Many bloggers will be familiar with the WordPress open source content management system. But WordPress can do much more than just run a blog – I’ve just used it to launch a “traditional” static website, complete with password-protected members’ area and some extra database goodies to boot.
The site I built, on behalf of client British Marine Electronics Association (BMEA), is at www.bmea.org. It is intended for members of the association (who have access to member-specific news, content and feeds), prospective members and customers buying marine electronic equipment.
The beauty of the WordPress system is that it provides a simple system for managing content, as well as allowing delegation of content editing rights to clients. Its other real benefit is its extendability – there are thousands of plugins available that extend what the system can do – I’ve used plenty of plugins on the BMEA website, especially to provide the searchable database of BMEA members.
As WordPress is designed as a blogging platform you have to approach building a static site in a slightly different way. The bulk of the static content on the site is set up as pages, with the news area set up as posts. On a blog it’s the other way round – most content is posts with a few static pages.
The main plug-in behind the members’ area and database is Cimy Extra Fields. This plug-in allows administrator to add extra fields to the users that are set up in WordPress – I’ve used this to hold all the extra data about member organisations, such as extra contact details, region and the list of products and services supplied (example here).
The plug-in itself allowed me to set up users in the administrator area, but my PHP skills weren’t up to coding the front-end PHP for templates to allow retrieval and searching of member information. The plug-in authors produced me some extra PHP for my templates to do just this – the result is an effective member search facility.
If you’re looking to do something similar in WordPress I’d definitely recommend getting in touch with Cimatti Consulting – the combination of their free plug-in and bespoke coding means there are few limits to creating custom user data and search for your website.
I’ve also used a really powerful plug-in called Who Sees Ads to control the appearance of various advertising slots around the site (although most are disabled at the moment so you may not spot many).
This plug-in allows the administrator to set conditions (referred to as “contexts”) to determine whether a particular piece of content is displayed or not displayed. The criteria on which you can set conditions are really wide ranging, including things like whether the visitor has come from a search engine, whether they have been on the site before (once or a set number of times), the age of the content on the page, or indeed any condition that can be coded in WordPress (eg is(home) to return true if the page is the homepage).
The content that can be displayed can be any piece of HTML code. As the name suggests it’s designed for displaying adverts, but equally could be used to customise editorial content on a site or present a welcome message to visitors who haven’t been to a site before. There are similar WordPress plug-ins to do this, but Who Sees Ads seems to be the most flexible that I’ve seen.