Content Management System (CMS) for client websites.
Key Points from the Show
Kalynn Amadio and Jann Mirchandani discuss WordPress.
Kaylnn: Tell people a little bit about WordPress.
Jann: We [Westchester Marketing Cafe] love WordPress! It started as a blogging platform in 2003 and is now one of the most popular Content Management Systems (CMS). A CMS allows a business owner or executive to organize their content and update their website. This is perfect for non-coders. They can add pages to their website, change information, it’s really important for them to be able to leverage their website to market their business.
Kaylnn: I have spoken with a lot of business owners over the years who have tales of lament and woe in dealing with their web designers, the firm or the individual. Because they wanted to change a word. Or they wanted to change and image. Which you and I know these are very simple things to do, but some web designers will hold people hostage over stuff like that. They have got bigger things going on and don’t want to stop for half an hour or what is literally is probably what is only 10 minutes worth of work. But would take half an hour to sort through all their files and find it. They don’t want to stop a bigger project that they are working on to make that change for you. That is why WordPress is so fabulous for small business owners. You can go in and make those kind of changes, you can tell us what the special of the month is, you can edit employee information. Things people say, they think of WordPress as a blogging platform and they will say I want a real website, I don’t want a blog. What would you tell them?
Jann: I kinda laugh, because people sometimes think of the Paris Hilton’s of the world and a blog in that sense. What I really encourage our clients to think about is that a blog is a way of organizing timely content, when an employee gets promoted or maybe you’ve got a new product or service that you are launching, something like that, or just information you want to share with your readers. A blog is the perfect vehicle for something like that. It allows you to add content that is not static content. Different from the About page that does not change. A promotion on the other hand is always changing. Blog posts allow you to add something new. You can segment posts into categories.
Kaylnn: There’s an infinite amount of stuff that people could put on their website. WordPress is going to help them add more content than a static website would, because they aren’t going to need a designer once the website is complete, especially if they are tech savvy.
Jann: Well, you don’t even have to be tech savvy! A good developer is going to work with you. You can create custom templates. We’re working on a project right now where we are integrating 3rd party apps. It is a vacation rental where people can go onto her WordPress website, interact with her content slideshows, her video, but then go to a 3rd party website to book their reservations. It is important that your content is organized well and easy to navigate.
Kaylnn: What are some of the other kinds of functionality website owners might want that WordPress can accommodate?
Jann: It is almost unlimited. One of the ones we use on any project is a SEO plugin. What that allows our clients to do is, as they add new content, it gives them an opportunity to tell the search engines specifically what that article is about. That helps them get found by their prospective customers. If they are talking about red widgets, they can focus those keywords and tell the search engines specifically that this article is about red widgets and can even drill down beyond that. You can add a calendar, if you are a frequent speaker or have different workshops you are running. People can go online, register and pay. We’ve done multiple shops online. You can integrate that whole interface in your WordPress site. Even without using plugins WordPress is great for adding photos and galleries. There is a whole myriad of plugins that allow you to add images any way you want. Whether it is a carousel of rotating images or however you want to design it.
Kaylnn: I work with realtors. There are plugins that allow them to have their own individual website beyond the brokerage firm. In addition there are plugins that allow them to pull in listings from resources such as the MLS. Someone has created this plugin. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, someone has created a plugin for the information or function you want.
Jann: If by some chance it doesn’t exist, you can create it. That is the great thing about WordPress, you are not buying software, this is all open source, with no licensing fees, which blows people away. Cause how am I not paying for this? You can hire somebody to develop exactly the plugin to do exactly the thing that you needed to do.
Kaylnn: There are some plugins that are free, but there are some plugins you have to purchase. Which is understandable. Someone went through the trouble to develop something that is going to provide you a service or a function you want. A lot of times it is a one time fee, you buy it, plug it in and use it. Sometimes, like with the MLS, it could have a monthly fee.
Jann: Right, those aren’t just a plugin, they are a subscription to that service. The most we have ever paid for one plugin is maybe $100. These aren’t huge investments you are typically making, but you are right, when you think about the value you are getting for that price, it’s insane. Which actually $100 is on the expensive side for a plugin.
Kaylnn: Let’s give people some more information. Let’s say we just sold them on WordPress. What are some things they need to be concerned about? What are some rules of thumb? Things to look for as they are heading down this road.
Jann: One of the things they want to understand and this is really key, is they want to understand the difference a self-hosted WordPress application and a hosted WordPress application. It is an important difference.
Self-hosted means you have your own domain. You have iKalynn.com or whatever your url is. You have that living on the server that you are paying for. You are “self-hosted”. That means you are really independent and you are not restricted in any way by the WordPress servers.
Conversely, if you are hosted through WordPress.com, it’s free to host it, but then you get iKalynn.wordpress.com. It looks a little less professional. It’s clearly not something that you are paying for. Which might make a difference in how you are being perceived. Then also if you are being hosted on WordPress.com there are some limitations. There are some plugins you can’t use, you can’t tweak the themes the way you can when you are self-hosted, because the difference is when you are self-hosted, you take all those files and the database, all the information that makes up your WordPress account and you have it. It is yours and you have access to all of that. When you are hosted on WordPress, you don’t. You really only have access to your information, your photos, copy, writing, videos, etc.
That’s really an important difference. I do encourage people to go with the self-hosted site, it offers you a lot more.
You also want to be aware of the 1000s of free themes. The theme is basically what does it look like, what does the page layout look like, the colors, the fonts, those kinds of things. Not all themes are created equal. You want to make sure that not only does the sample look good, what is your content going to look like as you start to add it. It may have more bells and whistles in the example, but you don’t really need all of those so yours looks sort of empty as you start to add your own content. Some are made where the code isn’t as clean and there are other technical issues. For the average person, you might not even notice it. You do want to make sure you are getting a theme from a reputable source.
Kaylnn: That’s a very good point. I’ve run across beautiful themes when you are looking at the demo, but when you get your hands on it, it’s way too complicated. Or it won’t do all the things you thought it would unless you go buy additional modules. There are some things to worry about. You brought up another good point actually in this explanation that I know confused people, it’s the WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. Why don’t you explain the difference between those two?
Jann: It confuses me too! I always have to stop and think about it. Actually the inverse of what you might think that it would be. The dot com is the hosted version, it’s free when you are on their server. The dot com is what confuses me because usually, a .com is a business URL. In this case, it is the free URL when you are hosting on their server.
The .org is the open source information, they have what is called the Codex. The Codex is similar to Wiki. It is all the information about building and using a WordPress. You can get the download for WordPress and use their community forum online to ask questions.
I am constantly blown away at how generous people are with their time and expertise. I am sure you have had the same experience, where you think there has to be a way to do this, I can’t figure it out, I am going to go to the “Oracle” and I am going to get the answer. Sure enough, you go and either somebody has already asked it and somebody else has answered or you post the question and somebody gives you suggestions about how to tackle it. That is what the .org is.
Kaylnn: The way I describe it is WordPress is like a framework, it’s a structure, like if you are building a building. It’s the eyebeams, it’s the steel, wood, it’s creating the structure and the structure is the same for everybody. That is what you can get over at WordPress.org. It’s literally free. The theme is the skin that you are putting on the outside of that structure. At the click of a mouse, you can change that skin. It’s like playing a video game. You can decide I want it to be pink today, I want it to be blue tomorrow. You can change the way it looks by changing that skin.
Jann: You have given me this idea, anyone who has ever built Ikea furniture, you have the Ikea file cabinet, but the door selection is totally up to you. The framework is consistent but you choose how it looks like on the front. You can select different colors and even change those out.
Kaylnn: Even though you can change it out, it doesn’t mean your information will be displayed the same way. Your content doesn’t go anywhere. You don’t lose it because you want to see what a different theme looks like. Your information will be shown in a different way, theme by theme.
Jann: The menu might look differently, the sidebar might go from the right side to the left side. The image in the header might change. It’s fun if you are a geek like I am. Similar to creating a character on your Wii or Xbox, my kids will play just doing that for an hour and I am the same way.
Kaylnn: I am not a huge video game player but I have watched my kids. You get to create a character before you walk through this world and you have lots of choices.