Forget Blogging: How To Power Any Website With WordPress

By James Bruce, MakeUseOfSeptember 19, 2012 at 04:01PM

wordpress websiteHave you heard? Blogs are old news. I hope you didn’t jump on that particular bandwagon. Yep, static sites are the all the rage now; who wants dynamic and fresh content when you can keep the same set of pages up forever?

I’m joking, of course. There has always been the need for various kinds of sites, but the blog format doesn’t fit every requirement. However, WordPress is more than happy to be moulded into whatever you want – blog or otherwise – and today we’ll be talking about making a basically static WordPress website.

You might also want to read these past articles where Joel talked about WordPress theme frameworks, and I showed you some of the more unique kinds of sites you can make with WordPress.

Use Pages

When creating a static website, your usage will focus on Pages, rather than Posts. Unlike a traditional blog post, pages have no associated date and aren’t placed into a date archive. They are designed for static content – things which rarely change, such as “About Me”, or “Contact”.

Pages can also be made hierarchical, meaning each page can have one or more child pages. Whereas blog posts are unstructured but can be sorted according to date, tags, and category, pages are structured arbitrarily by you – the developer. If you want to represent the products you sell for instance, pages may be more suitable in that you can create a parent page for a particular product subtype which gives the customer an overview of all those products, then give each individual product a child page of that.

Trying to achieve the same with posts alone would require the use of a custom category template; and even then you’d be hacking around with product templates to remove the date or re-order them how you want; or you might even have chosen to go down the route of a custom post type – an even more uneccessary complication. Think carefully about how you want to structure information on your website, and you may find Pages are the better solution.

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There are SEO concerns too – posts in WordPress have a lot of baggage associated with them. Even a few dated, categorised, and tagged posts create additional URLs on your site in the form of various archives. These are indexed too and may appear in search results. If you have just a few posts, these incur a negative SEO penalty for duplicate content – basically your category archive will look a lot like your index page, for instance.

On the flipside, Google gives points for fresh content. When doing SEO for various companies in the past, I always suggested they try to maintain some semblance of a blog on their corporate site, because producing fresh content on an appropriate topic will always help you rank better. So even if the core content of your site is done with static Pages, I’d still encourage you to keep blog posts somewhere.

Not all content on the web needs a date; some remains relevant. Avoid putting people off old content by simply removing the date. Pages have no date associated; they simply exist.

Adding Comments to Pages

Unlike posts, pages don’t have comments. Not because they can’t, but just because most themes don’t have the code to display the comment template. To solve that, open up page.php (or your custom page-slugname.php template if you only want comments on a particular page), and add the following:

<?php comments_template(); ?>

That’s all it takes really. You may find comments are disabled on the actual page though; edit the page and look for the meta section Discussion.

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Change your “homepage”

By default, WordPress is going to list your latest blog posts as the homepage on your site, but this is quite easy to change. Make sure you have another page already created that you’d like to use instead. Then open up Settings – Reading. Change the homepage to be the static page you’d like; and if you want to keep a blog style listing somewhere, set that in the Posts option (this isn’t required though).

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Contact Form

It’s quite likely you’re going to want a contact form on a static WordPress website. Often people will try to contact you through the comments, but if you haven’t enabled those on Pages then I’d strongly suggest putting up a contact form somewhere. Start by creating a new Contact page.

Pro-tip: A page named “Contact” is built into WordPress. If you’ve previously deleted it, and now find you’re being given a permalink slug like “/contact–2/” then be sure to empty the trash first – deleted pages remain there with their previous slugs.

Fast Secure Contact Form is a fantastic free plugin – featured on our Best WordPress Plugins page no less – and includes Captcha abilities out of the box. It has a huge range of features and enables you to maintain a number of different contact forms.

The options can be found under Plugins – FS Contact Form Options. Configuring the plugin can be a little daunting as the admin interface isn’t exactly intuitive, but read through the options slowly and all will be well; then embed the form on your contact page using the shortcode: [si-contact-form form=’1’]. You can also set up auto-responders, additional fields, AJAX posting, and even video confering requests via the premium vCita meeting scheduler plugin.

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So as you can see, WordPress can literally power any kind of website you want to create. Do you have any more ideas on how to use Pages only to power a static WordPress website? Let us know in the comments!