Our third and final segment with ACT LOCAL Marketing centers around the comparison of Wordpress to other content management systems such as Drupal and Joomla.
Come along for the ride as Kalynn and Jann share their knowledge and stories of developing with WordPress and other content management systems. We really enjoyed getting to work with Kalynn again and look forward to doing something with her in the future.
Key Points from the Show
Kalynn Amadio and Jann Mirchandani wrap up the podcast with more on the comparison of WordPress and content management systems.
Kalynn: Jann and I were talking about WordPress because we both love WordPress and Jann is a queen of web design. I go to Jann when I have trouble. So that should tell you something. We were talking about WordPress and how it works a little bit and themes. Talk to me about what is a template?
Jann: The theme is what it looks like, the skin as we say. The template is like Legos pieced together from the header to the content. Your information is laid out so that it makes sense for your readers that are consuming that information.
Let's take a typical contact page as an example. You have the header across the top with your logo and some contact information, a menu underneath that and below that for a contact page you don't necessarily need to have a sidebar with all the links to your blog. On this particular template it is full width with a contact form, a phone number and a mailing address and then underneath that you have the footer. But think now about when you are reading a blog post where you have the same header, but underneath that header you have the content on the lefthand side and the righthand side you have a column with information that might be sign up for our newsletter, could be a form, a recent blog articles list with categories and then below that the footer. So you have got two pages, same website, same header, same footer, but the templates are different and how they are pulling in information onto the page is different. This gives you a lot of flexibility. Older websites had pages that were laid out all the same way. The same sidebar on every page or no so bar. They only had one layout. WordPress allows you to have many different layouts depending on the needs of that particular page.
Kalynn: That is a good point. I had not thought about pointing that out before. I guess I take it for granted because I use WordPress. Every page does not have to be the same. There are options and that makes sense depending on how you want to present your content. Which is what Jann was talking about earlier in the interview is figuring out what all the information I need to present online. What's the best way to organize it and it might be different category by category.
Jann: We've worked with clients, in fact we have one non-profit here in the area that we have worked with that had a lot of different needs for different templates. Whether they were talking about a particular fundraising event the sidebar had one set of information, if they were talking specifically to donors the sidebar had the same headers and position on the right, but what was in the sidebar was different. You can create as many different templates as you need depending on what information is going to be most relevant for the readers on that particular page.
Kalynn: When you get a theme from a developer, and as we said there are 10's of thousands of free themes and there are also themes you can buy, do these themes generally come with more than one template?
Jann: WordPress has certain templates built in. It will vary by theme, but for the most part you are going to have a page template, post template (blog post with sidebar), they may or may not have different options for the page templates, so maybe one with full width, one with sidebar, that you can add different widgets. Different options may be available depending on what information you want to feed to a particular sidebar. They will have templates for a category indexed view.
Kalynn: Sometimes the home page is a unique template.
Jann: Exactly. One thing that we do a lot is take a free or low cost theme and while it may only give you 80% out of what I need, all I need is [to add] one template for this specific use. Take that free theme and create a template for that one specific use. So you are not starting from ground zero; you are really starting at 80-90% of what you need.
Kalynn: So right out of the box WordPress is fairly usable?
Jann: Definitely, some people will call me and say I just need a basic website. If they are somewhat comfortable with the computer I usually send them to WordPress. A lot of times they will be able to install and get up and running on their own without any additional technical support.
Kalynn: Then there is always the option as they have done it themselves, they have got things up and running and have this one type of content and it doesn't look good. Now you can go to someone like Jann and say ok, because now you are armed with the jargon, I need another template for this particular thing I do. I do live events and I need a template that allows me to show A, B and C. And it's not currently part of my theme. Can you make me that? And she can.
Jann: A lot of times people will get it up and running and after a couple years they will decide they want to brand it a little more tightly to my logo and the actual brand they are presenting. Going back to what you were saying before, you can now reskin it. You don't have to recreate the wheel, the content is already there, the page structure, the infrastructure is already there. You can tweak the theme you already have or create a new theme and apply that new theme.
Kalynn: In tweaking the theme that you have, there are always options you have to go to a graphic designer, have them look at what you got, and with their help on their own or with someone like Jann, can get the parameters of images on the site, what size are they, things of that nature and takes those as sort of templates and create you better branded images, backgrounds and things like that. And have those put back into the theme. There are a lot of options with WordPress.
Have you ever worked with Drupal?
Jann: We have not. Drupal and Joomla are both meant to be content management systems. [But] you are basically creating everything from scratch.
Kalynn: I had a client that had a Drupal website, and I tell you I can't stand it. I want a jumping off point, I want something built to a point, then jump off, tweak it, change it, and make it my own. I don't want to start from a blank slate. I don't want nothing there and then start having to build everything on my own. That's what Drupal is. I am not that familiar with Joomla. Someone else has built it in whatever manner made sense to them in terms of its structure and it's going to be different from website to website. It has modules, plugins, but it's something that real developers love. They have control from the ground up.
Jann: If you have a lot of very custom specific needs it may make sense to go in that direction, but you are right, it is being built by programmers who we love, [but] they don't think like an average, mere mortal.
Kalynn: And they don't think like small business owners and they certainly don't think like marketers. It's important, because your website is not a billboard. It's where people go and you want them to take an action. It's not just about looking great. You want people to take action, pick up the phone, visit your store, buy your stuff, etc.
Jann: I had mentioned before, when you are working with a developer, what they should really be spending some time on is "How easy is it for the user"; your target audience, and people that are coming to your website to get to the information they are looking for, the user experience and then secondly what is the back-end user experience?
For the business owner, how easy is it for them to get in to make changes, update, add articles and things like that. Those both need to be intuitive. People need to go in and do that without thinking about it.
Kalynn: That is a great word, "intuitive" is the right word. Because the one Drupal site I ever worked on for about a year, it was not intuitive and I found that every time I had to go back in I was hunting, testing, playing around, trying to figure out what's it going to do next. There was nothing intuitive about it.
And that goes back to whoever built it, it made sense to them. But me as the end user it didn't make sense to me on the inside. Those are really things to be aware of.