Every site either needs to be built page by page from scratch or use a Content Management System (CMS) to allow site owners to add words and pictures and publish items on the site without worrying about design and coding.

The new NorfolkParishes project uses a CMS called WordPress. It is an open source CMS that is used by millions of sites around the world. It is very modern and is being constantly improved and updated.  The latest evolutionary change came in February 2011.

It is fairly easy to use and because there are so many other people using it there are lots of websites containing advice, tips and training.

Everything on the site is controlled through your web-browser so there is no need to install any new software.

Using WordPress will however be different from the existing system you use for your council website. Over these next few posts* we’ll explain some of those differences.

*That is point one – with WordPress you have both posts and pages. More later.

Benefits of WordPress

There are many advantages that WordPress has over your previous system.

More up-to-date

WordPress is constantly improving. There are hundreds of volunteers around the world giving their time to make the system better and easier to use. They all use the system themselves and when they see a way to improve it they don’t complain, they write the fix. Others test it and if it is good it comes out in the next release.  There tends to be a release every three to four months. Don’t worry about a constant change being a problem for you. The changes are very incremental and it is not starting afresh on a learning curve each time.

Better Google Performance

About 90% of UK web searches use Google. Most people navigate the web via search engines. It is difficult to over-estimate the importance of being Google friendly with your website.

According to Google Consultants, Google relies on three key elements:

  • Visibility
  • Content
  • Reputation

WordPress is designed to make your content (words and pictures) very easy for Google to see. So you need to write the correct content, which will basically involve using your town or parish name frequently, and write it often -the new system will make that easier. If you do that then other people will link to your site increasing it’s reputation at Google. Success.

Easy to update

Add New Post

The admin side of WordPress is designed to be simple and clear to use.  The screenshot is from just before I wrote these words.  There are a few buttons to format your text and add pictures, and a great big publish button which quite simply makes your content visible on the site.  Job done.  There is more detail in the Training section of this site.


You should find WordPress more flexible than the previous system. The menu system is can be customised, the right hand column containing widgets can include a wide variety of elements limited by what you can find.

RSS Feeds

In the Sample site you’ll notice that we import local Norfolk news from the BBC’s site using a technology called RSS.  This means that whenever the BBC change their headlines, they are changed on our site too without any work from us.

It works in the other direction too.  Wordpress will output RSS feeds for your site so that other people’s sites can re-publish the information that you produce, for example, events in the town.

Email subscriptions

Some people use RSS feeds to check when a site has been updated but email is a far more common way for people to get notified of updates. As a standard every council website will allow visitors to sign up for email updates.  Those who do sign-up will get emailed whenever you add extra information on your site.


Millions of sites use WordPress. That means there are millions of people you can ask for advice.  Wordpress themselves offer how to pages and support forums, and an experienced WordPress user is unlikely to be far away.


The reason for many of the advantages above is that WordPress is open source. And ultimately that means you can export your site and reinstall it elsewhere within an hour. You can choose where to host it, how to design it, and what to add to it.  You are in control.

Posts vs Pages and the Sidebar

There are three elements to your WordPress site.  Posts, pages and the Sidebar.


You might find posts and pages slightly confusing at first. For example this page is a post

It looks just like a page, but it is different in that we can also display posts as part of other pages. For example this news post also appears on the home page of the site because our home pages have been set up to show a list of news posts.

Generally it is a good idea to use posts for content that will date, like news, or of which part may change, like Councillors. On your site each of your councillors will have a short post and clicking the Councillors item in the menu will list each of those.

Why is this a good idea? It allows you and other sites to link more directly to information. For example you might want to say in a news post that Cllr Smith is leading a project, and now you can link directly to their information rather than a page on which they are one small part. Another example might be the local paper wanting to provide a link to the news announcement you posted on the site about the Fair Trade week being organised.


Some content doesn’t change and it is handy to be able to publish that as a page.  A page will have a shorter web address and is easier to create as a menu option. That’s why in our Sample site we’ve created a Ward Map page.  More about how we did that later.


The Sidebar sits on all pages and posts.  It is a place to put things your visitors might find interesting even if it isn’t the main reason for their visit. This section is very flexible.  It consists of a series of “widgets”. Each widget contains a different piece of information. You can change the content and the order of any widget.