Taking WordPress for a Test Drive!

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WordPress Sticker Mashup by teamstickergiant @ Flickr

Over the next week, I will be test driving the three most popular blogging platforms: WordPress, Drupal and Joomla!. For these demo activities, I found a good webhost that I could use to test all three by installing the software on one server. GoDaddy.com, which also is a domain registrar, offers an economy hosting plan where you can easily set up each of these open source software apps in a different file directory.

I will be looking at different features and benefits of WordPress, Drupal and Joomla! over the next few weeks. This week, the focus is mainly on how I personally feel using these platforms, as my own comfort is going to be a major factor. In later weeks, I will look at financial, technical, social and other factors that are important in the final decision. I will rate each section on a scale of 1-10. The top 5 things I will be looking for this week  are:

  1. Ease of use and intuitiveness in dashboard functions
  2. Ability to upload, edit or design themes
  3. Dashboard functionality changing and editing widgets (what apps users can view on posts).
  4. Usefulness of plugins and extensions, and ability to implement, upload, and edit them from dashboard.
  5. Overall user experience of page and post editors

First up to bat is WordPress, which is by far the most popular with bloggers worldwide. My test demo of WordPress was fun, and I also took a few screenshots of the most important dashboard areas to show the basic simplicity of this blogging tool. A discussion of each of these sections follows.

WordPress Dashboard

Home screen of the WordPress Dashboard

The WordPress dashboard is extremely user friendly, with a column of areas on the left and directives to get the blog started in the main area. There are links, such as the one turning comments on and off, that send you to the settings area and gets you accustomed to using and updating your blog’s settings. The side column uses intuitive categories so you can change settings, create posts and pages, or upload media to your database. There are also boxes for adding a post quickly and keeping statistics on your blog’s number of posts, comments, categories, etc. The only thing I found difficult to find in the left column was the widgets menu item, which is buried in “Appearance” and deserves its own top-level position.

Dashboard rating: 9

 Wordpress Themes

Screenshot of WordPress Themes area

The themes area is also very user-friendly, with a Manage Themes tab at the top for selecting a theme, and an Install Themes tab with the ability to search, upload, and find themes using facets such as color, columns, width and other features. Themes can be customized, but only superficially: color, header image, tagline and name of the blog are among the main choices. I would actually expect the ability to change these as a default, as customization is more about perhaps changing the number of columns or placement of modules. But I think these changes are not a feature of the WordPress theme tool, as they would require heavy PHP changes. Color, header image, tagline, etc. look more like a combination of CSS and database alterations and not those involving PHP or other code.

Theme rating: 8

 Wordpress Widgets

Screenshot of WordPress Widgets area

The widget page is elegant. Available widgets are on the left with a short description, and the right column shows active widgets. Active widgets have a drop down button that users can click to modify their widgets with instructions on what to show users in the widget column of the blog. Themes with more than one widget area have additional windows to add widgets to. Updates to the widget occur instantly. This is design at its best.

Widget rating: 10

 Wordpress Plugins

Screenshot of WordPress Plugins area

WordPress makes use of thousands of plugins, so a useful search feature is paramount in order to save time and find the best plugin for the job. WordPress excels at this, as the search function not only provides relevant searches based on keywords, but also provides a rating of the plugin based on user input and satisfaction. Plugins can be downloaded from the plugin menu, or uploaded from a zip file on your computer. I imagine these uploads are for third-party plugins that are not found in the free directory because they have fees. Plugins are activated from the “Installed Plugins” page, and can be edited and deleted here, too. When editing a plugin, the actual PHP code comes up in a window, and the plugin’s PHP code can be changed. This is very useful. The only drawback to plugin settings is that you have to hunt in the dashboard’s left column to find some of them, and they are not always in the same place.

Plugins/extensions rating: 9

 Wordpress Edit Post Tool

Screenshot of the WordPress “Edit Post” Tool

Creating and editing WordPress posts are a breeze. The editing browser can toggle between HTML text view and What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) Visual view. Using a picture, video or other media is easy: just press the “Add Media” button and complete the necessary specifics. The icon shortcut bar contains the most common formats, such as quoting text or alignment of paragraphs and images. Categories can not only be selected but also added here, a very useful shortcut. Bloggers can determine when to publish the post, who gets to see it, and they can assign tags to the post. Overall, the WordPress posting area makes it easy to create a blog article, with the ability to preview pages prior to publishing. Like the post editor, the page editor uses a close to identical format when creating pages for the blog.

Post Editor rating: 10

WordPress total score: 46/50

Next up: The Drupal demo!

Series Navigation<< Choosing a CMS: The Implementation of WordPress, Drupal or Joomla!How does Drupal rate as a Web 2.0 blog software tool? >>
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Mickel is an MLIS and the creator of Library Currents. His inspiration for the blog was the SJSU course "The Hyperlinked Library" taught by Dr. Michael Stephens, a course that is also a worldwide MOOC. If you wish to contact him, feel free to write to Mickel Paris at librarycurrents1@aol.com.

1 Comment

  1. michael

    October 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Outstanding methodology for examining these systems! Wow!

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