Power and Customizability: WordPress and Omeka

This week’s focus is on generating software—essentially, the tools to build your own website so you can more easily share your knowledge of history. The knowledge of how to cheaply and easily make a website for a project is invaluable to modern historians no matter what work they’re doing, and that is what these two services offer.

This week’s two resources are WordPress and Omeka.

WordPress

I’ve used WordPress many times, and found it both easy and powerful as a tool. I have more familiarity with WordPress.org, however, which allows you to buy server space from any web hosting site you desire and upload a copy of wordpress onto it. WordPress is so popular for amateur websites that many hosting companies offer one-click installs of a wordpress site.

The second method of using wordpress, which is a little more controlled, is by using a WordPress.com account. That is what we’ll be starting with.

So we’ve registered a site. The first order of business is choosing a theme. Themes are a site’s skin. There’s a bunch of free ones, but I would strongly urge anyone looking for a theme to only use themes found on the wordpress.org site—downloading random themes opens you up to malignant code and hacking galore. Plugins, which we’ll discuss later, run by the same idea.

So now we have a WordPress.com site with a theme! Time to add a blog post.

Here we see a new blog post with a title. Time to customize it.

The really neat thing about WordPress is how damn easy it is to make something that looks great. Not every website building software has that functionality, trust me on that. Most require heavy customization and knowledge of css and html to get looking anything like professional—Wordpress in all its forms has that functionality right out the box.

There are two editors for WordPress: Visual and HTML/Text. HTML/Text lets you edit the html of the post inline. Here I’ve put simple header 1 tags and italics around the words. If you know HTML that functionality can become extremely useful, and cool. Youtube embed codes are a good example of how to use HTML/Text responsibly.

And here’s the result of my html edits!

One of WordPresses neatest features is Categories. These are good because you use them to group posts, and you can on paid wordpress and wordpress.org installations turn that into easy menus for your blog or website.

Here’s how you add a category. I added one called Junk.

You can also add tags, to make tag clouds and to help your audience find other posts or pages easily. They’re very easy to add, just type them in and press enter.

You can set a featured image, which will appear as the thumbnail of the post, including in Google.

Now we’ve added a featured image!

Here’s some of the formats you can make your post. These formats are also customizable if you have a paid wordpress.com account or a wordpress.org build.

Here’s some more options to customize!

Now to add some text and a picture. I used good old Lorem Ipsum for text. One of the neat functionalities of WordPress is the ease with which it lets you find beautiful photos to use, and how customizable adding those photos is.

Here’s how it looks to search public photos from the free photo library.

By default, the image will stick itself in not floating and off to the left. This can be changed to centered:

Or floating/text-wrapped to the right or left.

Now it’s publishable by clicking the big blue button!

Another part of WordPress that pushes it head and shoulders above its competitors is how SEO-friendly it is, making your site really easy to find on Google.

Even the free plan has tons of customizable tidbits under settings.

The other wonderful thing about WordPress are its plugins. Plugins increase functionality a hundred percent. Virtually anything is possible with them. There’s tens of thousands and if you want it, someone has probably made a plugin for it.

The Result

Take a look at the blog I just created here! That’s an example of some of the functionality and use of WordPress.

Omeka

For historians, a version of website automation has been created called Omeka.net. For a historian’s needs, Omeka meets them nicely, with a sleek interface and a lot of ability to make a useful online exhibit. That said, Omeka does not have the flexibility of WordPress, and I personally will continue using WordPress, even for my history sites.

Most of Omeka’s functions are locked behind a pay wall, but I did start a free trial to see what it’s all about.

Just like on WordPress, I built us an Omeka domain. There were a few limited plugins, but none that really jumped out at me as being worth playing around with.

Adding objects to create an exhibit is extremely fluid and easy.

First I added a collection.

Then I added an object to the collection. The process was easy and took only a minute’s time in total.

This wordpress isn’t allowing me to add more screenshots, so I’ll have to allow you guys to follow my verbal instructions! Filling in the info to add an item is easy enough, with most of the possibiliites clearly labeled and described. There was a slight functionality problem in that the tabs at the top to get to different parts of the exhibit item addition did not grab my eye, and I ended up publishing the item before putting the item in, since that was in a separate tab.

Omeka has a lot less sleekness and global use than WordPress. It does not have much out-of-the-box flexibility, whereas WordPress has loads.

Here, however, is the end product.

The Result

Take a look at the exhibit I just created here!

Concluding Thoughts

  • Which of the two tools do you find easiest and most user-friendly?
  • How do you feel about your wordpress blogging career so far?
  • Do you see merits to Omeka and what it can do for a historian that are unique to us, or do you agree with me that WordPress functionality could more easily be moulded into that space?

 

 

2 Replies to “Power and Customizability: WordPress and Omeka”

  1. While I’ll admit I don’t think I’ve played around with either nearly enough to get a full accounting of their benefits, I don’t currently see how there’s anything on on Omeka which can’t be done better with WordPress. The exhibit system for grouping objects seems like something the benefits of which could be replicated easily enough using tags on WordPress, with the added benefit that one piece can have multiple tags, whereas I’m not clear on whether an object on Omeka can be in multiple exhibits; the ability to emphasize interconnectedness seems to make WordPress, not Omeka, the better tool for historians. Moreover, many websites use tag based content organization schemes, so one would anticipate that WordPress would take much less time for users to familiarize themselves with, whether they are writers or readers.

  2. Do you see merits to Omeka and what it can do for a historian that are unique to us, or do you agree with me that WordPress functionality could more easily be moulded into that space?

    From what we read about Omeka and from your example, it looks like Omeka is a really good option for anyone who needs to clearly organize a lot of visuals. What comes to mind immediately is archival work, though I’m sure anywhere charged with keeping and organizing materials would be glad to have this tool. I’ve seen this tool (or a similar tool) used by the museums where I’ve interned.

    What I really appreciate about this tool is the system of tagging and just how many ways there are to organize the same data in digital space. One of the shortcomings of digital filing of this sort I’ve seen before is that one person would set up a profile for an object and the next person wouldn’t be able to search for the material because there was no good tagging system in place. This does, and it also has good chronological organization. What I mean to say is, for what it’s supposed to do, I think it’s fantastic.

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