5 Small Tweaks to Make WordPress a More Professional CMS

Written by Hirsch Fishman

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems in use today, for many of the reasons that I’ve previously discussed on this blog. Over 50% of websites that run on content management systems run on WordPress (around 15% of websites total), so it’s widespread adoption and use is unquestioned.

With such huge numbers, there are bound to be large differences in the types of websites that run on WordPress. From my own personal experience, I’ve used WordPress to build websites for individuals in business for themselves, all the way up to large organizations where I’m dealing with many people who have access to the dashboard.

The question I’ve begun to ask myself lately is how can the actual interface of WordPress be made a bit more professional, especially for when I’m creating a WordPress website for a larger, more professional organization or business. This question comes to mind because there are still a lot of holdovers within WordPress from the days when it was just a blogging platform, which aren’t necessarily needed by those who are using WordPress more as a CMS.

Here then are five small suggestions I have for making WordPress seem like a more professional content management system.

1. Change “Howdy” to say something else

When you log into the dashboard, in the top right corner is a link to your profile that begins with the word “Howdy”. Here’s what my dashboard looks like:

Now, to me, the word “Howdy” seems a bit too childish, especially when you’re presenting WordPress to a professional organization or business. It’s not really an impression I want to give the user, even if it is only a tiny feature of the dashboard.

Fortunately, there’s a way to change the word “Howdy” so that it says something else, such as “Hello” or “Welcome”. How to do that is detailed on this post from WP Beginner.

Words like “Hello” and “Welcome” are more neutral and professional, and don’t give off the somewhat negative impression that “Howdy” does.

 2. Remove the “Hello, Dolly” plugin

No one really knows why the “Hello, Dolly” plugin comes with new installations of WordPress – only that it adds a lyric from the song “Hello, Dolly” by Louis Armstrong to the upper right corner of the dashboard. (You can see it in the screenshot above.)

Whimsical? Sure. Necessary? Definitely not.

Unfortunately there’s not an easy fix for this. Some developers recommend installing another plugin that will remove it, but to me it seems a bit counter-intuitive that you should install one plugin just to remove another.

The only real way of deleting it seems to be manually going to the Plugins page in your dashboard and removing the plugin. However, the downside to that method is that you’ll have to remember to do that each time you upgrade WordPress, as any upgrades will automatically install the plugin again.

3. Remove unnecessary blogging widgets

With a fresh WordPress installation, the default widgets that appear are all blog-related. That’s all well and good if you’re building a blog, or if you’re building a website that has a blog or has blog-like features to it. If you’re using WordPress more as a CMS, though, yet still want to use widgets, all of those extra ones you’re not using can get confusing to your clients.

There are a number of ways to remove any or all of the unnecessary widgets so that your clients don’t see them. Some people recommend adding snippets to your theme’s functions file, whereas others recommend using plugins.

I’m of mixed opinion on which method is better. On the one hand, plugins are great because they can easily be configured from within the dashboard, especially something such as the White Label CMS plugin. But on the other hand, if your client isn’t necessarily technically savvy and wouldn’t need the ability to customize the dashboard through the dashboard, it may just be easier to add the code to the theme, such as what’s detailed here on Speckyboy.com.

Either way though, I’d recommend doing this, especially if you use widgets like I do.

4. Remove unnecessary dashboard widgets

Let’s face it – when a client of mine logs into their WordPress dashboard, chances are they don’t care about the latest plugin updates, or some of the other information that shows up in widgets on the home screen of the dashboard.

Sure, they can easily hide these widgets by clicking the “Screen Options” box in the upper right-hand corner (see the screenshot above), but how many are really going to know how to do that? If you can do that for them, wouldn’t it make more sense to do?

Again, you can do this either by using a plugin or using some code in your theme files. Which one you choose if up to you, depending on the particular client you’re building the website for.

5. Use custom post types to organize the dashboard

Say the website you’re building has a lot of content on it that can roughly be grouped into logical classifications. Would it make sense to put everything under Pages or Posts, which means that if the client is trying to find something to edit, they have to search through everything? Or would it make more sense to create a custom post type just for a particular type of content, so that they can easily administer just that content separately?

To me, that’s a no-brainer – I’d rather use the custom post types. This wasn’t always the case, as I only recently discovered custom post types a few months ago. Now that I’ve discovered them though, I definitely use them when the situation calls for it. Overall what this does is makes the dashboard easier for the client to use, which is always a good thing.

All you need to do is add some code defining the custom post type to your theme’s functions file; while there are lots of tutorials out there on what code to use, I personally use Themergency.com’s Custom Post Type Generator. Just complete the form, and it will spit out exactly the code you’ll need to add to your theme.

I won’t get into the technical details of how you call the custom post type in your theme – for that, the WordPress Codex is a good starting resource.

Your thoughts?

If you’re a WordPress designer or developer, what are some things that you do to simplify the dashboard for your clients and make it into a more professional CMS? Share your thoughts with everyone by leaving a comment below!

About Hirsch Fishman

Hirsch Fishman is a professional web designer who has worked with synagogues and organizations in the Jewish community since 2006. Originally from Albany, NY, he has previously lived in New York City and Chicago, and currently resides in Raleigh, NC.

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