New site, new CMS. This is why I’ve switched to WordPress.

25 November 2013 #WordPress

After about 19 versions of, it’s on with — if you’re not a fan of the design don’t worry, I get a ‘redesign’ itch every six months or so.

Leaving Textpattern

For the longest time I’ve been a Textpattern advocate. It was the first CMS I ever learned to install and used it almost exclusively for many years. It’s an appealing setup for designers who know how to code, but don’t want to learn any PHP.

Textpattern replaces the functions of PHP that take place under the hood with custom tags that look like HTML. If you wanted the title of a post, just type <txp:title />. This ease of setup for me as the designer was the major appeal.

The backend that the end user would have to use though has always been less than user friendly. It’s straight forward enough to someone who uses complex interfaces every day but was never truly ideal for my clients. Its stripped back interface was good when it came to formatting — a lack of WYSIWYG editing removed the possibility of having my stylesheet overridden — but then became a point of frustration when it came to something like adding an inline image to an article.

This required typing in a line of code, which a non-coder should never have to do.

So now after years of holding WordPress at bay I’ve gone all in.

Courting WordPress

Mostly because it’s better for my clients. The interface is far more user friendly and extendable. The notion that “it can do anything!” was always what put me off WordPress, because feature-creep is something developers get excited about and end-users get scared off by. Thankfully I’ve found a few plugins to help hide the things they don’t need to see and bring to the front everything they do.

I once hired a developer to setup one of my designs in WordPress for a client who really needed the better back-end for their website. After he was finished it was clear he’d simply downloaded a basic WordPress theme and hacked my design into it. I felt a bit cheated both that it seemed like a poor (although functional) implementation of my design — and that I hadn’t thought of it earlier.

I’m now using Blankslate 4 to do a similar thing. I design and code my site in static pages, then break it up into parts across the Blankslate theme. It’s certainly not as complex as understanding every machination of how WordPress and PHP work — but it’s a method that works.

I’m also building a comprehensive library of code snippets for regularly used lines of code that meet a need on every site. For example I like to use WordPress’ built in menu management but like to have more control over the containing tags, so instead of using their defaults I just output the <li> elements, but if you think I’m going to memorise…

<?php wp_nav_menu( array( 'theme_location' => 'main-menu', 'items_wrap' => '%3$s', 'container' => '' ) ); ?>

…you’re crazy.

The last reason I’m using WordPress from now on is after discovering the plugin Advanced Custom Fields. To the point where I’m installing WordPress only because of ACF’s functionality. If ACF were a CMS unto itself I’d give it a long look.

But I want to dedicate an entire future blog post to gushing over it. It’s that good.