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Lesson 12 – Part 1 – WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS)

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Well good morning everybody and welcome to Lesson 12 of our series How To Build A Professional Website Using WordPress and Thesis 2. Up until this point, we have been talking about our WordPress website as a static site. We’ve only talked about pages. We’ve been creating pages and we’ve been styling Agility. And for many small business websites, that’s all you actually need.

Using the Blog on Your Business Website

But today we’re going to talk about how to incorporate blog functionality into your static website. Now some of you, some participants in this class are actually building blogs themselves and building blogs from scratch. And so you might want to have heard this information at the beginning of the class rather than nearing the end but this is the point at which we stop talking about pages and we start talking about how to add blog posts, how to incorporate them into an otherwise static website and that sort of thing.

There’s going to be a little bit of theory in this class here today and much of the theory in this is independent of the Thesis theme. We’ll be talking about WordPress theory at the beginning and so it’s appropriate and applicable in any theme that you might be using, whether it’s Thesis 1, Thesis 2, Genesis or really, anything else. Many of the concepts for the first part of this lesson are going to be the same.

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

Now what we’re talking about today really is using WordPress as a content management system. So what is a content management system? A content management system is a web application that allows you to create, organize and to manage various types of content. And then to display that content on the web in the form of a web page.

Web Site Creation Prior to CMS

Prior to content management systems of course, when you were going to create a web page, what you did was you opened up a file and you created an HTML file. And everything that was going to be on that page, you typed into that file and when you were finished, you’d have an HTML file. Then you’d post it on your website and that’s your web page. There wasn’t any kind of management necessary apart from you creating a new file, opening it, editing it, saving it and putting it on your website.

Well, the content management system automates much of that plus it draws in other pieces of content into individual pages, like we saw with widgets and that sort of thing.

How We’ve Used the CMS so far in our Site Creation

Well, so far, we’ve been using WordPress as a very simple content management system. And in this case we’ve had one content type and that’s a page. And we’ve had one method of organization and that’s hierarchical. That method of organization, as you may recall, stems from the parent-child relationship of pages where you can have a parent page and that parent page can have child pages and each of those children pages can have their own children pages and so on and so forth.

We can organize our pages in a hierarchical fashion by using that system. But that’s the only sort of organizational strategy we’ve employed so far and the only content we’ve used is pages.

WordPress Terminology

Before we start diving into everything that’s actually possible with WordPress, what we needed to do is develop a common set of terminology or language that means the same thing to everybody.

Why it is Imprecise

Unfortunately, WordPress terminology isn’t precise. This is due in part to the way it was originally conceived which was as a very simple blogging platform and it has evolved over time to be a very complex content management system.

But in order to ensure backward compatibility, the terminology didn’t change as WordPress changed. And so it redefines commonly accepted terminology like home page and page to mean something else.

Home Page/Front Page Example

We had this conversation already when we talked about templates. And we talked about the front page and the home page and how in the non-WordPress world, the term home page is the generic term for the page that resolves when you type your URL in. But for WordPress, the home page is your blog posts page and so you have this sort of swapping of language.

The same thing is true for page, actually. Web page is a very generic term but in WordPress, page becomes a very specific term. Unfortunately, Thesis isn’t flawless in that regard either and Thesis also has a way of mixing and matching terminology. And that’s really just a fact of life with this software. It’s a fact of life with WordPress and with Thesis. But when we’re having this conversation, it’s good for us to have a shared set of terminology.

The Term Web Page

And so I’m going to propose to you essentially 3 terms that I want to make sure you have a clear understanding of. The first term is web page and in this context, the web page is any view of your website that is generated by WordPress. So if you click on a menu link and you see a page when you’re done, that is a web page. It’s not the content. It’s not the thing you see when you’re creating it; it’s the final end result of a specific address in your website that’s generated by WordPress.

The Term Content Type

The second piece of terminology is content type. Content type is a type of content that can be primarily distinguished by the way in which it’s organized. And we’re going to talk about different content types and the distinction between those content types is going to be how they can be organized.

In a moment, we’ll talk about pages and you’ll learn that pages can only be organized hierarchically using the parent-child relationship of pages. And posts are a different type of content type and they have a different type of organizational structure that can be applied to them. So a content type in WordPress terminology is a type of content that can be distinguished by the way in which it is organized.

The Term Taxonomy

And then finally, our 3rd term is taxonomy. Taxonomy is a term that scares people quite a bit but it shouldn’t. Taxonomy is just a method of organization or classification. So that’s the means of organizing, right? A content type is a type of content that is organized based on a certain kind of taxonomy.

A Biology Example

You’re familiar with the idea of taxonomy from biology, of course. Biology has this taxonomy that is a hierarchical. That’s the domain, kingdom, phylum, class or the family genus and species. That’s the biology taxonometric system.

For human taxonomy first, we’re in the domain Biota and then in the kingdom Animalia and then in the phylum Chordata and the class Mammalia. The order of primates, inside the order of primates, we’re in the family Hominidae and inside of the family Hominidae, we’re in the genus Homo. The species, Homo sapiens and even inside of that, the sub species homo sapiens sapiens.

So you have this clearly defined hierarchy in which humans are classified in biology. Well, this is a similar sort of thing that we’re going to do inside of WordPress although it’s not probably going to be as deep as this.

Review of Taxonomy Terms

So those are our 3 terms. We have webpage which is a page, the final view of a page that’s generated by WordPress. We have content type which is any kind of content that can be distinguished by how it’s organized. And then we have taxonomy which is that system of organizing.

4 Major Content Types in WordPress

WordPress starts off with essentially 4 content types. Pages, we’ve been working with already. Posts, you’ve heard alluded to. We’ve talked about posts but today, we’re going to really talk about them. Attachments are any kind of media that is added via the Media Library and then attached to a post. That’s an attachment.

And then finally, there are custom post types and a custom post type is sort of a catch all for a mechanism for creating different content types that may have different kinds of organizational systems. So the WordPress content types are pages, posts, attachments and custom post types.

Now the experts among you watching this will know that there are a few others but you don’t actually relate to them or interact with them as a regular user. So these are the ones that you’re going to actually interact with.

WordPress Standard Taxonomies

WordPress also comes with a standard set of taxonomies. The first and most well-used taxonomy is the category taxonomy. But you also have post tags, date, author and then custom taxonomy. With some of the custom post types, you can create your own taxonometric system and apply that taxonomy to any kind of post type, whether it’s one of the standard post types or to a custom post type.

We won’t be working with most of this material today, right? Today, we’re going to be talking about posts and categories. But nevertheless, it’s important for you to understand that WordPress has these 5 sort of basic taxonomies that everybody ends up interacting with.

Types of Pages WordPress Generates

WordPress also generates types of web pages. The first type is the type that we’re familiar with, that is the page page.

Page Page

The page page is a web page that displays a page content type. So for example, on our site the recent projects page, that is a page that is displaying the content of that recent projects page and its child page, the West Seattle View Home, is also a page And the web page that we see is the page page view of that page.
Post Page

The second type of WordPress web page is a post page. And the post page is a web page that displays a single post content type. That’s often referred to as a single and when we’ve looked at our templates, we’ve seen that Thesis has that single template. And that single template is for styling a single post content type which is what we’re going to be creating today. When we look at the individual posts, we’ll be seeing the post page.

Posts Page

You also have the posts page. The first one was post page and this one is plural, posts page. And we’ve talked about the posts page a little bit but the posts page is a web page that displays a series of posts with the latest post first. It can be the main page but it doesn’t actually have to be.

And in fact, in our case, it isn’t. In our case, our main page, our home page, is not a posts page. We created the articles page as our posts page and when we start creating posts, those will all be displayed on that articles page or the posts page.

Front Page

Next you have a front page. Now, the front page, we’ve talked about as well and it is your home page. This is one of those places where WordPress gets a little crazy with its terminology because in fact, WordPress also refers to your home page as a front page. So it’s got the front page generically and a front page specifically.

Generically, your front page is your home page. Specifically, the front page is either a static page page or it is your posts page. But when we talk about the front page, we usually mean a static page page or a static front page.

So this is where the terminology gets a little wiggly. But your front page is essentially the page that resolves when you type in your URL. And in WordPress, it can either be a static front page or it can be your posts page.

Search Page

Now WordPress also creates a number of other pages. For example, it creates a search page. If you type in search terms in a search box, WordPress returns the search results as a search page.

404 Page

It also creates automatically a 404 page which is a web page that displays the 404 error. And a 404 error is that the page can’t be found. So if you typed in a URL that doesn’t actually exist, it will generally return a 404 error to you.

Attachment Page

WordPress also generates an attachment page. And an attachment page is a web page that displays an attachment. So folks who are new to WordPress when they insert an image from their Media Library into a post or a page, they don’t notice that it is going to link off to an attachment page which as far as I’m concerned is an entirely useless thing to do.

It exists so that if you click on the image, the image will open up or it will open up in an attachment page. But I don’t think it’s of any actual use and it ends up confusing people especially beginners. And it’s generally best when you’re inserting images into your content, just not to have a link to anything unless you want to link specifically to another page.

But nevertheless, WordPress creates this attachment page and an attachment page is a page that displays essentially anything that’s in your Media Library, anything that you’ve attached to a post or a page.

Archive Page

And then finally, WordPress generates an archive page. Now there are a lot of different types of archive pages. And an archive page is a web page that displays a collection of posts that share a common taxonomy. It’s a web page that displays a collection of posts or a group of posts that all share a common taxonomy or a common organizational structure.

Types of Archive Pages

There are a number of types of archive pages in WordPress. There is the category archive page which you may be most familiar with. There is the post tag archive page. There is the date archive page, an author archive page and then there are custom taxonomy archive pages.

Now the date archive page actually is broken down because you can have a date archive page for a day and a date archive page for a month and a date archive page for a year. And again, these are all automatically generated.

You don’t have to do anything in order to make these pages exist besides creating posts and assigning them either a category or a post tag or telling the post who the author is. Because anytime you do any of those things, what you’ve done is automatically added to the page. So once you give a post a category, WordPress will automatically generate a category archive page that will display all of the posts of that category and that specific category. This is an automatic aspect of WordPress.

I do get this question routinely from folks who are not familiar with this and they say, “Well I want to display all of my posts that are related to this topic. How do I do that?” And the answer is it’s all built in to WordPress. You can use categories to do that. You can use post tags to do that and there are other things as well.

Recap of Types of WordPress Pages

So let’s just take a step back for a moment to that. WordPress creates a page page. It creates a post page which is essentially the single post page. It creates a posts page which is a collection of all of your posts organized with the latest post at the top and the oldest post at the bottom. You can create a front page which is either that posts page or a static front page. It creates a search page, a 404 page, an attachment page. And then any one of these archive pages.

Now obviously, the term ‘archive’, I meant to mention this. The term ‘archive’ often throws people off too because people think of archive as something that if you’re going to just set it aside and are hiding for later access. But for whatever reason, WordPress does not use archive that way. Archive just means a collection of posts that share a common taxonomy.

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