Need a WordPress review in plain English now that version 3 is out? Wonder if it’s ready for prime time as a CMS? (If you don’t know what a CMS, no worries. ) We’ll touch on some of the hottest features without the opaque tech language favored by so many WordPress fans.
WP Template a Crazy Good Default Theme
The new default theme, Twenty 10, looks gorgeous out of the box. It’s reminiscent of the very popular Cutline theme but updated. This is the first default theme that will wow just about any potential WordPress user or prospective client right out of the box.
Instantly Change Header Image or Background Colors
Oddly, earlier versions of WordPress required a dip into the CSS editor to change the background color or the image used for the header. This was frightening to nontechnical users, easy to screw up with nothing more than a misplaced semicolon, and just plain tedious. While an increasing number of themes have started to include these features, WordPress 3 adds an image browser for the header and a color wheel to change the background color, making these changes a snap. And it even comes with a few background images out of the box.
Finally-An Intro Page Feature
One of the most common WordPress bugaboos has been the difficulty of creating a unique page that appears as the site’s “book cover”, something like the splash page used by many sites. It’s the most natural way to introduce the site to a new viewer, and has been the subject of many plugins. The process is now simplified to the point of choosing what WordPress calls your front page in the General > Reading settings.
Get context-sensitive help on any page from within the WordPress admin area by clicking the unobtrusive Help tab on the upper right of the admin pages. You get extensive help straight from the enormous WordPress Codex without having to search manually.
WordPress as a CMS 1: Put Blog Posts on a Static Page
A special new Posts Page means you can now treat the blog as just another drop-in module, at peer level with a static page. This brings WordPress even further into the Content Management Systems (CMS ) mainstream, making it much easier to get past corporate gatekeepers who sometimes can’t get past WordPress’ reputation as “just a blog”. (A CMS is a way to create robust, easily maintained websites without requiring the user to master Web programming or even HTML. WordPress has been a true CMS for years, but many of those who control the corporate purse strings have resisted the rend.)
WordPress as a CMS 2: Custom Posts
Many, perhaps even most, sites use WordPress as something closer to a general-purpose website creation system because it’s so darn easy to use. That meant many WordPress admins found themselves using complicated, error-prone formatting customs to display different categories of information.
Enterprise-level WordPress CMS systems let you create special page types that are actually specialized database entry forms, so that they get displayed consistently and appropriately for each kind of information. Suppose, for example, you have a product review site that has fields for Product Name, Description, Category, and Rating. Blog posts only have Title, Content, and Category.
Custom Posts now let you create new post types with the additional fields, so each time a new product is entered there’s no danger of omitting a field or mis-formatting it by accident. In WordPress 3 exploiting these features requires additional plugins or themes, but the API support makes these plugins almost trivially easy. And in true WordPress form they add rich support for tags.