Looking to start a blog? Wanting to manage your own website? In that case, you’re probably doing research online and no doubt you’ve come across the name “WordPress.” So should you use WordPress? Keep reading to hear my professional opinion, as someone who’s been using WordPress for over 2 years for personal projects as well as commercial projects for clients.
What is WordPress?
What is WordPress? WordPress is a “content management system” or CMS. A CMS is basically a thing that lets you update content on your website without needing to know HTML and other technical stuff. CMSs are meant to be easy to use for laymen by giving you a user-friendly interface to use.
WordPress is one of many CMSs out there, but it is also the most popular one, with over 70 million sites worldwide using it. Another thing you should know about WordPress is that it was originally a blogging system, so some WordPress websites will have blogging elements, such as tags, categories, comments, social sharing, RSS feeds, etc. However, many people use WordPress to make regular sites (non-blogs) as well.
Who Uses WordPress?
Many people use WordPress for different reasons.
Casual bloggers can use WordPress.com. It’s actually free to have a blog. And they give you an address on their site like example.wordpress.com. For casual bloggers, WordPress.com is a great and easy thing to use as a journal of thoughts or share photos. However, this option has ads, limited storage space and no support.
Small businesses looking for a very, very simple but professional site can also use WordPress.com’s professional options for $300+. It differs from the above because a “professional” site should have it’s own domain name, no random ads (preferably) and some sort of support. The professional packages include this. Note: your site customizations will be limited to whatever the theme you choose offers. For a fully-customizable website, you need to use the open-source version of WordPress available at wordpress.org.
Graphic designers use WordPress too! Many graphic designers who offer website services typically do not have strong coding abilities, or none at all. For them, it’s much smarter to learn how to use a system like WordPress for their clients rather than learning HTML, PHP , and other web and server-side languages.
Web designers and developers like me also use WordPress. WordPress is a very popular system and also a very powerful one. It makes sense for web designers and developers to know how to create a WordPress website because it’s almost like a basic skill in this industry, much like performing an oil change is to a mechanic. WordPress is also powerful and developers who have technical skills and a knowledge of the WordPress inner system can make lots of huge customizations like e-commerce systems, reservation systems, and SEO plugins.
Any news, magazine or article-based website would be great using WordPress. WordPress is pretty good for building websites, but it’s amazing for making a site with blogs, articles, and news pieces. Huge sites like Vogue, Time, The New Yorker all use the WordPress system. See more sites using WordPress.
Why Use WordPress?
Here are some reasons you might want to use WordPress, whether you’re a regular joe or a developer.
- Free-ish. WordPress.com is free. And the open-source version at WordPress.org is free to download.
- Don’t really need to know HTML. You can really start
- 1-minute install. Some webhosts like Godaddy have a quick install for WordPress available to you right from the control panel. Just choose a site name, user name, user password and that’ll set things up for you.
- Amazing blogging tool. If your site will have a blog or if your site is one, big blog (like a news site), then WordPress it optimal for you since WordPress is meant to be a blogging system. If you already have a site, no worries, you can just put WordPress in a subdirectory (e.g. example.com/blog) and then design it to look like your regular site.
- Save time with easy plug-and-play action. Need to add a Facebook like button? Use a plugin. Want to add a slideshow? Use a plugin. Want a surf report on your site? Use a plugin. Even a developer like me appreciate saving time by using one of millions of plugins out there.
- Lots of documentation. The official WordPress documentation is pretty hard to understand for normal people, but there are many blogs out there like WP Beginner and WPMU Dev with helpful articles. Also, there is a user-supported support forum where you can find answers to many questions you have about WordPress (googling your problem should land some results in the support forum).
- Good 3rd party market. There is a huge market for WordPress themes, plugins, and developers.
- Affordable developers. Adding onto the above, there are many people experienced with developing WordPress, including myself. This means that you can find a developer for your WordPress project easily and the market price should be reasonable because of high supply.
- Developer friendly! One of my favorite aspects of WordPress is making custom themes for clients. The structure is very nice: all files related to a theme are completely contained in their own folder in the “themes” folder. And you can add custom templates by simply adding something like /* Template Name: Custom Template */ to the top of the file — WordPress automatically will detect it and make it available for use. WordPress also injects unique classes into every page allowing you to have CSS targeting specific pages or types of pages (example: all blog entries, archive pages, certain page templates). You can also play around and customize the admin user interface. Too many things to list.
Why NOT Use WordPress?
I have a lot of people who ask or demand WordPress. When I ask them why, they say “cause I heard it’s good.” If you decide to go with WordPress, please have a good reason, such as any of the reasons I listed above. WordPress can get pretty hairy and you shouldn’t jump into it just because you heard it’s good. Here are some reasons you might not want to use WordPress.
- Not that easy. A lot of people says it’s easy, but “easy” to me means you can just log in for the first time and without instruction, figure everything out. WordPress is not like that. It takes time to understand the different parts of WordPress. Whether you’re casual user, an advanced user, or a WordPress developer, it takes a decent amount of WordPress familiarity every step of the way.
- Not great out-of-the-box — needs a developer’s touch. WordPress is actually kind of junk when you have a fresh install. The default themes aren’t great, there are loads of unnecessary items in the menu, the dashboard is useless, and there are about 4-5 things in the options that I have to change every time I start a new WordPress project. WordPress is definitely better as a raw foundation to be made into something presentable.
- Plugins are hit-or-miss. Plugins can be the easiest, fastest things in the world to use. Or they can absolute junk, poorly coded, slows your entire site, or are not compatible with your version of WordPress. To be comfortable with plugins, you basically need to research the plugin and experiment with them before settling on them.
- Aftermarket themes can be a nightmare. One bizarre aspect of WordPress are the aftermarket themes. Many people buy themes for $60 thinking they are making a beautiful site for a huge discount. What they really are doing is buying something that looks pretty and fancy (keep in mind that themes have a demo showcase and is in no way representative of how your site will look) and then trading their time off because they will be sinking lots of time reading documentation for the theme and trying to figure it out. Trust me when I say that anything that looks fancy is going to take at least 25 hours for you to do.
- WordPress is not a block-based editor. If you are making columns or making grid layouts for mobile design, you’ll know that WordPress is incredible weak at this. This is because the WordPress editor has one single box for content. In order to to allow that single box to have columns, you need to either use weird codes and plugins like [one_half] [/one_half] or you need to get an aftermarket plugin. Or you can buy an aftermarket plugin. Either way is kind of ugly.
Think long and hard before you choose WordPress. It’s a large investment in time to learn the system. Do your research. Listen to my advice in this article. Make the right decision for your own situation. And if you’re going with WordPress.org, check out Godaddy, which I highly recommend for budget hosting for WordPress sites.