Various web-apps tries to overcome the obstacles and headaches of creating web-pages and blogs, with everything from WordPress, Tumblr to Drupal on the market Silk tries to find its own turf, simple and quick.
Silk is an web app developed in the Netherlands, it is backed by the venture capitalist firm Atomico run by Niclas Zennström co-founder of Skype. So far Silk is in beta, for example the documentation still reads "Contact us if you want to know more about advanced features in Silk" and you have to request access to the API. The editor part of it was released on the 10th of May 2012.
When first starting Silk it's amazing how scaled back and light-weight the application is, it's almost like the Iphone when using it for the first time, it didn't seem to do a whole lot but eventually delivered lots of features.
All pages on a Silk site is structured into categories of your choice, the pages can also be tagged, which is the same functionality available in most blog platforms. A neat feature in Silk is the possibility to import .CSV files, which the system will create a structure from. This saves a lot of time when creating larger sites.
Silk comes with the usual set of text editing features, it is possible to add more advanced functionality to each page by using widgets. There are different kinds of widgets available; charts, recent documents, table of contents, maps (connected to Google Maps) and category listings.
The use case for Silk is a bit blurred, it's not a replacement of more advanced blog platforms and CMS-systems, clearly. Because it lacks certain key features to run blogs and larger sites. However for whipping together a small data presentation website Silk is still an interesting alternative, one interesting case of Silk usage is the Guardian's data visualisations and commentary.
As mentioned earlier Silk is still in beta, it's a bit concerning that it doesn't seem to be a plan for where Silk is going, hopefully there will be one soon. Given that Silk is light-weight and quick to work with it puzzles me that there is no version where you can edit pages for tablets, such as the Ipad available. To me Silk should really be mobile to be worth the effort, there are better CMS:es and solutions for desktops but not for tablets.
One of the many advantages with WordPress is the number of third party plugins enhancing your website or blog for free. Below you will find 5 essential plugins enhancing your WordPress experience;
Perhaps a boring plug-in but nevertheless handy, Akismet checks comments for SPAM on your website. As Akismet identifies SPAM the system improves its abilities to fight future SPAM. Akismet is free for personal use, there are several commercial plans starting from $5 a month.
All in One SEO Pack
The All in One SEO pack is designed to aid a WordPress blog in ranking higher in the search engines by adding features not included in the original installation of WordPress. The plugin automatically generate page titles and META-tags for posts and pages, but there is also an option where they can be set manually (to better target specific keyword phrases). Another interesting feature in the All in one SEO pack is the ability to set Canonical URLs.
1 Flash Gallery
Image management in WordPress is a bit weak, so there are loads of image gallery plugins to make up for it. One of the more popular ones is 1 Flash Gallery, which can display photos in a flipping book, as a slideshow, in full-screen mode etc. What makes 1 Flash Gallery stand out from the rest of the image management plugins is the many different album layouts available (check out http://1plugin.com/) and it's pretty easy interface to upload images and create albums.
W3 Total Cache
If your WordPress site grows popular loading times might increase for your visitors, a way to reduce loading times is caching. W3 Total Cache is a plugin that caches a WordPress site dramatically reducing loading times with as much as 10 times (claimed by the developers).
WordPress is very versatile and can be used for much more than blogging, the WP e-Commerce plugin enables you to create a small online store. The plugin have integration with several Payment Gateways such as PayPal and Google Checkout and loads of other features.
This is the first post in our series of Content Management Systems available for free. Wordpress is widely regarded as a blogging system, but has become much more lately.
WordPress was first created in 2003 as an open-source project aimed at "enhance the typography of everyday writing", whatever that means. The market for Content Management Systems back in 2003 was limited to a few heavy-weight systems, such as PHPNuke and Mambo. While they were solid systems for building a website they weren't easy to customize.
Along came WordPress, which perhaps was most successful because of the timing (blogging was becoming main-stream and everyone was getting a voice) but also due to the simplicity of the system.
Simplicity is actually one of the key selling points for WordPress, the system has a very low entry level compared to its larger and more complex competitors, a user can start a blog on wordpress.org without any hosting and build from there. At a later stage it is possible to export the blog to a WordPress installation on another server should you want to.
However installing WordPress on a stand-alone server or webhost still requires some skills, and so does developing themes and other customisation options, but the editing part of the system is still very easy and straight-forward. Finding a server which can run WordPress or setting up your own is not that difficult, WordPress requires PHP, MySQL and Apache, which is all open source software for anyone to use. Most web hosts have these capabilities available. .
Having a vibrant community behind a CMS is an important factor to take into account when selecting one, WordPress has a very solid community backing it. There are lots of extensions for most things, for example turning your WordPress installation into a E-commerce system or a social network.
Think twice before selecting an extension, especially if it will be core to the site you are building. It is not uncommon that development for modules stops for various reasons, so make sure that it has been updated frequently in the past. Keep in mind that extensions not being updated can pose both a security threat to your site and create all sorts of other problems when the core version of WordPress is updated.
A neat feature in WordPress is the built-in update capability of extensions, when a developer releases an update the users have the ability to download and install the update directly through WordPress, the installations are often uneventful. The update feature in WordPress is much easier to use than performing updates in Joomla or Drupal, which scan be tideous involving uploading to FTP:s etc.
When first logging in to WordPress you are greeted by a Dashboard screen, which shows a quick summary of your website, recent comments by visitors and a feature called quick press where a new post can be added quickly without having to navigate further in the admin interface.
An interesting feature in the WordPress community is the Ideas part, where users can submit and rate ideas. The ideas with the highest rating will be included in the future versions of WordPress, thus giving users a link to the developer community.
Customizing the look and feel of your WordPress site is done using themes, there are various themes available for download, some are free and others commercial. It is fairly easy to create your own theme, but of course you need to know both HTML and CSS. However the structure of the themes in WordPress is easier to understand and develop than competing Content Management Systems. Installing already existing themes is done through the admin interface, and it is possible to see a preview of the site with a theme applied.
One issue with using WordPress for more advanced sites is the lack of workflows with multiple editors and approval layers. It is possible to prevent selected users to publish to the main-page but that's about it in terms of workflows. So building a site with more advanced approval matrices might prove difficult in WordPress.
A WordPress database often require more space and requests than competing systems, for example the system creates a new database entry for each revision of a post. For large sites with lots of visitors this is of course a down-side, there are however various extensions for optimizing the database, obviously it’s more favourable if the CMS already handle these types of issues by default.
WordPress is really as close as you can get to a Content Management System for the masses, it is a system that can do almost everything but is most suitable for blogs, online magazines and other content centered sites. Building more advanced E-commerce or social networking sites is best left for Drupal, Joomla and the various open-source E-commerce systems out there.
My WordPress tips:
- Update immediately when new versions of WordPress exist to prevent being exploited by various security flaws.
- Use the built-in export and import feature in WordPress when you want to backup your site, remember however that the site will be backed up but not the installation itself with the various extensions etc.
- Make sure that you enable your sites URL-syntax from the beginning as it will be difficult to change later when Google and other search engines have crawled your site.