When I first encountered the Carrington Theme CMS Framework for WordPress I was underwhelmed. First, I didn’t get it. Why would I want to learn a new set of concepts and functions to help me customize WordPress? It is the same reason I’ve always resisted learning third-party design programs like Dreamweaver. Wouldn’t my time be better spent learning the programming language itself?
Moreover, I was confused because Carrington Theme didn’t seem to make it any easier to turn WordPress into a CMS! It made it harder because there was yet another layer of abstraction to worry about.
But my negative assessment was born of ignorance more than experience. It wasn’t until I was knee-deep into my first CMS project managing more than 10,000 pages of content with at least 10 different “content types” that I began to remember the Carrington Framework … and then click! it all made sense.
Carrington is a framework built to help developers manage sites with hundreds of customizations. I built my CMS site without Carrington and my sidebar.php file looks like Frankenstein on acid: include, conditional, biconditional, include, exclude, uhg. Sometimes when I need to fix a particular customization it takes me ten minutes to figure out which include file it’s in.
The whole point of Carrington is to make 90% of that conditional code unnecessary because so much of it is predictable. If you’re building a CMS, you can pretty much guarantee that you want change the sidebar depending on the context of the page, right? Carrington just makes it simpler to do so.
Perhaps the confusion over Carrington is that it markets itself as a “CMS Framework”. But in fact, it’s a THEME framework for CMS builders. If you are using Carrington, you will still need to know how to use WordPress custom fields and write panels etc. But the theming will be 100 times easier.
I’ve grown a little frustrated with the WordPress Theme Directory. On the one hand I very much appreciate what they are trying to do, setting standards of excellence for theme development. Add to this the ez search-and-click install available since 2.8 and you have the most user friendly blogging system available.
Here’s the problem, I have a theme that is built to make WordPress a CMS, so it requires a few steps to set up. But I just got an email back from the WordPress clue in which it was clear that the theme tester, effectively the gate keeper, didn’t even bother going through the steps.
My Onstage Theme for Actors uses ‘/home.php’ to display a headshot, and only a couple of excerpts from the blog. Users have to create a page for the blog template that is included. But the theme tester didn’t even bother to set it up. Instead he complained that the posts weren’t paged and there was no sidebar, both of which are part of the blog template.
So how is WordPress to become recognized as a full content management solution when the WordPress theme directory seems to expect a cookie cutter installation process?
I work for a non-profit and most of my freelance clients are non-profits. Money is scarce but needs are many. Most organizations need a full content management system. They need an events calendar, a multimedia gallery, a press release section and a dozen other content types. But they can’t afford it.
I used to handle this with a mishmash of plugins for calendars, downloads, videos, etc. But the problem was each solution was discrete. For instance, it was difficult to associate a video with an event. This is because, for all its advantages, the WordPress core simply is not a CMS. It basically has two content types: post and page. Yes, the functionality of custom fields helps boost the performance of these two types. But custom fields are cumbersome and user un-friendly.
What WordPress needed was some sort of content construction plugin that would allows users to create their own types of content beyond the post and page.
A few months ago, I discovered a new plugin that does just that. It’s called Pods. Pods is a very efficient framework that sits on top of your WordPress installation. It allows you to easily create content types and then theme those types.
Over the next couple weeks I’m going to post a series of tutorials on different ways you can use pods. In the meantime, head over to their site and download the plugin.