WordPress as a CMS – a case study Part 2

As I mentioned in the first part of this article, I created a website for my wife, The Fantastic Mom. In the first part I explained what WordPress plug-ins I used to improve the navigation when the WordPress is used as a CMS and has several thousand entries in a certain category. In the second part I will continue to describe in detail what plug-ins I used to create the look and feel of the website.

1. Categories

If you have a lot of categories, and in a CMS website you most probably will, with the default category widget in Atahualpa theme, things won’t look very good. I found this very nice widget called Collapsing Categories that uses JavaScript to collapse or expand various categories to show their content. The plug-in is highly configurable, you can set what categories are expanded by default and can use cookies to store the latest state, you can also sort the categories and the posts, group posts, etc.

Collapsing Categories has one issue though: If you have a category that has no posts directly under it, but has other subcategories with posts, they will not show. An easy fix would be to add the parent category to all the posts in the subcategories. Hopefully this will be fixed in an upcoming release.

2. Latest Posts

If your CMS website has sections like “Latest Deals” or “Announcements”, it makes sense that you want to display the latest ones, and also to promote them in a visual manner. In the previous article, I described YD Recent Posts. However, YD Recent Posts has caching issues and doesn’t work properly with multiple instances. I discovered meantimeĀ  Category Posts widget that offers similar functionality. Its UI allows to specify the number of posts to display, whether or not to show the excerpt and what length, display post date, comment count, etc. The best feature though is the support for the post thumbnails that WordPress implements starting with version 2.9.

One small issue that I found is that, if one post’s image is too small for the sidebar, the following post’s titleĀ  in the widget might display on the same line with the previous post’s thumbnail. Either adjust the thumbnail image or the size of the sidebar to fix this and to have all the posts nicely aligned.

Category Posts accepts multiple instances, so you can display the latest posts from several categories at the same time.

3. Social

One simple and free way to advertise your website is to use the social websites as Twitter, Facebook, etc. There is a big number of WordPress plug-ins available to allow your visitors to share useful articles so I tried about 10 of them. The best looking in my opinion is Digg Digg (also used on this website).

Among the features you can customize are position of the submit buttons (left, right, before or after the posts), orientation (horizontal, vertical) and it even offers a floating option using Ajax that should duplicate the Mashable.com effect (which for some reason didn’t work in my case). You can also sort the order various buttons appear by giving them weights and the list of social websites is comprehensive.

4. Search in Categories

You might want to offer a search function that would only search in a certain category. You can tweak the Atahualpa search widget to allow the selection of a category before performing the search. Just go to Appearance->Editor and edit searchform.php. Replace the code with this one:

<form method=”get” action=”<?php bloginfo(‘url’); ?>/”>
<table cellpadding=”0″ cellspacing=”0″ border=”0″>
<?php wp_dropdown_categories( ‘show_option_all=All Categories&hierarchical=1&show_count=1’ ); ?>
<input type=”text” value=”<?php the_search_query(); ?>” name=”s” />
<input name=”submit” value=”Search” type=”image” src=”<?php echo get_bloginfo(‘template_directory’); ?>/images/magnifier2-gray.gif” style=”display: block; border:none; padding: 0 0 0 5px; margin: 0;” />

The big change consists in adding the following code

<?php wp_dropdown_categories('depth=0&orderby=name&hide_empty=1&show_option_all=Search Everything'); ?>

which basically displays the drop-down box filled with categories and sets the proper parameters to style it the way you want.

Don’t forget to add the Search widget to the sidebar.

5. Custom Login Page

You might want to offer a more professional experience to the user by replacing the default WordPress image and text from the login page with your own. Of course, there is a plug-in for this as well, called, you guessed: Custom Login Page. the plug-in allows you to change the background image of your login page, the background image/color of your login form div, the main logo image of your login page, and add any needed custom CSS.

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