For years now, WordPress has been known as the top blogging platform out there. Just perfect for people who want to share their thoughts, articles, commentaries, or whatever else text-based content they have in store.
Sounds just about right, doesn’t it?
But what if you need WordPress to be the base of something a little bit more advanced?
More importantly, what if you have a client that has some non-text content in plan and wants to use WordPress to manage it all? How do you rise up to the challenge? Can you just build a blog normally and consider it a job well done?
Well, not quite, so let’s just go head first into this and go over each of the most popular kinds of non-text content individually.
Video is undoubtedly the biggest non-text content online.
And the reason is simple, people love videos because they are a lot easier to grasp than text as a vehicle to convey information, plus they are much more enjoyable.
Since YouTube is the top video site out there, treating it as a benchmark when it comes to design and layout is a wise thing to do.
For example, the current video dimensions at YouTube are either 640 x 389 pixels (small player) or 1280 x 750 pixels (large player). Even though they might seem a bit odd, I would actually advise going with similar dimensions on your video blog as well.
The thing with YouTube is that every design-related decision they make is underlined by months of research and data mining. If they went with 1280 or 640 then it’s surely for a reason. Mimicking them is therefore a good starting point.
To make your design video-friendly, you can either get a ready-made theme built specifically for video blogs, or have one designed from the ground up. You can also adjust one of the Genesis child themes that Alyona mentioned a couple of months ago.
Now, let’s talk some technical aspects of hosting video content. There are two main routes you can take here:
- Send the video to YouTube and then embed it on your blog.
- Host the video yourself from start to finish.
Both have their pros and cons. The main downside of going with YouTube is that you don’t have much control over your video and YouTube can take it down at any point in time if they consider it inappropriate. On the other hand, you don’t have to care about video bandwidth and your video is instantly available across the world.
The main benefit of hosting the videos yourself is the complete control over your content. There’s no one who can ban you or use your video in any other way for their own purposes. The downside is that it’s always a more expensive operation. First of all, hosting the video on your standard hosting account (where your blog is hosted) will kill your bandwidth instantly, so you need a custom solution like Wistia.
When it comes to the actual implementation and displaying videos on a WordPress site, there’s not much you have to do. If you’ve decided to work with YouTube, the easiest approach is to take the URL of the video and place it somewhere within a blog post. WordPress will then convert the link to an actual live video.
For solutions like Wistia, you get to use their custom embed codes and place them either in the Text view of your posts or inside text widgets.
The most popular method of showcasing audio content on a blog is turning it into a podcast.
Essentially, audio content doesn’t require any specific design features. The content itself doesn’t take any significant “real estate” so it can be fitted anywhere within a basic blog design.
That being said, there are three things you still need to take care of when publishing audio:
- Downloadable MP3 files
- Audio streams
Transcripts usually require a lot of work so not everyone ends up creating them, which is understandable. But the first two – MP3s and streams – should be done every time.
Downloadable media is something I will discuss in the next section, so I will skip it for now. But when it comes to hosting an audio stream, you have two main solutions: using SoundCloud or hosting the files yourself.
Again, you need a separate hosting platform for hosting audio files (just like with video). You can check Amazon EC2 for that.
For SoundCloud audio, the absolute best way is to get a plugin called SoundCloud Is Gold, which provides you with a handy shortcode and also a wide range of other features to use alongside your audio embeds.
For hosting audios yourself, I’d advise using the HTML5 jQuery Audio Player plugin. It’s easy to grasp and gives you a cool audio gallery.
Featuring downloadable media on WordPress is quite simple. You don’t need any specific design elements to make it work because every theme is downloadable-media-friendly right from the get-go.
However, we can still make things better with just a couple of tweaks here and there. Two plugins I’d like to recommend:
WordPress Download Manager. Like the name indicates, it’s a fully-fledged download manager. You can track and control all of your downloads, there’s access protection (through passwords), and you get handy shortcode embeds.
Pretty Link Lite. It’s one of the most popular plugins for tracking links and clicks. The way you’d use it here is by redirecting all download links through the plugin. You get two main benefits when doing so: (1) you get tracking stats to assess the popularity of your downloadables, and (2) you can modify your existing links through the plugin’s configuration without the need to go to every post that’s mentioning them individually.
In short, if you want the more developed download management solution, go with WordPress Download Manager. For a simpler one, go with Pretty Link Lite.
Photography and infographics
Finally, let’s end the post with photography, infographics and other forms of visual and static content.
In some ways, photos are very similar to videos. Namely, you need a design that’s a bit wider so you can display photos in an attractive form.
Also, most photo bloggers decide to go with zero-sidebars type of layouts, just to give their photos some additional space (highly recommended).
Probably the best method of hosting photo content on WordPress is to select a photo-blog theme right from the start. Such themes provide many cool features and make it really easy to create great galleries.
However, if you have a standard theme, you can still get a similar effect if you just use the right plugins.
Actually, there’s only one plugin I’d like to recommend – NextGEN Gallery. Probably the best advertisement for this thing is that it’s one of the top 10 all-time most downloaded plugins (over 10 million downloads). In short, it really is the best gallery plugin out there.
Finding the right process when working with a client
Overall, since non-text content is not as simple as standard blog posts (from a technical point of view), you need to create the right workflow and make sure that your client understands the limitations and the core technology that’s working in the background, so they don’t blame you if their video provider goes blank, for example.
Among other things, they need to know why they shouldn’t try uploading videos to the media library, or what’s your end of the deal in the project, what type of support you offer, and what to do if some element of the site stops working properly.
These things need to be set prior to signing the contract. They should be addressed either in the contract itself or in your initial proposal (probably a better solution).
To help you with that, feel free to check out one of these resources:
- For various contract templates, check out Docracy. Just input “website” in the main search field. There’s a lot of stuff there in various business categories. You can either use it right away or to tune your already existing documents.
- For web development proposal worksheets, go to Bidsketch. Apart from their main client proposal tool, they also offer a lot of insights into how to work with clients, provide them with great service, and ultimately make them happy.
So we’ve covered audio, video, downloadable media, and images as the main types of non-text content. What else would you want to see here?
And also, what’s your experience using WordPress as a CMS, and do you find your clients enjoying it just as much as you do?
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