Today we will be reviewing the WPMU.org website. Reviewing a whole website you ask? Yes, usually our reviews are of themes and plugins, however WPMU.org has so many interesting WordPress goodness in it that I am sure this will be a very interesting post for you. As our reviews are always impartial, we will not only pointing out all the great things about this WordPress resource, but also any areas where we feel it could be improved.
If you’ve been working with WordPress for some time, you will probably have come across WPMU.org in one way or another. The site was created by James Farmer. Since its creation the site has grown exponentially, and there are currently 8 core contributors who share the writing, design and development tasks.
James shared some visitor statistics a few weeks ago during a highly publicised discussion on how the Google Penguin update affected WPMU. Taking a look at these stats and a quick check at Alexa.com, it’s clear that WPMU.org is one of the most popular WordPress resource sites on the planet, making it a one of the biggest players in the whole industry revolving around WordPress.
Attempting to breakdown the vast amount of content available on WPMU.org is no easy task, however taking a look at the menu bar gives a good indication at how things are structured here.
It is clear that there is an insane amount of articles in this site, and the first 5 menu items are category views of these articles:
The site originally started out as a blog about WordPress Multisite, a product which was eventually merged into the standard WordPress installation. However there is still a healthy focus on Multisite usage and the WordPress sister project BuddyPress. This is one of the unique features of WPMU.org, as most other blogs focus directly on WordPress, somewhat neglecting the multisite functionality and BuddyPress, which are used by many developers.
The Plugins, Themes and Tutorials sections are self explanatory, and feature a constant stream of articles and reviews that are many a developer’s daily dose of WordPress learning. Here I would like to point out that WPMU.org makes very good use of RSS feeds, making it very easy for readers to subscribe to a particular category feed, rather than the whole site’s feed. This is some of those features that I feel are not exploited by many WordPress blogs. When you have this amount of content, it make a lot of sense to let those people who are just looking for, say themes, to just have theme reviews coming up in their RSS readers every day.
The posts themselves bear witness to a team of experienced writers. WPMU.org writers like Sarah Gooding and James Farmer himself are favourites of mine, while there are also many guest posts by top experts in the industry, broadening the breadth of topics that can be covered by the site. Posts tend to receive quite a number of comments and there is always a healthy discussion brewing, especially when a particularly inspired post is published. As an example, check out the post on why you should never search for free themes, which has received an unbelievable number of comments, totalling upwards of 500!
Throughout the whole site we can find a number of banners and references to wpmudev (another site owned by Incsub) which is a marketplace of plugins and themes. The wpmudev site has been recently redesigned, it’s a thoroughly exciting place and I’m really digging the new responsive design. We won’t be going into it today, but I definitely suggest you check it out, there are loads of excellent themes and plugins plus a whole team of developers providing support 24/7.
Getting back to our analysis of the content found on WPMU.org, there is also a Q&A section, where users can go ahead and ask WordPress-related questions, and have an expert from the WPMU team answer them. Going through this section, it looks like this is one of the less successful sections of WPMU.org. The number of questions is quite miserly and some of them have no answers. With the existence of places like WordPress.stackexchange.com I think WPMU.org should seriously reconsider the future of this section.
From my understanding wpmudev also offers support not only on their themes and plugins, but also on general WordPress queries, so it would be better if WPMU.org would promote this feature of wpmudev a bit more, I am sure many developers would sign up to wpmudev just for this feature. In a similar fashion, although I don’t actually use Justin Tadlock’s Hybrid theme, I am a member of his club just for the excellent WordPress support one can get there. WPMU.org have the numbers necessary to be able to do something like that or just offer it through wpmudev.
Moving on, the Showcase is another category where WPMU.org features theme and plugin reviews, most of them in the super popular list format. Definitely worth bookmarking or adding this RSS feed for keeping up with the best themes and plugins to use for your client websites.
Finally we find two other category pages, Freebies and Interviews. The Freebies section is dedicated to anything free, while the Interviews section contains highly insightful chats with plugin developers, WordPress-based service owners and the like. This is one of the sections that I keep my eyes on. The interviews are not that frequent, however there is always something to learn or get inspired from whenever a new one is published.
The last item on the main menu is Blog View. This is another unique feature to WPMU.org, and basically gives you a chronological latest-first view of all the site’s articles. The main page of the site has more of a portal look to it, with gateways to the different sections of the site as well as space dedicated to promoting Incsub products such as wpmudev, and plugins like MarketPress and Membership.
I particularly like the ‘Submit WordPress news to us’ button in the site’s sidebar. Most other WordPress resource sites do encourage guest posts, but none to my knowledge make it that easy to submit your own news item and possibly get you on your way to submitting a guest post. The email subscription box is also very nicely done, the icons beneath the subscribe form let users visually imagine the kind of content they will be receiving, and definitely make you want to sign up, in fact I’ve just signed up myself!
Overall WPMU.org is an excellent WordPress resource site that should be part of your daily reading if you are in any way connected to WordPress. It has something for everyone, and with the easy RSS category subscription, you can get only the feeds that interest you. The content is of the highest standard and all original writing, none of the rehashed posts we get on other sites.
As highlighted earlier in this post, I don’t see much use for the Q&A section in its present format, and would suggest that the WPMU.org management team remove or revisit this part of the site.
I also feel that the homepage is a bit overwhelming with all the articles available there, and I’m not sure about the idea of having such a homepage plus the ‘Blog View’ link we mentioned earlier, although statistics might prove me wrong here. I would probably prefer if the two were merged into a cleaner home page that still entices users to visit the various sections of the site. Judging by the wpmudev redesign effort, I’d say the team at Incsub definitely have the skills to refine WPMU.org further and take it to even loftier heights.
Apart from these two weaker points, WPMU.org is a vast WordPress resource and deserves a full recommendation for interesting and enriching reading. You can follow WPMU on Twitter or join them on Facebook. If you work with WordPress, you simply have to have WPMU.org in your list. So go ahead and…
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