We Love WordPress, and You Will, Too

WordPress can be used to manage many types of websites, from small business ecommerce sites to blogs to large news media organizations. It has a global userbase of over 70 million websites and counting. What does this mean for you? It means that virtually every person on the web is visiting sites like yours, providing feedback and improving usability. It means that tens of thousands of hackers, both malicious and "white-hat", are improving WordPress's security by testing it and releasing community-approved patches. It means that tens of thousands of programmers are developing plugins that extend WordPress's functionality in ways that the userbase is requiring. It means that tens of thousands of designers are crafting new themes that use the latest web design techniques to keep WordPress sites looking fresh. There is no one "cookie cutter" look for a WordPress website. For all these reasons and more, we love WordPress, and you will, too.

It wasn't always this way. WordPress began as a simple blogging platform. Version 1.5, released in February 2005, featured a limited set of data structures designed around a typical blog configuration: you could create static pages and blog posts, manage comments, and create customized templates.

Within months, it had gained a large market share and widespread approval for its customizability. Any developer could create a package of PHP, CSS, and image files that defined a unique visual style called a "theme" and apply that theme to any WordPress site. Besides themes, WordPress also boasted a plugin architecture that made developing functional, distributable plugins relatively easy.

For the next six years, the development community focused on performance, security, and expanding the plugin and theme architecture. WordPress became the most popular content management system during this time.

Here at The Ivy Group, however, we were dissatisfied with its inflexibility and limitations, only developing a couple of sites in WordPress through 2009. We were similarly unimpressed with Joomla and Drupal, the next two most popular content management systems. Although more powerful than WordPress, they were riddled with bugs and proved far more difficult to customize. Instead, we developed our own program, dubbed Mimik Information Management System, a versatile advanced data management system (page content being one kind of data) that made it possible to support customized, interrelated data structures.

Our web development process is based on high-end custom visual design, smart integration with our clients' marketing strategy, and custom information architecture that serves our clients' business model. Instead of wrangling with WordPress's page/post model, we were able to define and manage structures like "Staff Members", "Departments", "Social Media Channels", and "Slideshow Images". Each data structure could have multiple display views with unique HTML/CSS markup and styling; for example, Staff Members could have both a list-style view and a grid-style view, manageable from the admin console. Each Staff Member could be assigned to a Department directly in the admin console, and each Department could have its own page template that pulled all Staff Members in either list or grid format.

Most importantly for our clients, the Mimik admin console allowed them to manage data based on how it is structured. For example, if a user chose to edit an entry in the Staff Members form, she would be presented with data fields including the person's name, title, and contact information and a dropdown list pre-populated with all of the department names as defined in the separate Departments form. Fields had helpful notes attached describing how to enter data (like recommended image dimensions) and could be tagged as required inputs. The admin didn't have to think about markup, styling, or layout; she just had to think about her organization's data. All of the high-powered web wizardry (responsive design, content ordering and grouping, etc) was handled in the template code, safely hidden from the admin user. It took our clients some getting used to but in time they embraced the concept of separating content from the pages in which the content appeared.

We published over two-dozen websites using Mimik in a few short years and most are still live. Our Mimik clients range from small local businesses to regional healthcare providers to national non-profits. We built a custom search tool that integrated with Mimik's content and other third-party systems. We deployed a permission-based secure document repository on Mimik with only minor code changes. We integrated Mimik with a legacy inventory system older than half of our staff members and are darn proud of it. We created AJAX-based interfaces and mobile-responsive websites, and continue to develop and improve our beloved Mimik-driven sites including ivygroup.com.

But now, we have turned to WordPress. Why? In mid-2010, WordPress started catching up to Mimik in the one key area that prompted us to build Mimik in the first place: custom data structures. Version 3.0 gave developers the ability to define "custom post types", menus, and taxonomies (aka custom categorization), breaking the old page/post model. Further improvements to this architecture and the launch of a few key plugins like Advanced Custom Fields have made WordPress as powerful as Mimik in its ability to define and manage disparate and interrelated sets of information.

Add these new abilities to WordPress’s already best-in-class support community and library of free themes and plugins, and WordPress has become The Ivy Group’s content management system of choice.

CAUTION: shameless sales plug ahead. Read at your own peril... We have been developing WordPress sites for years, and are highly confident that it can support the requirements of almost any client. Get in touch! Give us a call at 434.979.2678 and let us show you what we can do for you with WordPress!