My Favorite CMS Features from WordPress and Drupal

I work with both WordPress and Drupal. As a PHP programmer I was drawn to Drupal in 2009 and started with D6. I avoided WP despite all its popularity, always thinking of it as a blog, or more for small sites. I wanted more structure, more of a programming framework. Back then I also worked with PHP frameworks, and given the choice I would have normally rathered to work with CodeIgniter than any CMS. After all when I started building sites in 2002, there were no CMS’s at least nobody told me about any worth trying.

Today I am always a bit torn about “which is better” between Drupal and WordPress. Like many others I’d like to be able to make a definite statement on that and say well, I’ll just focus on ____BLANK. It’s not that simple, I used to have this site goldhat.ca in Drupal. Then I tried Concrete5 briefly, that didn’t work and when shifting away I decide no I’m not going back to Drupal, I’m going to try WordPress. Having seen how easily many parts of WP work on client sites, I wanted to see if it could handle some of the customizations and extensions I wanted to add to goldhat.ca. I found it could, especially with the help of a plugin now use in nearly every WP site I run, ACF (Advanced Custom Fields).

What is the key differentiation between Drupal and WordPress?

If I had to point to 1 key different in these systems it’s that in WordPress generally things just work, and they look good. In Drupal, again speaking generally (and no offense to Drupal gods!) most things look terrible and arrive broken and require extensive work to make functional. Now that might sound like a damnation of Drupal, which it is to some extent. But we have to consider that if you measure based on the general “size” of a website, measure not really by number of pages but by complexity of features especially the need for external integrations, complex logic, custom programming etc., then the comparison tends to look like this in my mind:

  1. Small, simple site: WordPress rocks. Install it, pick a theme, customize theme, install some plugins, everything looks good and works good and the build is fast. Management is fast, further development easy. Drupal in contrast, much more configuration needed to get this simple site looking and working well in most cases.
  2. Medium site: here is where it’s a bit of a toss-up because in this range WordPress might be okay, and Drupal starts to be more competitive. I’d still tend to lean toward WP but that’s because I’m very comfortable extending WP with plugins and using ACF to add the fielding and custom content options that make it seem a lot more like Drupal. With a medium complexity and size you have to start looking at specific plugins and modules and features and asking which system fits the specific site being built.
  3. Large, complex site: no question in my mind that when already have more complexity in your site, then the complexity of Drupal starts to make sense. The time required to get up and running, is acceptable because you would have to spend that time in WordPress anyway given all the functionality you might need to build up. A key example of this is when you need advanced roles/permissions. Drupal generally has better support for this (though WP has plugins that add more support in this area).

A principle I now live by is to use WordPress whenever possible. Meaning only go to Drupal, or another solution including a PHP framework or custom platform like Moodle/Magento if WordPress really seems like a poor fit. And I find increasingly that is a rare situation. In fact I’m working on a site right now where the lead build team said absolutely no way we could build this in WP, it’s too big, too complex, needs too many roles and access handling, security features, etc., but I’m not really convinced that was true. Often I believe that Drupal builders make the presumption that only Drupal has various features, when in fact WP has them perhaps implemented in a different way.

Best Drupal Feature

In my mind without question Drupal is a leader if “Fielding” or custom content type development. This is where you need custom content such as a real estate listing, and you can build your own content type and add the various fields such as bedrooms, baths etc. It’s like being able to develop your own custom application inside the Drupal admin. Other CMS systems of course have some equivalent feature, WP now has custom content types in the core but it doesn’t have fielding in the core. So fielding is a key feature because in almost any significant site your main goal is to store various types of content. And being able to do that with “fields” rather than building up pages with text alone is crucial. Drupal handles this in a powerful way. And fielding doesn’t stop at making the fields, there is also display handling so you can dictate how your fields display. For many situations, you can make your custom content types and your fields in the admin, and configure the display, and never need to do any custom coding to have a function system to add/edit/delete custom content and display it.

Best WordPress Feature

Is simplicity and everything working and looking good a “feature”. It’s not as easy here to pick something that stands out and maybe that’s because WordPress is less about “powerful features” and more about a holistic system that is balanced and works well in every aspect. You might complain about lack of a feature in some areas, but you will rarely complain about something not working or not being well designed. Back to the point… best WP feature in my book is the drag/drop widget handling and the sidebar system. This makes adding widgets really easy and when you’re building themes or doing more extensive customizing there is enough power under the hood to extend this system and create whatever sidebars you want. It’s definitely much friendlier to use than the Drupal equivalent which is either Blocks Management or Context. And the fact that Drupal has Context, which is basically a more advanced way of handling Blocks showcases that the core blocks system is not very friendly to use.

 

 

WordPress Automatic Blogging Plugin

WordPress is the undisputed ruler of blogging software. It makes writing blog posts fast, easy, fun… wait is this a WP love-in or a blog post? I’m too tired to write a good blog post and I definitely don’t want to spend valuable minutes optimizing the SEO or categorizing it. What’s the solution? Don’t blog and fail to meet content goals and develop a strong search ranking mixed with social credibility? No no no! There is a better way care of smart marketing meets digital innovation. It’s called Automatic Blogging.

Great writing has it’s place, quick rants have their place too, carefully crafted blah blah… sometimes you just need relevant information posted quickly. Like today when I found and started using the WooCommerce Teams plugin, I would have loved it if my website was smart enough to realize I’d installed a new plugin, that I like it, and went ahead and crafted a post about it.

 

GoldHat Launches in Germany

In October GoldHat’s focus will shift to Germany as the Vancouver based programming and digital marketing group aims to sieze key contracts in 2 of the nations most prominent districts.

GoldHat has long held a presence in Germany thanks to work in the region by GoldHat’s founder Joel Milne prior to starting the firm in 2009. Joel was involved in several key projects involving German investment banking and helped Germans gain key research information to help in setting up Canadian bases in Canada during 2006-2008. This work was done in partnership with the Kelowna Economic Development Commission (EDC) and the Community Future Development Corporation (CFDC).

“Many of my best clients in the early days as a developer were German Canadian’s who appreciated my German-like diligence and precision. We shared a culture in a sense despite a different background there was a common understanding of how work should be done and what service means when you respect your work enough to do it not well enough to be paid, but when you do it well enough to be proud of it”

- Joel Milne responding to a question by a Boston reporter about his early days as an entrepreneur.

GoldHat’s business in Germany will be fully localized with complete language and customs training for remote staff members serving the region. In addition to hiring German-speaking staff members GoldHat Group will be providing training to existing staff who wish to learn the German language.

One of GoldHat’s main focus points during the initial launch of service in Germany will be website localization and translation. GoldHat Group will provide a range of services to help German firms ensure they are using both their primary German language and secondary English languages effectively in their digital marketing programs.

VeganServer WordPress Plugin

When working toward launching a vegan cafe (VeganCafe.ca) one of the first things to come to mind (being a geek) is “what software will I use”. And knowing from previous experience that some of the big titles in food management are costly, I wondered if we could could find or build something that would get the job done.

We needed an online menu, but also a lot more.  Like online ordering from the menu. Delivery options, eCommerce integration. Nnutritional analysis and costing information, purchasing lists. Food inventory management. A full “ERP-style” approach to food management. And though certainly there were plenty of existing food and drink WordPress plugins several of which we tested out on our restaurant demo sites, none did it all and few worked together in any meaningful way. Most were one-shot fixes for a single issue, such as a nutritional analysis plugin where you had to enter the values manually. That’s not going to save us hours and give our vegan cafe a technological advantage!

VeganServer is our invention to give vegan food companies a user-friendly, effective and powerful food management application built into the WordPress software many are already familiar with. You can see an example of how it creates stylish recipe displays here at http://vegancafe.ca/recipes/greek-pizza/ and learn more about the plugin itself at http://vegancafe.ca/vserver-wordpress-plugin.

We are currently beta testing VeganServer and working on tweaks to the costing system and some of the other extensions. It’s already useful for recipe display and menu display, and we look forward to having a number of vegan food recipe sites and vegan restaurants trying out those features during beta testing.

David Coles Video on Unleashing of Human Compassion to Save Life on Earth

 

A few paraphrased noted quoted from the video:

(In the treatment of animals) we get to see the true nature of the human being, how their mind works.

We’ve always been cruel, for us to evolve we have to face that reality first, we have to really face it.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge an Example of Confused Intentions

pamela-anderson-ice-bucket

Pamela Anderson on ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The popularity of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge shows us that people are willing to take action to support what they feel is a good cause. As long as that action only requires a few minutes of time. And as long as it is socially acceptable action that paints themselves in a positive light.

Does Caring for Humans Conflict with Caring for Animals?

It would be cynical to say that the people who take the Ice Bucket Challenge don’t care about animals. Many of them probably do care, in some way. But on this day, when they take that challenge, their heart and mind are not in the place of animal caring. Their focus has been shifted by ALS, an organization that uses animal testing to inflict pain upon defenceless beings. And the real challenge is not whether you can accept having ice dumped on your head, but whether you can make a lifetime commitment to fight cruelty to animals in all it’s forms regardless of false justifications.

Is Animal Testing ever Justified?

The argument from the pro-ALS researchers is predictable… a little suffering for the animals, great gains for the suffering of humans with ALS. What about your concern for human beings? Would you do nothing to help the sick? The logic is simplistic, you’re either supportive of animal testing or you care more about animals than humans with a tragic illness. They’ll paint you are misguided at best, uncaring and anti-social at worst. As if it is not possible to have compassion for animals and humans alike.

the real challenge is not whether you can accept having ice dumped on your head, but whether you can make a lifetime commitment to fight cruelty to animals in all it’s forms regardless of false justifications

Health Doesn’t Require Suffering for Others

We would do well to remember that the hope of a cure for any disease is exactly that, a HOPE. Prevention is always a better option, though it frequently requires much more work. If the people taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge were to discover that ALS is caused in part by toxins in the environment, would they be willing to sacrifice part of their lifestyle, part of their consumerism every day for the rest of their lives to reduce the number of ALS and other neurological disease cases? Would they lobby for legal reforms against the big lobby industries? Would they fight the pharma industries that sure to benefit from INCREASES in disease cases including ALS?

Most diseases can be prevented. Health is a blessing given to every human being. Don’t let anyone talk you out of being healthy or making you belief health requires expensive patented pills or medical research backed cures. And definitely don’t let them convince you that our selfish desire to regain human health after we lose it, is worth us losing our humanity by inflicting pain on a defenceless, enslaved animal.

Economics of Animal Testing

So many people have a financial vested interest in people being sick that it is not cynicism or conspiracy theory to say that health-conscious initiatives have taken a back-seat to sickness-conscious initiatives. We don’t see people gathering around initiatives to eat more veggies, despite all the obvious and undisputed health benefits of doing so. Where is the big push to do something in support of getting inactive people to be a little more active, thus reducing their odds of contracting the many diseases associated with obesity?

For information on the economics of animal testing and alternatives to animal testing visit http://www.altex.ch

We Owe ALS Sufferers Respect for their Humanity

I’d like to believe that most ALS sufferers and their families would choose NOT to participate in an animal experiment even if it had the possibility of providing them with a cure for the disease that has impacted their lives. After all they are human beings, capable of great compassion and respect for life. Isn’t it greatly disrespectful of us to presume they would be so callous that they would inflict torture on innocent animals just for the potential promise of a treatment that would benefit themselves? I don’t think that way about ALS sufferers, or people with cancer or any other painful disease. I wish them all to have good care, and I share their hope for improved treatments. And I respect them enough to say that most would not want to inflict pain on others because of the pain they suffer.

Which WordPress Plugins Can’t We Live Without?

At GoldHat we run many different sites and there are certain plugins that we love to use across multiple sites and consider must-haves. Topping that list is WordPress SEO by Yoast. Whenever I work in Drupal or Concrete5 on content I immediately miss WP SEO by Yoast. Without it, SEO takes WORK! Can’t say enough good things about having immediate feedback on your content optimization.

  1. WordPress SEO by Yoast. Provides search optimization ratings for posts and helps focus your SEO work while editing.
  2. Clicky by Yoast. Integrates Clicky analytics, an alternative to Google Analytics that we started using.
  3. Quick Adsense. Integrates Google Adsense.

 

Food and Drink Menu Plugin Review

Plugin Site/Docs: http://themeofthecrop.com/docs/food-and-drink-menu

WP Plugin Directory: https://wordpress.org/plugins/food-and-drink-menu

Example Live Restaurant Menu: http://thewayfarernyc.com/menu/dinner

First Impression of the Food and Drink Menu Plugin

This is the first time I’ve found a restaurant menu plugin with a live restaurant example site though I’m sure others have live sites also. I like the example, so this looks promising. After install I’m seeing 2 tabs in the WP admin, they are Menus and Menu Items. Both appear to be custom post types which is interesting because this means full support for multiple menus, something lacking in most plugins in this category.

Adding Food and Drink Plugin Menu Items

Adding menu items is easy. Featured images are used as the item image. There is an option to tag the menu section which is a different approach to dividing sections than most menu plugins. As with FoodList Menu Plugin this Food and Drink plugin provides a shortcode for every menu item which could be useful.

Displaying Menus from Food and Drink Plugin

The menus are added as custom posts. There is no example menu provided which might be nice as a reference. Especially because the add menu page has a rather cryptic Menu Layout section which I’m staring at and trying to figure out. Ahaaa after a little playing with it I’ve figured it out. It provides the option to add menu sections to 2 different columns. It’s kind of a counter-intuitive interface that needs some rethinking. Anyway moving on, once I click publish the menu is created and a shortcode is generated and provided which I can then paste into any page.

Presentation Quality of the Food and Drink Plugin

This plugin gets the highest marks for presentation in this category. Out of the box the styling already looks quite good and it has the 2-column option which I realize now is quite important to creating a menu that looks similar to a printed menu.

Bottom Line on the Food and Drink Plugin

Food and Drink plugin is deserving of 4-stars, possibly 5. It is one of the best 2 I’ve reviewed in this category alongside FoodList. It will take more consideration to really determine which of the two we would generally recommend. I’m leaning right now toward Food and Drink because it is in some ways faster to setup because it uses tags for menu sections, plus it tends to look better formatted by default without adding CSS.

 

Restaurant Menu Manager Plugin Review

Plugin Site: http://sabza.org/restaurant-menu-manager-plugin-wordpress

WP Plugin Directory: https://wordpress.org/plugins/restaurant-menu-manager

First Impression of the Restaurant Menu Manager Plugin

The Restaurant Menu Manager Plugin has several jQuery display options includes tabs which is interesting. In the 3 plugins I looked at earlier in this category none of them paid much attention to the theme layer, templating or presentation. Which I felt was an oversight because traditionally restaurant menu’s are carefully structured and designed and we should have some decent visual presentation out of the box without requiring additional theming.

My concern looking at the tabbed displays is that I’m not sure they fit what the way I would normally want a menu to be arranged.

This plugin refers to “menu items” as “menu entries” a variation in language I have not seen in the other plugins. I think I would prefer sticking to “items” but it’s not a major issue. Another small issue is we have some long named subtabs on install such as “All Restaurant Menu Entries”. Surely that could just be “All Menu Entries”? Again I’d prefer “All Menu Items”.

Adding Menu Items

Like most plugins in this category adding menu items is simple and done through a custom post type. Restaurant Menu Manager provides tagging for it’s menu items. No specific field for image(s) so I’ve tried adding a Featured Image to see if that will show up on the menu.

Menu Sections and Types

Restaurant Menu Manager Plugin provides “menu types” which is a custom taxonomy. This can be used to create menu sections. It does not however support multiple menus, as in entirely different menus that can be displayed separately. That an aspect of the FoodList Plugin reviewed earlier that keeps it ahead of this one at least in terms of structure.

The menu can be added to a page through a simple shortcode.

Menu Presentation with Restaurant Menu Manager Plugin

jQuery tabs and accordion display are available both using the provided shortcode with an optional display parameter. As the only plugin I’ve seen so far in this category that really provides different and unique display options I credit the developer for thinking about that. These options won’t work in every situation but that’s exactly why it’s nice to have multiple options because certainly with other menu plugins adding accordion or tab display could be fairly difficult, at least requiring a custom template.

Bottom Line on the Restaurant Menu Manager Plugin

I like this plugin it’s ranking around 2nd so far out of the 4 I’ve reviewed. It does not topple FoodList from top spot despite getting higher marks for presentation. Worth a look still and I’d say if you like the idea of jQuery tabs or accordion display it might be the right fit for your site. I’d give it 3-stars though I’m leaning toward 4.

 

 

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Restaurant WordPress Plugin

First off full credit to the plugin developer for grabbing a great name. I hope they use this “namespace” to create something worthy of such a generic name.

Restaurant Plugin Site: http://themehybrid.com/plugins/restaurant

First Impression of the Restaurant Plugin

From the plugin description I can see this will take a simpler approach compared to the FoodList plugin I just finished reviewing. After install I see a single tab in the WP admin titled “Restaurant”. It has 4 subtabs. I like this approach, keeping the WP main menu uncluttered.

The Restaurant Plugin makes a custom post type “restaurant item” and a custom taxonomy “restaurant tag”.

Adding Menu Items

Adding items to the restaurant plugin menu is easy enough because each menu item is a custom post type. It only requires a name, and you can add a price. I’m not seeing an option to add an image unless the featured image will display on the menu, which I’ll try out.

Displaying the Menu

Unlike other menu plugins Restaurant Plugin does not create a shortcode for the menu display. Instead it automatically creates a url such as example.com/menu. This approach seems poor on multiple levels. First I can probably safely guess this means I can only make 1 menu? Secondly unless I rig up some sort of filtering or htaccess solution I’m stuck with the menu at the assigned URL. Certainly a non-developer would be stuck in this sense.

So far I cannot get my menu items to display on the menu at the assigned URL despite having given them all the options… I must be missing something.

Bottom Line on the Restaurant Menu Plugin

I wasn’t able to get the menu actually displaying and given the limited functionality of the plugin I’ve abandoned the effort. It looks like a fairly new effort and I wish the developers the best of luck in moving it forward. For now it gets a 2-star review from me and definitely it’s not the way to go in this category given the many more functional options available.