WordPress Pre-conference Session

Pre-conference started out with a bang–first no wi-fi in the room and then we got our own wireless router hooked up! Thank you awesome conference staff! Now I don’t have to worry about this blog post will be erased due to loss of wi-fi. This pre-conference session is on WordPress by Polly-Alida Farrington and Kyle Jones (via Skype). [Resources (session notes) available at lib20.pbworks.com] Kyle blogs at The Corkboard. Polly blogs at pafa.net.

Goals: Get the pieces of the puzzle and decide what to get into deeper after the session: Content Management System (CMS) Tips & Tricks, Coding, Safe & Secure, Plugins, etc.

New WordPress books:
Digging into WordPress (updated for version 3.0) by Jeff Starr and Chris Coyier and Beginning WordPress 3 by Stephanie Leary
Kyle and Polly are publishing a book on WordPress in the spring via ALA Tech Reports

Basics 101
WordPress has a web interface–you can do everything online; you don’t need an application installed on your computer. It’s a content management system that is open source. (Yay for open source!) This is great because the WordPress community can develop new plugins and templates. There are 28 million installations of WordPress–very large community of people.

WordPress in Libraries
Most people know it as a blogging platform, but now it is so much more. (I’m not going to get into this part, as if you are reading this, you know about blogs.) Libraries are using WordPress for library blogs, but also for entire websites. My library actually uses WordPress for our website. (You can check out our library website here: Cal State University East Bay, University Library website.) Static pages allow libraries to extend WordPress into a CMS and use it for their website. Customizable themes allow libraries to create a branded look to their website (I love this about WordPress). [Woo is a company that sells premium themes]

How it all works
WordPress stores your content in a database (MySQL). Nothing exists until a user clicks on a link. Then php code retrieves content from the database and CSS is used for the stylistic part of the page and the page is displayed. (So it all looks lovely–you can customize the CSS too.) This allows the content to be reused in other ways. Aren’t databases cool?

Hosting WordPress
You can sign up for a free WordPress blog via WordPress.com (edublogs is a similar service). Pros: free, no tech skills required and it’s easy. Cons: no custom URL and can’t upload themes & plugins.

Hosting your own, you need: LAMP server (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) in order to install a local installation of WordPress (downloaded via WordPress.org).

If you have no idea what to do with a LAMP server, you can contract out to a commercial web service. Often under $10/month, get tech support, and one click install (examples: DreamHost, bluehost, etc.). (list of hosts: wordpress.org/hosting)

Getting started
Get rid of the ‘admin’ login; create a new user account and make it the admin in order to make your installation more secure. You can also add other users at differing levels of privileges–very helpful to spread work around at the library. Can customize the URLs of posts and pages (also could use bit.ly). Handy tips: you can also use the “more” button to break up a post to make the news page easier to scan. Scheduling post publication times is also very handy. Adding images and videos is very easy in WordPress too. Very cool tip: Can insert a gallery in a post, short code: or use SimpleViewer Plugin (looks beautiful)

Themes
The fun and pretty part of creating a WordPress site! (I love playing with themes) Great tip: you can preview all the themes before activating the theme (i.e. applying the new theme to your site). You can also get new themes via WordPress.org or commercial themes (have to use FTP to upload the themes). Themes that have a lot of customization built in are wonderful if you are a person who wants a lot of control over the layout of the site but don’t want to have to deal with CSS.

Widgets
Another fun bit of WordPress–adds a lot of functionality to the WordPress site. These are in the sidebars of the site. (I love the widget for Twitter.) Tip: You can use the Text Widget in order to bring in 3rd party content code.

Plugins
“Plugins do something extra.” Plugins are fantastic and extend the functionality of your site. (OpenBook data plugin–great for libraries)
Cool Plugins:

  • All in one SEO: package of tools that help your site found more easily via search engines
  • Facebook Like Button: get the “Like” button on your site
  • Sexy Bookmarks: Prettier way of displaying all the icons for sharing posts on social media sites
  • Simple Viewer Gallery: Gorgeous galleries
  • OpenBook Book Data: Use ISBN to display book cover, information about the book and links to WorldCat, your library (if you use OpenURL), etc.
  • WP Contact Form: easy form creator
  • MobilePress: detects mobile device and displays mobile version of page (yay!)
  • Donations Cloud: works with PayPal; also could use Chip-in

CMS: Tips & Tricks
Most themes have an option to have a “welcome page” (a static page) or just the newsfeed on the homepage. Find this control under Settings, Reading. (I’ve got to look into this more.) Also, you can now make custom menus in version 3.0. Yay!

Custom Fields
Plugin: “More fields” allows you to include another field to the post–looks very cool. (Kind of looks like a call-out box)

Custom Content
Plugin: “More types” allows you to create customized content type (not quite as robust as Drupal now). These allow you to create custom types of post content types (different displays and fields).

Editing PHP
Can make customized pages. For example: make a customizable 404 page.

Template Pages
Create new templates so you can change how display your information. For example, you can create a template that doesn’t display sidebars. Web Developer Firefox Add on is very helpful for working with your code. Could also buy Artiseer Theme Designer (looks a lot like PowerPoint).

Keep it Safe, Secure & Spiffy
Always run the latest version–update your version when WordPress releases a new version. Update your plugins and widget versions too. Get rid of the default ADMIN user. Insert Security Keys. Use reliable themes and plugins. Basically, use common sense and you’ll be fine. Back up your database! (Can use the wp-db-backup plugin: get emailed backup of database. Also FTP to your server and copy all your wp-content once in a while.) Plugin: Google XML Sitemaps–helps for getting your site found in search engines via indexing.

What else can you do with WordPress?
BuddyPress: “social networking in a box”: Make a social network via WordPress and make more collaborative learning environments (LMS)
WordPress MultiSite: Set up a network of sites (good for classes where you want to have students to have individual blogs)
Integrate catalog into WordPress site: make it easy to link into the catalog
Scriblio: lots of plugins, gathers data from your library’s catalog and displays it in WordPress–very cool, but not much development happening on this now

Summary: This was a good overview of using WordPress and implementing it in libraries. Obviously, I’m slightly biased, but I think WordPress is one of the most robust, easy-to-use CMS. I got some very cool tips that I want to implement and I think I need to attempt to move to a local installation (or more probably a web service) of WordPress to increase the functionality of The Waki Librarian site). If you want to go more into the coding, configuring the LAMP server, etc., you’ll need to read some of the books on WordPress or go into the discussion forums and help pages on WordPress.org. Also, check out Lorelle on WordPress for more information and tips about WordPress. Great first session–looking forward to the rest of the conference.

3 thoughts on “WordPress Pre-conference Session

  1. Nice! I wish I could take notes and live blog like this! What a great summary of the session. Thank you for sharing it.

    I just realized I made a mistake when I said you need to use ftp to upload themes that aren’t on wordpress.org. There’s an option on the “install themes” admin panel to upload a theme from your desktop. Easier than ftp.

    Nice to see you today.

    • Thanks, Polly! You and Kyle gave a great workshop and I can’t wait to implement some of the nifty plugins you talked about yesterday! It was also awesome to meet you in person-see you around the conference.

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