First day at Smallvoid.com with WordPress

Have been playing around with the blog software WordPress, and have become so impressed by its functionality, that I have now converted the entire site into a blog. It was quite easy to use this blogging system as a Content Management System (CMS).

For me it gives the following benefits:
  • Can re-design / optimize the entire site by just updating the theme being used.
  • Can change categories for an article without needing to fiddle with redirection.
  • Can automatically provide RSS and ATOM feeds so one doesn't require ChangeDetection.com to monitor the site.
  • Can find a certain article easier, as the search engines doesn't become confused by multiple articles in a single page.
  • Can now use sub-headlines within longer articles, because of the single article per page design (Avoid some of my "Note"-sections).
  • Better control of broken links as inter-page linking will now gives HTTP Error 404 if a link is no longer valid. This is a lot easier than detecting whether an anchor still exists on a page.
  • Comments system supports spam control, so now I can close down the now dreaded BoardNation forum, and hopefully have an easier time with spam.
  • The database backend makes it possible to create dynamic contents, which combined with the WordPress ver. 2.3 tag-system hopefully will make it possible to show other articles related to a certain topic.
  • Daily backups of the web-site can be performed automatically and sent to a gmail account
It also has the following down sides:
  • Performance will be worse than static HTML pages, as it now has to start up a PHP engine along with a database session to provide a single page. Especially when it is a shared web-server used for hosting, where several other domains are using the same critical resources. Hopefully the plugin WP-Cache will remove the worst overhead.
  • Uptime will probably be worse as the Web-site now depends on several resources (PHP engine, Database) for it to run properly. It will cost money if I want a cluster solution, so the Web-server and database-server doesn't become single point of failure.
  • Security will be more critical as more components (PHP engine, MySQL, WordPress) are open for attacks, and not just the Web-Server software. In case of an attack then I will have the option of using the backups, and use simple file-difference to see if any unauthorized changes were made to the database.
  • When updating the site then it will affect all pages on the website, so now it is necessary to have a testing site to verify that new changes doesn't break the site.
  • It was very time consuming to move all this contents into a WordPress blog :-).
When finding WordPress I made a very rough evaluation of the available CMS solutions:
  • Wiki - Optimized for multiple user maintenance, allowing a large user group to share their knowledge within a certain area. Though an editor role exists, then it doesn't seem match the profile of this site, with very few active visitors and most of them are seeking help with a certain technical problem.
  • Jomla / Mambo - Almost every article about this product says it is highly customizable, but at the same time it can be a long way up hill to get it working as you intend. As I didn't want the biggest hammer on the table, and wanted to get something up and running quickly, then it was also discarded.
  • Simple Machines Forum - Like most forum software, it is not meant for tagging (besides using categories).
  • Movable Type (MT) / WordPress / Drupal - Both Movable Type and WordPress was supported by my Web-Hosting company, so I looked closer at those two. After reading several articles which compared the two different blogging systems, then my choice fell on WordPress. Mainly because it was open source and had a large community.
Installed WordPress 2.0 and had it running within 5 minutes. The easy install convinced me it was ready for me to use, but slowly discovered some things about WordPress:
  • WordPress is mainly developed for Apache, so if having IIS related problems then you are pretty much alone.
  • WordPress has a WYSIWYG editor for writing posts, but when trying to do more advanced things than making a paragraph then it starts to bite. Had to disable it entirely and now everything is written in pure XHTML (with the hazzle of W3C validation).
  • WordPress has two distinct ways to publish information which is posts and pages. Posts should be used for information, where the relevance is dependent on time. Pages should be used for static information and contents that require dynamic behavior. Actually posts should be used when ever possible, as posts can use categories along with being searchable inside WordPress.
  • WordPress requires some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) when getting it from the default package. Most themes available for WordPress are lacking proper handling of SEO.
  • WordPress has a builtin search engine, but it is very limited. It can only sort search result depending on date, and not by relevance. It cannot search pages or categories with dynamic contents based on templates. Actually it cannot even search static pages, but the static part should be solved with version 2.3.
  • WordPress currently only has Categories for grouping information, but hopefully with version 2.3 it will have builtin support for tagging. Instead of having to fiddle with plugins to get tagging capabilities.
  • WordPress has a very large community with many active developers, who have created a ocean of plugins, extensions and themes for WordPress, so when getting stuck then it is usually quite easy to find help.
I don't regret choosing WordPress as my CMS platform, because it has proven very stable and the issues I have found are not show stoppers for me. The current activity around WordPress reassures me that WordPress will be a valid choice in the next year or two. Though I should probably also have taken a look at Drupal even though my web-hosting company didn't support them out of the box.

Updated: 25 July 2008

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