We had a great discussion about WordPress during last week’s faculty panel. Mike Springborn discussed his experience with ATS’ recent WordPress pilot, Andy Jones highlighted some WordPress sites affiliated with UC Davis, including The Wheel, Andy’s Classes, and Jonathan Eisen’s Lab, and WordPress-guru Simon Dvorak spoke to the technical capabilities of WordPress.
For those who don’t know, WordPress is an open source content management system. It is often used for blogging, but is also a popular choice for content-sharing websites. As Dr. Andy put it, “WordPress provides a means of sharing content while dramatically lowering the bar on the user’s need to understand programming.” Put another way, WordPress makes it easy for the laymen to edit and add content (my work here on the Wheel is proof of that).
There are many reasons why a faculty member might want a WordPress site; here are a few that came up in the meeting:
- WordPress themes make it easy to update the look of your site without changing the content, and there are a wide variety of themes (including a magazine style).
- WordPress is mobile-friendly – it automatically changes the layout when a student loads your site on a tablet or a phone.
- There is an export feature, so if you change domains you do not lose your content.
- You can take advantage of the social media energy on campus (e.g., students can engage with each other via Twitter and you can easily import the feed to your class website).
- Publishing to a public page allows you to share your course information and research with a wider community.
While ATS is interested in assisting faculty members who choose to develop personal websites, there are two issues that need to be worked out: (1) technical support (we only have so many staff members), and (2) hosting (we only have so much storage space). ATS is currently looking at the results of the WordPress pilot and considering the extent to which we can offer these services to faculty. In the mean time, if you are looking for technical support, there are considerable resources available online (e.g., lynda.com, wordpress.org/support) or you can contact ATS.
There are also several hosting options:
- You can use wordpress.com for free, but this may involve advertisements.
- You can pay wordpress.com to host an advertisement-free site.
- You can pay a hosting company like BlueHost (approximately $5/month).
- Your department can pay to host multiple faculty sites.
You also may be able to recruit a talented undergraduate student (perhaps someone in the Technocultural Studies Program) to help you set up your site. ATS used to have interns to do this sort of thing, and it may be something we offer in the future. If you choose to recruit outside help for setting up your site, it’s a good idea to have another website in mind that has the look you want.
If you have questions, please leave a comment or email us!