As part of the short “What is” series I have decided to demystify what is a CMS or Content Management System.

There are dozens of CMS’s on the market with each having its own strengths and weaknesses.  Lets caveat this article.  I don’t intend to be unbiased!  We are WordPress experts and have spent many years developing customised solutions based on the WordPress platform for the education market.  We went through a number of scenarios testing Joomla, DotNetNuke, Drupal, Expression Engine, Radiant, TextPattern and we even went down the route of looking at making our own CodeIgniter based CMS after playing with Fuel.  Each time we deviated and tested a new system we always ended up coming back to WordPress for its end user ease of use, extensible development architecture (OK so its not the best architecture out there but it is functional, scale-able and we have not found any use case that cannot be easily created within its ecosystem), worldwide developer and support network and the raft of tutorials and plugins available.

Popularity and Ease of Use

There are a number of reasons why we choose WordPress as the foundation of our product.

  1. WordPress has been designed to be simple and easy to use for end users (Source: https://wordpress.org/about/philosophy/)
    1. As a developer we always have to remind ourselves that we are developing systems for end users.  If they need a degree in programming to understand what we have done then we have got it wrong.  As a developer I loved the CodeIgniter framework and Joomla architecture is easy to develop but as end user system they are just too complicated.
  2. WordPress is great for developers.  The platform provides filters and hooks to allow developers to extend the platform. If you can imagine and describe a solution you need to make your life better then we can program it for you.  10 years into developing with WordPress and as yet there is nothing we have found that cannot be accomplished.
  3. WordPress data is transferrable.  This week alone we have transferred a number of WordPress sites from third parties onto our hosting platform.  During the transfer we have upgrade the sites to the latest WordPress framework and cleaned out redundant plugins.  Depending on what features or data you store the flexibility of WordPress can make compliance with GDPR data portability regulations very easy.
  4. Don’t take our word for it.  WordPress powers over 33.8% of websites currently online with an upward trend (source: https://w3techs.com/technologies/details/cm-wordpress/all/all)
  5. WordPress integrates seamlessly with our server architecture and hosting platform.  It is highly scalable and integrates with all our security infrastructure.
  6.  WordPress fits into our mantra of Start now, Get Perfect Later.  By that we mean there is a flavour of WordPress to suit every budget from free through to completely custom.  If you need your school to have a new website you can be up and running with WordPress in under 5mins.  (source: https://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress#Famous_5-Minute_Installation).  Or find a managed provider who will set it up and look after the framework and plugin updates for you.  For this you will pay a monthly subscription (SaaS) but you can be up and running and secure in minutes.  All that is left is for you to pick a free theme and get customising and adding content.  When you need bespoke features or specific functionality for your school website our iTCHYROBOT platf0rm may be just what you need.  It is packed with primary school and Multi Academy Trust Features and reports that can be tailored to your exact needs.  Checkout our mini portal website for more information https://www.itchyrobot.co.uk/web-platform/

Just because you can doesn’t mean you have too?

All to often I hear detractors and trolls of WordPress complain about plugins and security.  One key problem with open source platforms that have extensible architectures is that they attract coders of all levels and end users who install a myriad of plugins without undertaking due diligence and security validation.

Plugins are great and allow non-technical users to quickly add new functionality to their website.  That is the upside.  The downside is that end users are often not best placed to review the code, security and quality of a plugin.  Not all plugins are made equal!  This is not a WordPress specific problem.  It is just exaggerated by the overall popularity of WordPress.  All the other CMS systems have holes that are reported on a regular basis.  For example Joomla CVS exploits list;

https://www.cvedetails.com/vulnerability-list/vendor_id-3496/product_id-16499/Joomla-Joomla-.html

We use a very slim subset of the plugin eco-system.  Approximately 4 plugins and with all of these we have conducted detailed reviews and have a business relationship with the associated companies.

The rest of our platform is created here in the UK by a dedicated team of professional software engineers.

Roles and Permissions

WordPress comes with a set of roles configured to control access to features.

  • Administrator – Has access to all administrative options and features.
  • Editor – Can write, edit, and publish posts, even those written by other users. Traditionally, editors review and schedule posts submitted by Contributors.
  • Author – Can write, edit, and publish their own posts.
  • Contributor – Can write and edit their own posts, but cannot publish them. Instead, they need to submit their posts for review by an Editor.
  • Subscriber – Has basic functionality such as changing their profile and leaving comments. Some plugins may grant this role special permissions.

You can read more about these here https://codex.wordpress.org/Roles_and_Capabilities.

Our iTCHYROBOT Schools Platform customises the inbuilt roles to reflect school needs.

  • Pupils
  • Teachers
  • School Admins 

Benefits of Using a Content Management System

Your school website is a central hub for managing your digital presence.  You content management system allows you to publish images, documents, policies and news all without the need for programmers or technical computer skills.

Generating New Content

Our iTCHYROBOT Schools Platform provides a selection of templates that control page layouts to help you generate interesting new pages of content for your visitors without the necessity to understand website programming/scripting languages such as HTML, JavaScript or Cascading Style Sheets.

Manage Documents

The iTCHYROBOT Schools Platform has a number of focused areas to help you manage specialist information such as Policies, Ofsted Content and Compliance, Parents Evening Bookings through to documents for governors.

Accessible from anywhere

Your WordPress CMS is accessible from anywhere on any device meaning that when an event or something of interest is taking place your can quickly get the message out to our stakeholders. Keeping your website up to date has benefits beyond simply informing your visitors about the exciting activities within your school.  Google (and other search engines ;-)) reward those who publish high quality content.

Instant content updates

The management of your website from images, policies, pages to menus is all done in real-time.  There is no need to wait around for web developers or site administrators.  As long as you have reasonable IT skills and can use programmes such as Microsoft Work you will be able to easily publish new content on your website.

Don’t be scared to get in and try things.  If it doesn’t work WordPress has an excellent revisions feature.  Just like Undo in Word you can roll back your changes to a previous point in time and try again.  If that fails we offer FREE Drop in Session at our office.  During these you have access to the full iTCHYROBOT team.  If you want to find out more about editing images you can speak to our designers and we can demonstrate the tools we use and also introduce you to excellent free resources online that will make your life easier.  If you want marketing support or help laying out pages differently then we have experts in those fields who can work through your questions.

Integrations (More than just a website)

No one product or tool can do everything and partnerships are key to bring the best features to our schools.  Over the last few years we have integrated SIMS and ScholarPack into our system to speed up the creation of parent accounts and parents evening bookings.

By having these systems integrated your school can import its data with ease to help get you making the most out of all the available features.

So what’s next

We are always updating and innovating.  The next features we are looking at are;

  1. Parents Dashboard and Integrated Communication features
  2. Publishing End of year reports to parents
  3. Enhance the survey tool question types available
  4.  Integrate Arbor MIS

Got a feature you would like to see in the platform.  Get in touch and let our team know.