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10 Steps to a Client Friendly WordPress CMS

What is not to love about WordPress? It is extremely extendable, an open source project, has a selection of thousands of plugins, in addition to the support community being simply massive. WordPress has proved itself as a great blogging platform and content management system.

For us developers and techies the out of the box capabilities is more than we ever need to manage, edit, and add content in any shape or form. However many of us don’t simply build website for ourselves, and we have to think about our clients as well.

While WordPress has a user friendly interface it is still blogging focused, and there are some usability enhancements that could be desired when those who are not technically savvy (which fits the bill for most clients) will be the primary users.

In this situation there are a few steps to improving the interface to make it easier for our clients.

1. Tweak the Admin Panel

The administration panel is with out a doubt focused on blogging, which makes sense since WordPress is a blogging platform. Any time you aim to create more content, “Post” is always listed before “Page” and even the labeling “Write” feels more journalistic than page focused.

While it is not a perfect solution, there is a great plugin out there that greatly enhances the layout of the latest versions of WordPress called Leopard.

With icons and a simple sidebar it will likely be more familiar to non techies or journalists.

If you like the existing interface just fine, you might want to look into the Simple CMS plugin instead. Simple CMS is a quick and easy way to change the focus from Posts to Pages.

If you want to take it a step further, and wish tweak all labeling and names to feel more “CMS” focused, the Admin Menu Management plugin will let you configure a lot of the dashboard elements to be more client friendly.

Finally cleaning up the interface can go a long way. By default WordPress has a lot of irrelevant information on the dashboard. Information that the average client doesn’t need to be bothered with. The dashboard editor plugin lets you remove some of these unnecessary elements.

Hopefully when WordPress 2.7 is finally released we won’t need to install these types of plugins as the interface is greatly improved.

2. Extend Capabilities of Navigation Control

If you are building WordPress CMS sites then chances are you are using the wp_list_pages(); method of creating navigation. This is an excellent way to let clients extend their site and add pages to the site architecture with out any editing of code.

The function does leave much be desired. There are times where you don’t want particular pages to show up in the main navigation, or only include the top level of pages. Normally this requires code tweaking, which is not client friendly. Additionally your client may want several different types of navigation? For example top navigation, utilities, footer navigation, etc... these all might be slightly different.

Again you could do some hard coding, but that makes it difficult for the client to control. So ideally we would like to give some of that control to the client.

The Navigation List plugin gives you complete control over your navigation, including graphics, styling, ordering, etc.. You can create several different navigation blocks and it all done through a great drag and drop interface.

Now clients can have powerful and easy control over their navigational blocks and areas.

3. Create Custom Write Panels

Some web sites only need a homepage and a typical text/image page for content. However many sites do need “custom content” types. Typical examples may be “houses for sale” or “product pages.” Clients could try and craft the pages in the same way for every page, but that is extremely difficult and cumbersome. It would be much easier to take some of the work away from them and simply have them fill out the details (product title, cost, description, and add a picture) rather than trying to do it manually through the write panel.

There are two ways you can create custom write panels to make creating specific types of content easier for clients.

You can do some manual hard coding, like this tutorial

Or take a look into the flutter plugin

Flutter also has some great front end editing capabilities that you could look into as well.

4. Allow More Control Over the Templates

While WordPress does make it easy to have additional templates for different types of content, allowing clients to customize templates as needed is a nice touch. A common need for example, is to allow clients to pick which sidebar to use on any given page that they are creating.

Additionally a major drawback with the format of WordPress style pages is that you can edit / modify a pages main content but there is no easy way to edit any other areas of content. The most typical area would be a sidebar.

Side Content is another plugin that lets you have and define different sets of widgets as “side content” that can be edited on a per page basis.

The PageMash template lets you select and customize sidebars based on widgets as well as providing an easy to use interface. It features a drag and drop ajax interface for ease of client use.

5. Create Great Revision Control

Many clients love the idea of revision control. There is a sense of safety that comes with being able to revert back to a previously flawless page/post. Many clients who are not tech savvy are worried about making a change that breaks the site. Being able to switch back to a working page in a worse case scenario is very reassuring.

There are two great plugins that extend the capability of WordPress revision control.

Revision Control


6. Improve the Easy of Linking

If you have ever had to teach a client how to link to another interior page in WordPress you will know how difficult the linking interface of WordPress can be. It would be much easier to get a list of links to pages that exist for selection, rather than having to type it in manually.

AWS Easy Page Link lets you do just that.

7. Enhance Multimedia Support with Utilities

The web has become a rich multimedia experience, so it is no surprised a lot of websites not only need the ability to have multimedia on the site, but also add multimedia over time.

Two of the most common multimedia needs are the ability to add video, and to work with images. In a perfect world all clients would have the tools and knowledge to open, edit, resize and save images. However rarely is this the case.

So the Scissors plugin is a perfect fit for all your basic image editing and resizing needs, all through the administration panel.

And for those sites that need video the all in one video pack makes working with and posting video extremely easy.

8. Give them Control Over Contact Forms

It is rare to come across a site that doesn’t have at least one contact form. Many sites now have several contact forms. Beyond that, simply working with contact forms can be a pain.

Why not give the client control over their contact forms? Contact Form 7 makes it easy to create different contact forms and insert them into posts and pages. It features some worthwhile CAPTCHA spam protection.

9. Do Some Branding and Customization

I just wrote an article about branding your administration area. What came out of that were some great suggestions for plugins to brand the login / registration panels and the administration panel.

The Custom Admin Branding plugin
will let you swap out logos in the administration panels for your own, or your clients (depending on how you want to brand WordPress).

WP Admin Theme Extended
will let you easily adjust and tweak the color scheme of the administration panel. Again this will let you either pick your branded colors, or your clients for the administration panel.

10. Ensure Everything is Backed up Regularly

You never know what, when and why something will happen to a website. You can’t count on clients to backup their site themselves, and I doubt you want to be in the business of managing backups for all website you create.

The DB Backup plugin
has auto scheduling with a wide variety of options and methods for backing up your important WordPress database.

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