We've been working with Tim and Wandy, the owners of Planula Bed and Breakfast/Divers Retreat, for over three years now on their site underwater.com.au and for almost the same amount of time have been saying that we need to update the Planula site.
Well of course we're happy to say it's now done and was released a few days ago.
Having successfully maintained their own website for years, Tim and Wandy were, and still are, understandably hesitant about moving from a static HTML site they knew, to a new database-driven solution. I'd like to run through a few of the reasons we encouraged (bullied?) them into using Wordpress.
I've mentioned some general reasons to use a solution like Wordpress in a previous post. Here are a few more specific ones which, while referring to Planula, are equally relevant to many sites.
Speed and relative simplicity of publishing.They were already doing a lot of copying and pasting to add new content which works fine for consistent content but is a more work if, for example, new pages need to be added.
Consistency.It's very easy on a static html site for small inconsistencies to build up over time and become harder to change, e.g. with navigational elements. Altering the left navigation in the new site is now as simple as adding new pages and/or shuffling current ones in admin.
Syndicated contentTheir latest content can now be consumed by anyone who subscribes to it via the automatically generated newsfeeds. This is an effortless form of marketing and can be used in a variety of ways such as their "Latest News" on the Planula listing page on underwater.com.au.
More freedom to change their mindsThere are always sections in websites that aren't immediately clear and need time and use to get a better idea on how they should be approached. This is much easier if things can be moved around quickly to respond to changing needs or circumstances.
But what if...It would be naive to pretend that this solution is the be-all, end-all and I've already mentioned Tim and Wandy having some hesitation. Their primary concern was how much they would be tied to this solution and what if they needed to change to another or back to a static HTML site?
Thankfully this is also a common concern for developers and therefore there are several solutions or "exit strategies":
Changing to another systemMethods exist to import Wordpress data into other solutions, such as Textpattern and Drupal. As a sidenote; It's quite notable just how many more there seem to be for importing into Wordpress.
Converting back to static HTMLIt would be possible to do this via Wordpress itself but there already exist other solutions like Blue Crab which "is a program that you use to copy the contents of a website to your computer, in whole or in part". This is a Mac desktop application but of course Windows equivalents exist
Some other thingsAnother point worth mentioning; the site has now moved from a tables-based layout to one based on CSS stylesheets which on the whole (apart from the markup introduced by a few plugins) means somewhat smaller pages sizes and more content dense HTML. The separation of the page styling also means future changes to the look of the site can be introduced across the whole site much more quickly.
Final wordsWe're waiting to see how these changes affect the visits and search engine behaviour of what is already a popular website. Of course we're hoping they improve even more.
So go visit the site and even better visit Byron Bay and stay at Planula!