WordPress for Transition Sites

By Jan Markle / Transition West Marin

Jan is the web person for Transition West Marin. She kindly wrote us some advice about using WordPress as a platform for a Transition site. I thought the information was so useful that I asked Jan if we could re-post it here and she gave her permission -BA

I would advise you to use wordpress.com unless you had your own resident web designer or a budget. It’s free and it’s easy to use and once you get the gist of how to add pages and images, it’s expandable, as you can see with ours. I have 38 pages, have made 30 posts, have 8 widgets and 11 links on the blogroll as well as lots of comments and photos.

For someone who isn’t a coding wizard, and who doesn’t have the money to hire one, WordPress.com is a great solution. You can get the advantages of a website, it can serve as a unifying vehicle for your group, without investing too much, especially if you’re not sure where you’re going.

Blog Format

It’s a blog-format site, so the home page is formatted to be updated frequently and lends itself to being the page where you would post your latest news of interest to the group, since it’s the page that people see when they type in the URL. I find the blog format an advantage because it sets the tone of things happening and changing. It’s not a static website that just sits there, like an advertisement. A blogsite is really like a mini-newspaper, keeping up with and posts news or changes that affect your particular community.

Theme

The theme for TWM is Ocean Mist, chosen because it allows you to add your own photo to the header. Other themes that allow your own photo are Cutline, Connections, Press Row, Misty Look, Tarski, and probably some others.
You can change the theme any time to another one that has a few different features. And the widgets -added code that does stuff, like creates a search bar, or add an RSS feed- gives you a lot of ability to customize your site. This sounds like an advertisement, I know.

Disadvantages

There are some disadvantages- the main one is WordPress has some restrictions on what kind of media you can post. I had to pay $20 to post an mp3 the other night because I didn’t have time at 1 am to figure out how to embed a sound player. To do some of the harder things, like embed YouTube videos and photo albums from Picasa, you do need to have a feel for html, because you usually have to put the code in the html section of the website, not just the visual interface. I think WordPress does take Flickr photos automatically. I’m not a coder but have been able to pick everything up from WordPress instructions or just googling my question (and, I confess, asking my daughter who is a website designer…).

Another disadvantage, the site is geared for a blog site so there are some aspects that don’t match a normal website. For instance, from any other page, to go to the “home page” you click on the header text. There is no tab for a home page although you can make a link on the blog roll to your blog (home) page.

You don’t have the freedom to design things exactly as you might like them as you could if you were creating your own website- for instance if you want to change the colors of the theme you choose, you have to pay $15/year to save your edits to their CSS code. (This isn’t usually necessary.)

Getting People Involved

When you say “so many people posting to the site,” if you’re referring to people commenting on pages, anyone can comment on any page at the bottom of the page. I think it’s good to encourage people to comment as it makes the site more of a community effort rather than the views of one or a few.

If you’re referring to how I have other people posting on the main blog page, I just ask them to write something and they send it to me and I post it, sometimes with a bit of editing. Like the editor of a newspaper might get writers to cover various stories. But if I wanted, I could just give other people the login name and password and they could post their words on the blog page.

A widget is also how you get the recent comments to come up on the side menu. It’s nice to see what new person has said something recently. All lending itself to a feeling that the site is being updated frequently and there’s always something new there to see. It has more of a semblance of being alive than a static (dead) unchanging page.

Get the Name Right

One thing to remember, you can’t change the name of the blog once you choose it, so think out the name carefully before you type it in! (The writer’s nightmare!)
The official name of our site is “Transitionwestmarin.wordpress.com” but we bought the domain “transitionwestmarin.org” (and .net and .com) and pointed the domain names to the wordpress site.

Facebook and Twitter

There is always Facebook and Twitter as other methods of getting out group information. I’ve been experimenting with both. I just made a TWM facebook page (if link doesn’t work, just search for transitionwestmarin in search box) recently and it reaches certain people who don’t go to the wordpress site.

I also twitter announcements of new things going on, so it comes up on side menu of wordpress site (add widget for it, under “appearance”) and it serves as a “what’s new on the site” section.

That’s all I can think of at this moment. Let me know if that answers your questions. I’d be glad to help you in any way that I can. If you’re not sure, just sign up at wordpress and follow their instructions and if you get stuck, write me and I’d be glad to share whatever I know.

UPDATE December 13

Below are links to Transition sites which use WordPress. -BA

Transition Palo Alto (theme: Ocean Mist )

Transition West Marin (theme: Ocean Mist )

Transition Network News (theme: Ocean Mist)

Sustainable Skerries (theme: Tarski)

Transition Town Farnham (theme: Freshy)

Transition Town Clonmel (theme: Digg 3 Column)

Transition Worcester (theme: custom)

Transition Edinburgh (theme: Cutline)

Transition Town Stoke Newington (theme: Cutlline)

Transition Houston (theme: Pressrow)

Transition Town Powell River (theme: Almost Spring)

Transition Ukiah (theme: De Po)

Transition Town Wimborne (theme: Default)

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This entry was posted in Websites by bart. Bookmark the permalink.

About bart

My wife and I live in a small condominium in the San Francisco Bay Area. From 2004-2009, I was the main editor for the Energy Bulletin website (http://energybulletin.net). In previous lives I was a technical writer for Hewlett-Packard, a high school teacher and a newspaper reporter and editor.

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