WordPress serves as a web publishing platform and Content Management System (CMS). There are a variety of layouts and site organizational structures to choose from when setting up a WordPress site. These are known as site models.
There are three core site models: blog, static, and hybrid.
There are pros and cons to each one. Let’s look at each one.
The Static Site Model
In the old days, websites consisted of static web pages, one web page for each article. Today’s CMS platforms like WordPress offer the same static feel and structure as a design decision.
The challenge of using WordPress as a static site takes a little thinking around the whole posts verses Pages and categories verses tags content organization options. In general, most static sites will never use posts only Pages.
To create a truly static site model similar to the traditional static site structure, what I call the billboard on the web design, here are the challenges and functionality options to consider:
- The front page of the site must be set to static following the instructions in “Creating a Static Front Page” on the WordPress Codex. Go to Settings > Reading and set the front page to the Page of choice. Do not set anything for posts. Leave it blank.
- Decisions on the “static” Pages of the site must be made. They include:
- And other static, timeless content
- Pages do not have categories or tags by default. Navigation to these web pages must be set in the menus.
- All content will be in Pages, not posts.
For a small business intent on not updating their site regularly, only interested in providing basic information about their company, products, and services, this is ideal. Comments may be easily turned off on each Page, directing all inquiries to a contact form.
For a business wishing to update their site regularly, offer news, announcements, email subscriptions, and other interactivity, this is a challenging structure.
Many people believe the static site model died out a long time ago, yet it must not be overlooked as a design decision. It is perfect for resumes, portfolios and small businesses sites. If you don’t have much content, this is ideal.
The Blog Model features the content on the front page listed in reverse chronological order. To view the single post (article), click on a post title to view the single post pageview. The blog model is the default site model for most WordPress sites and WordPress Themes.
This is a traditional form for blogs. It puts the most recent content at the top where the visitor can spot it immediately. There is no need for a “What’s New” page to inform the reader of updates to your site’s content.
The blog model is the most simple form, easy to use, easy to navigate, and easy to understand. It makes sense. Put your most recent content at the top and the reader can scroll down to find older content.
Navigation is also easy. The main navigation menu draws the reader’s eye to key Pages like About and Contact, and may include categories of posts, helping them access the information they need quickly and easily, with WordPress custom menus.
If there is content that should remain at the top of the page such as a welcome, news, or important information, you may use the Sticky Post feature in WordPress to lock the post to the top of the queue.
Many find the blog model boring. It doesn’t have to be boring. Your content is what spices it up with imagery and powerful titles and words.
There are few cons against the blog model other than personal preference and artistic control. Some people want more control over where their content goes on the front page of the site, highlighting specific content and making other content fade into the background a little. The other site models add this control.
The Hybrid or Integrated Site Model
The Hybrid Site Model incorporates the static with the blog. This is also a common site model for an existing site built as static web pages or on a CMS platform that integrates WordPress into the existing system as a blog.
The Hybrid Site puts more emphasis on the customization of the front page of the site, not necessarily on the rest of the site’s pageviews. The reader is directed towards the front page of the site to begin their journey through the site, often returning to seek out new information.
The key characteristic of the Hybrid or Integrated Site Model is that the front page may feature static and post content, and a separate Page titled “Blog” contains all the post content, following the blog model. If the front page is styled well enough, a separate Blog Page is not necessary.
Instructions for setting up the hybrid structure for your site in WordPress is found in “Creating a Static Front Page” on the WordPress Codex. It involves assigning a Page as “Home” and another as “Blog.”
What happens on the Home and Blog Pages is based upon the features of the WordPress Theme you choose or design. In general, there are two options.
- Static Front Page: The traditional form features static information welcoming readers to the site on the front page, and a separate Blog link that features your latest posts in reverse chronological order.
- Hybrid or Dynamic Front Page: This form incorporates posts on the front page of the site with or without static content, and a link to the “Blog” in the menu for a listing of all the posts in reverse chronological order.
The Twenty-Eleven WordPress Theme features the Hybrid format, referred to as the dynamic or integrated front page. Once the static front page and Blog Pages are set in Reading > Front Page Displayed as, you may change the Page template for the Home Page to Showcase.
The Showcase Page template changes the look and feel of the front page of the site to incorporate the most recent and sticky posts.
- Sticky posts are featured in the slider at the top of the front pageview content section.
- The most recent published post is featured underneath in full or excerpted length.
- The next series of recently published posts appear at post titles below that.
- The sidebar may be customized to look different from the sidebar on the rest of the pageviews.
Some WordPress Themes change things up even more. With WordPress Post Formats a WordPress Theme may place posts set as a specific post format in different areas of the site’s design such as Asides placed in the sidebar outside of the general content area, or styled differently as the Twenty-Thirteen WordPress Theme does, making each post format look different.
Many CMS and Magazine styled WordPress Themes offer post placement options on the Post Edit Panel, set at the time they create the post. The user may choose to place the post in a slider, a primary, secondary, or sidebar area when published. These modular locations are typically featured only on the front page of the site.
The Hybrid Model is very popular for businesses and individuals wishing to use a magazine or highly visual front page.
For sites with highly visual content, such dynamic front pages are great fun, allowing the user to control what appears where and how, emphasizing images in sliders and primary content areas, taking advantage of feature image options, and creating a sense of energy on the front of the site.
Challenges of the Hybrid Site Model
The challenge of using such layouts and structures is that it adds work to the process of publishing. The user must remember to check the boxes for placing the posts in the modular sections of the front page or other spots within the layout. New contributors must be trained on how to publish with these extra steps, and reminded when they forget. Publishing from a mobile app or third-party app on WordPress, the Theme options for content placement may not be featured in the app, forcing the user to save the post as a draft until they access a computer to change the placement features.
Another difficult feature of hybrid or integrated models is duplicate and confusing content on the front page of the site and the Blog Page. Very few WordPress Themes have taken this into consideration with scripts that test to see if a post is on the front page of the site and removing it from view on the Blog Page.
The Blog Page tends to just be a dump of all the recently published posts in reverse chronological order with sticky posts at the top. If the sticky post feature is used to place a post in the slider, and the user has 10 posts in the slider, the first ten posts on the Blog Page will be stuck at the top. The user will have to scroll down a long ways to get to fresh content, often confusing them. It looks like the blogger hasn’t published new content in a while. Take this into consideration as you set up your site using this format.
Which Site Model to Choose
Which one works for you is up to you. It must work best for your site’s goals and the needs of your reader.
Respect your content. Create content first in order to paint around it. I look at it as building a home around your furniture, specifically the piano and pool table. If you want them in your house, make space for them. Design around them.
If you have a highly visual site with videos and images, a simple, clean, and easy-to-use layout works best, putting the emphasis on the imagery rather than the structure. The blog or hybrid models work best for that.
If you do not want to update your site, go static.
Respect for your time and energy includes looking at how much time and energy you are putting into your site before you hit publish. The more things you have to remember, the faster these things add up and become reasons to procrastinate. If you are easily overwhelmed, forgetful, and distracted, choose the most simple site model and layout structure.
Remember the front page of your site is not always the most important gateway to your site. Any page on your site maybe a gateway. Put as much energy into considering the presentation and design elements of every web page on your site.
Examine your site goals, content, and reader needs to see which site model may work best for your content and goals. If the one you are using works for you, keep it. If not, consider making a change.
If you choose to change it, consider warning your readers. If you have a steady flow of consistent users, a community and fan-base, warn them. Consider involving them in your decision, but know that most are like family members. They don’t like change and they will think that whatever you are doing is wonderful. Make the decision based upon non-emotional, goal-based information.
Remember, the site model that works best for you is one that serves your readers your content presented in the most convenient way possible.
For more information on WordPress and site models, and how WordPress manages content, see:
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