Bottom line, I use WordPress to build websites because I love it. I love using WordPress, I love learning about WordPress, I love teaching people to use WordPress.
- a mature, popular platform for publishing all types of websites (aka “Content Management System” or “CMS”)
- easy to setup, easy to learn, easy to use
- not a “design” platform, but provides several options for controlling the visual presentation of your site through “Themes”
- flexible and extendable using a large catalog of “Plugins”
“I want a business website, isn’t WordPress for blogs?”
It’s true that WordPress started as a blogging platform…10 years ago. By focusing on tools that were easy for bloggers (aka “content creators”) to use, regardless of their technical knowledge, WordPress evolved into the most popular and well known CMS (Content Management System) today. People are using WordPress to build every type of site. Small business and sites for individuals are the most common type of site running on WordPress, but non-profits, government sites, education sites, and even enterprise and large business sites are run on WordPress.
With the ability to hide and control the commenting feature, add stand-alone “pages”, and the ability to add functionality via “plugins” make WordPress a very flexible platform that is sufficient for most website needs. It also may not be perfect for your project. If you need a complex web application built for your business, WordPress probably won’t be the best choice…maybe a CMS like Joomla! or Drupal would be better. If you need help figuring that out, I may be able to help you.
“I’m not that technical, can I use WordPress?”
Anyone can use WordPress. Many agree that WordPress is the easiest of the most popular content management systems for most people to use. Even so, it may not be easy for you if you don’t have some comfort level with technology and patience for learning something new. If you want to (or have to) learn to use it, it is probably the easiest to setup and to get started publishing your content on the web. For me, it’s the obvious choice if you want to be able to make your own changes after your site is initially designed and developed. If the standard interface is overwhelming or confusing, there are even plugins that can help you simplify and focus on adding to or changing the content on your site.
“I’m on a budget…”
Because WordPress is easy for non-technical users to setup and get started, easy for developers and designers to learn, and easy for everyone to use, there are solutions for every budget. You could install it, choose a theme, and add your content yourself…or you could hire designers and developers to create a very customized web application…and everything in between. Wordpress provides the basic tools for publishing on the web, so you start out ahead of the game.
“So I can change the way my site looks?”
Yes…and…it depends. The way a WordPress website looks is controlled by something called a theme. A theme is what determines the colors, fonts, and visual layout of the pages and content. If one has CSS, HTML and PHP skills…you can change how anything looks on a WordPress site by modifying the selected theme or creating a new theme. You can choose from many themes created by a large community of designers and developers, both free and commercial (paid). Several themes build in some basic options for you like background, header image, number of columns, etc. But keep in mind, WordPress is not a platform for designing a website, it’s for managing and publishing the content (text, pictures, etc) that makes up your website. Sites and software that allow you much more control over the design and layout of your website, usually through “drag-and-drop”, but limit your functionality are Weebly, Wix and the like. In WordPress (as in all CMSs), your theme is totally separate from your content, and themes can be swapped with a few clicks (after they are installed) and it will instantly change the look of your site.
If you lack the technical skills to create or modify a theme yourself, you can:
- Search for a free or paid theme (be careful where you find your free theme)
- Try a “framework” (like Thesis or Genesis or Ultimatum) which is essentially a robust plugin that acts as an interface to build a theme for you. Note that this will include it’s own separate learning curve, but some can be fairly intuitive.
- Hire a designer to build you a custom theme
“I need more than just web pages and a blog. I want an online store […or an appointment booking application or to publish reviews that include a rating or some other cool idea].”
Great. Wordpress handles extending the basic functionality using something called “plugins”. Like with themes, there is a large community creating both free and commercial plugins to use with WordPress sites. The quality, especially of free plugins, can vary widely…but very popular plugins with high ratings are typically easy to use, even with little to no technical knowledge. If you want to do it on your website, chances are someone has written a plugin for that purpose…but be prepared to spend some time searching for the right one, and learning to install and configure it.
Some other tidbits…
- Of the “top million sites”, 17.7% are on WordPress and 55% of those running on a CMS are using WordPress
- 394 million people view more than 3.8 billion WordPress pages each month
- Sites using WordPress: TIME, New York Times (blogs), Mashable, SitePoint, Smashing Magazine, and yes…Miley Cyrus.
- Of nearly 30k WordPress users surveyed in 2012, two-thirds were using WordPress as a full fledged Content Management System (vs. solely for blogging)