WordPress is a CMS – a content management system – that is used to create and administer websites. WordPress is free, open-source software that allows both designers and developers to build websites, publish blog posts, and much more. It’s a highly scalable, extensible website framework. Want to host an online store? A WordPress website can do that. Do you need a member directory, job portal, or events calendar? Check, check, and check. The WordPress platform can do that and so much more. WordPress is a highly customizable website tool that empowers developers and publishers to create beautiful, stable websites.
Millions of sites on the internet use WordPress to power their website. Our own website is built using WordPress. There are several reasons so many people around the world trust and love WordPress, so let’s look at why we believe you should use WordPress to build your next website.
If you’re just getting started in your journey to build your own site, you’ve got a lot of options for website builders. Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, and WordPress all compete for similar markets.
We’ll talk about some of the main reasons we love WordPress websites and why we use WordPress when building custom websites for our own clients.
First and foremost, if you’re looking to get off the ground quickly with a website for yourself or your organization, WordPress (and other third-party sites) offers thousands and thousands of free themes to help you get started.
A WordPress theme is a collection of website files that make up the “look and feel” of the site. Themes are a set of pre-defined layouts and functionality that users can install into WordPress and begin editing. Think of them as a sort of “website template”.
“Can I really get good, free website templates using WordPress?” Yes, absolutely. Because WordPress is free and open-source, you can download and install WordPress for free on your local computer or via many web hosts. Although not all free WordPress themes are well-designed or well-coded, many are, so look for WordPress themes that are well reviewed by the WordPress community.
As a brief aside, paid themes, sometimes known as “premium” or “commercial” themes, are also readily available online. These themes are, in essence, the same as free WordPress themes except that they’re often developed and maintained by solo professionals or teams of developers. A commercial theme will typically function much like a free theme in that its look, feel, and functionality will be pre-defined. However, premium themes often come with technical support, more frequent bug fixes and updates, and more functionality or customizability.
Free themes are great starting points for a WordPress website. But once an individual or organization grows to a certain point, they will typically want more control over content, layout, design, and functionality. That’s where custom themes come into play.
If you or your organization require more flexibility or functionality than what either free or premium pre-built themes can offer, a custom theme may be the way to go.
Our preferred method of building a WordPress site is to do it using a custom theme built to the specifications of our clients. This gives the designers, developers, and publishers the ultimate control over layout, editability, content, and functionality.
A custom theme is typically the most labour-intensive approach, and therefore it’s often the more costly approach, but the result is likely to be a one-of-a-kind website that leverages the best features the WordPress software offers out of the box while adding beauty and functionality that meet your exact needs. A skilled WordPress developer can create stable websites and can often provide technical support for clients and their WordPress users.
Finally, custom themes give the most control to developers for search engine optimization. On-page SEO is fully addressable with a custom theme. Search engines love WordPress as much as any other website builders as long as the WordPress site is coded well. One of the best ways to ensure good semantic markup and high-quality code is to build a custom theme or hire someone to do it for you.
WordPress plugins are pieces of software that can be added to your WordPress site to give it additional security, functionality, or performance. Themes and plugins go hand-in-hand to create a WordPress site. Premium plugins are paid plugins that typically offer advanced features to WordPress users, but there are thousands of high-quality, free plugins to help you get your own site performing better and doing more.
The WordPress dashboard has a specific section that allows you to search for and add new plugins. Many plugins come in both free and paid versions. A premium plugin author may offer technical support or other features to entice you to upgrade. Ultimately, the choice is yours whether to use free or premium WordPress plugins on your site.
There are a few very important considerations when it comes to choosing WordPress plugins. Always look for:
WordPress plugins are wonderful. But remember – the more plugins you install, the more code you’re adding to your website and not all code plays nicely together. In our experience, most major plugins (“major” being those with tens or hundreds of thousands of installations) are going to be relatively free from headaches and conflicts with each other.
One word of caution around plugins – many developers like ourselves have encountered what we call “plugin hell”. This is a term used when WordPress admins throw so many plugins at their site, they end up slowing the site down, making technical issues more difficult to troubleshoot, having poorly written plugins interfere with each other, or all of the above. Ideally, look for as few plugins as possible to address your website’s needs.
If you have dozens of plugins installed on your WordPress website, you may want to consider having a professional WordPress website developer create a custom theme or plugin for your site to address your needs more directly.
Years ago, page builders (a catch-all term for many ‘drag and drop’ plugins for WordPress that automatically built your website as you designed it) enjoyed a bad reputation. These days, there are many page builders that allow you to create a very usable, pretty, and performant WordPress website.
If you’re a professional designer or someone who knows how they want their site to look, a page builder may be a great choice for getting your website online quickly. Adding to your options, WordPress themselves threw their hats in the “drag and drop” ring with the launch of its visual editor “Gutenberg” in late 2018.
As professional web designers and WordPress developers, we have tried many page builders over the years (primarily out of curiousity) and we’ve been more and more impressed as time goes on. While not a replacement for a custom theme, individuals or organizations with basic needs may benefit from the rapid website development timeline that a page builder can allow.
Ultimately, using a page builder and plugins is similar to using a pre-built theme and plugins. The key difference is in the configurability and flexibility – typically, page builders will offer more customization than your average WordPress themes. This can come at a usability cost, however, as more options typically means a steeper learning curve.
WordPress’s own Gutenberg has also grown and matured and continues to do so. It offers a sort of “in-between” experience – it’s neither a theme on its own nor is it a fully-blown page builder. What it allows is for developers to specify “blocks” of various types that publishers can insert into a page. Many pre-built WordPress themes now support Gutenberg which gives publishers more control over layout within whichever theme they choose.
Ultimately, you’ll need to use your own judgement when determining whether to use a theme, a page builder, or a custom theme to bring your WordPress website to life.
E-commerce websites can easily be created using WordPress and Woocommerce. WordPress makes Woocommerce and it is by and large the most popular e-commerce plugin (and has been for years). If you’re developing an e-commerce site, it’s worth taking a close look at what WordPress and Woocommerce can offer.
Need your e-commerce site to do something extra? There is a good chance there’s a Woocommerce plugin for that. The ecosystem for Woocommerce plugins is huge and vibrant, offering plenty of choices for website admins and developers.
Major merchant services and payment processors like PayPal, Stripe, and more offer native integrations with WordPress and Woocommerce. Many times, this makes accepting payments as easy as configuring a few settings.
WordPress allows for such a high degree of customization, that even the most demanding of e-commerce web stores can be built given enough time.
The WordPress community is huge – there are literally millions of WordPress users and developers around the world. All of this means that the core WordPress software and many of its most popular page builders, themes, and plugins are some of the most stable and mature pieces of open-source website software currently available.
The WordPress community also helps keep WordPress secure. While there is some truth to the fact that WordPress websites are frequently targeted by hackers and malicious scripts (often automated attempts to break in to your site and install spam or malware), the community is also quick to respond with software updates to address both bugs and security. There are even teams of researchers who attempt to find new ways to exploit WordPress. When successful, they notify developers or even submit patches themselves. For all of you site admins out there, make sure you keep your WordPress software and plugins up to date!
The community that exists around WordPress development is second-to-none, in our opinion. There are forums and chat servers around the world that offer troubleshooting, technical support, WordPress tips, and even coding help.
Whether you’re a designer, a developer, or someone looking to decide whether you or your organization should use WordPress for your own site, the community of WordPress people is a major indicator of how popular this software is.
If you’re planning to build your own website or looking to hire someone to build your site for you, the size of the WordPress community means there is a huge pool of WordPress developers to help you.
Around the globe, there are thousands of freelancers and web development agencies that can help you with technical support or the building of your site.
If you’re learning WordPress development, the number of great WordPress tutorials is staggering. If you’re looking to hire someone to do WordPress development, you’re equally in good hands. Just make sure to hire the right WordPress developer!
If we’ve learned one thing, it’s that virtually all of our clients have had previous WordPress experience. Considering the broad swath of people and industries we’ve worked with, that tells us a lot.
Whether you’re designing your own website or using WordPress as a publisher, familiarity with how it all looks, feels, and functions is a big part of having confidence in your site. If your website allows people to sign up as users, there’s a good chance many of them have interacted with it before as well.
What happens when you need to make an update? Ask your users to do something? Have a technical issue? The less familiar you and your users are with the software, the more friction points and frustration that can create. There are many, many options out there these days for web design and development, but it’s hard to beat WordPress for how familiar publishers and users alike are with the WordPress dashboard and editing tools.
WordPress seems ubiquitous these days, and being familiar with the software and admin dashboard that powers your website is a point that deserves major consideration.
Any good hosting provider these days will offer some form of WordPress hosting and, often, some sort of tool to help with installing WordPress.
Business websites and other sites where SEO is a priority will benefit from a hosting provider that offers dedicated hosting or VPS options. Versus shared hosting, these options are often more expensive but come with significant upgrades to website speed and other tools that advanced users will require.
These days, a web host with dedicated WordPress hosting is easy to find. Some even offer fully-managed web hosting solutions that remove the need for you to stay on top of WordPress software and plugin updates.
While we’ve spent a lot of time talking about everything else WordPress can do, it remains today an excellent blogging tool.
It has robust publishing tools built in and, as mentioned earlier, offers a huge repository of plugins that can extend publishing capabilities and add new features or functionalities to your blog. The WordPress admin dashboard is relatively intuitive and easy to navigate. Although any new software comes with its own learning curve, blogging in WordPress is both powerful and straightforward.
A great blog post is primarily about great writing, but great writing deserves to be done using great tools!
It bears repeating – WordPress is an incredibly powerful, flexible tool for building websites, period. While it still excels at being a blogging tool, it has become so much more than that. In the hands of the right developers, there is practically no ceiling to what a WordPress site can be or evolve into over time.
To summarize, many web hosting providers offer simple solutions to install WordPress, search engines love WordPress (well-built WordPress, anyway), and WordPress powers millions of sites worldwide. And did we mention WordPress is free?
Host an online shop. Create a business website. Display and handle ticketing for events. Showcase member profiles. Show job postings. Create a company intranet. This and so much more is possible with a WordPress website.
As someone looking to build a website, you’ve never had more choices. We also believe you’ve never had more reasons to seriously consider building a WordPress website.
If you’re in the market for a new website or custom WordPress theme, Red Ear Media offers fully custom web design and development services using the WordPress CMS. Contact us today to see how we can help you with your project.