Not Everyone Needs a Blog

Most people I know haven’t the desire to stand on a soapbox and blog. All they want is a web site that provides basic information which they can update from time to time. WordPress makes an ideal platform to do this.

The purpose of this article is to show how easy it is to make a simple non-blog web site using WordPress and a few useful plug ins.

The key to making a simple web site is to find a suitable theme, one that appears to have the desired layout and features. When a theme is widget aware adding and removing features is easy. So, I recommend choosing widget aware themes. When choosing a theme also consider locations of the navigation, body and header. Pass on themes that are complex. Above all, choose those which have the appropriate visual appeal.

I start a project by downloading a number of different themes that show promise. I read the “readme” files, upload the themes to the web server and give them demo runs. Eventually, I settle on the one that shows the most potential for the least effort.

Once having settled on a theme that appears worthy I assess the theme to determine what features should be eliminated. For a basic web site there is little or no need for posts, RSS, blogroll and even meta functions. So these items are noted for removal from the site.

Some web sites could use a “news” or “announcements” page. If that is the case, then the posts functionality will not be eliminated. While a static page could be created for these things, I personally prefer to use a posts type “news” page with comments turned off.

I next turn my attention to what might the web site need. These days a contact form is essential as it’s inviting disaster to show raw email addresses on web sites. One plugin that I find simple to setup is Form Mailer by Dagon Design.

Live Example

A project I recently completed for a client used a theme called Nishita.

Nishita 1.2.1 by Brajeshwar
http://brajeshwar.com

According to the theme author it was created to showcase photographs. What caught my attention was its clean design. I felt that removing the “blog” features and setting the home page to a static page would be ideal for my project.

Here is a description of what was done to set this web site up.

Reset the home page. As mentioned I didn’t want to show any posts on the home page. So I created a new page called “Moving your family takes a special touch.” That was set to show as the home page. This is done in the Dashboard’s Reading Settings.

Remove the new page from navigation. I didn’t want the new page, “Moving your family… ,” to show in the navigation so I used a plugin called Page Link Manager to do that. This plugin allows you to mark those pages which you don’t want showing in the navigation. You can do this after pages are created or when the page is created. The Nishita theme already has a link coded to Home which goes to “Moving your family…” so the result was exactly what I wanted.

Create the other pages. Then I created the other pages: Contact, Profile, Quote and Working for You.

Create the contact forms. I uploaded the plugin Dagon Design Form Mailer and created two different forms. One for the Contact Page and the other for the Quote page. This plugin provides two methods to prevent SPAM, a simple built-in method and one that employs a third party solution (reCaptcha). For this project I did not set either of these two options but will probably implement the reCaptcha method, later.

Remove unneeded items.

  1. I didn’t want the RSS link in the navigation bar (in the header) so I commented out the line for it in the file, header.php.
  2. Since there wouldn’t be any posts I also removed the reference to the sidebar in the file, pages.php. I also commented out the lines related to Category Archives and Monthly Archives in the sidebar.php file.
  3. Should the client need to post announcements I added the appropriate code to the sidebar.php file.

Visual changes. I made a few adjustments to typeface styles, sizes and element positions by editing the style.css file.

Here is a live example of a web site using Nishita just as the theme was created:

http://clipthephotos.com

Here is a website using the modified Nishita theme for this project:

http://www.westpacinternational.com

Other Useful Things

I usually include a number of other plugins that, while not required, are very useful for web site management. The first of these is All in One SEO Pack. This plugin makes adding meta tags to individual pages and posts easy to manage. Out of the box, WordPress does not handle meta tags easily.

The next is WP-DBManager. Backup, backup, backup. Need I say more?

WPLite is useful in situations when there are a number of registered users. Some of them might need more management capabilities than others. This plugin allows you to show appropriate management functions to only those who need them.

Lock Out is useful to close the web site for maintenance. Giving people access to the web site when you are making crucial changes can be problematic. Use this to keep your life safe and simple.

Give it a Try

I always tell others “If I can do it, you can, too!” This little project took me a few hours spread over a weekend. Each time I do these things I learn a little more about PHP and CSS. It’s a challenge and therein lies the fun.

This article did not go into all of the details. And I may have missed mentioning a few items. So if you have any questions on how something was done add your comment to this post. I’ll try my best to cover them.

Watch for announcements on Web Weavers Workshop or HMAUS for upcoming workshops and meetings. These are great learning opportunities.

Plugins Used for this Project

All in One SEO Pack 1.4.6.13
http://semperfiwebdesign.com

Dagon Design Form Mailer 5.41
http://www.dagondesign.com/articles/secure-form-mailer-plugin-for-wordpress/

Lock Out 1.1
http://www.skullbit.com

Page Link Manager 0.3
http://gmurphey.com/2006/10/05/wordpress-plugin-page-link-manager/

WP-DBManager 2.31
http://lesterchan.net/portfolio/programming/php/

WPLite 1.3.1
http://mahalkita.nanogeex.com/wplite/