WordPress 1.5 – Better for Business Blogs?

February 20, 2005

The 1.5 version of WordPress is here!  And, well…  …here.  I’ve just finished upgrading this site from WordPress 1.22 to 1.5 — and I’m quite impressed. 

The majority of this site (everything except the shopping cart, essentially) is produced using WordPress.

In previous versions of WordPress, getting the “more business-like” and “less blog-like” look-and-feel that I wanted for the site entailed a fair amount of customization of templates and plug-ins.

Most of the work involved in moving to 1.5 actually involved removing various instances of hacks and using new built-in features instead — it would have been quite a bit easier building the site in 1.5 to begin with.

There are several new features of 1.5 that make it a serious contender if you are considering which weblog script to use for your small business web site.

Some of these may seem somewhat esoteric to you if you are hiring a developer instead of customizing your own site, but even there they should save a considerable amount of development time to get the structure you want.

First up on the list of features is the new WordPress modular template system.  By separating the look and feel from the core WordPress files, it will be quite a bit easier to upgrade to future versions.

More important, the templates have been modularized and a number of new variables have been made available to the template developer to make it easier to change the layout from section to section of the site.

A powerful new “page development” facility has also been added to the system.  By using this system, it’s possible for a non-developer to add a “non-weblog” page to the site in the same manner as they’d add a new article to the weblog system.

For instance, to add an “About” page, you’d simply select “write new page” instead of “write new post”, and specify that “about” is to be the filename (“post-slug”, in WordPress nomenclature) of the page. 

Further, the page development system shares the same extended templating system as weblog posts.  You could, for example, develop (or have developed) a template specifically to be used for “Product” pages.  Once this is done, adding a page for a new Product is as easy as adding a new weblog post, and changing the look-and-feel of all of the Product pages (and only the product pages) can be done by editing a single template in a single location. 

Subpages are also supported, so you could have a /products/ page that listed all of your products, with individual products done up as /products/widgets/, /products/gizmos/, etc.  There appears to be inherent limit to the number of templates and subpages that can be used.

A number of other great features have been added as well. 

To show off the flexibility of the templating system, Michael Heilemann’s nifty “Kubrick” theme has replaced the somewhat dowdy former default theme for WordPress, although if you’re integrating the system into your business site, this will probably be the first thing to go.

Several new features have been added to address comment spam, including the option of requiring users to register before commenting, and support for the (possibly somewhat misguided) “nofollow” tag.

I still recommend that you use one of the various comment-spam plugins (such as the excellent Spam Karma, which already supports WordPress 1.5) to stay ahead of emergent trends in spamming, however.

The administrative interface has been updated with a new “Dashboard” feature that shows you at a glance the most recent posts and comments, as well as breaking news regarding WordPress itself.

Last but not least, the price remains hard to argue with — WordPress is Open Source, meaning you can use it free of charge (although your donation to help defray hosting and other hard costs is much appreciated.)

You can read the full list of new features here.

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