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What is WordPress? And Why Should I Use It?

WordPress is a Content Management System, or CMS. It’s really THE CMS. There are other systems out there, but none come close to the WordPress’s market share. Over 25% of ALL websites purportedly use WordPress. That’s over 250 million sites! And there are many reasons for WordPress’s success which we will cover here as we go over more of what WordPress actually does.

What Does It Actually Do?

WordPress does a lot of things, but the main thing it does is let people easily create content for their site through a dashboard. Before CMSs were mainstream, you had to physically create every page of content or build an internal system to handle and display the content. That meant code, databases, and everything that goes along with that. WordPress does that for you. In other words, it has allowed non-techy people to easily create and manage their content and websites.

On top of that basic functionality, WordPress does hundreds of other things. Its functionality is expandable through Plugins. Its design is interchangeable through Themes. It can be easily manipulated on the developer’s side to quickly create complex sites. Those features alone make it an amazing tool.

How Much Does It Cost?

Out of the box, WordPress is 100℅ free. It’s open source and maintained by a vibrant community and Automattic, WordPress’s creator. You can download it from their site here.

That being said, it still requires a server and you’ll still have to register a domain name and set WordPress up. However, that’s the lowest common denominator for all websites. And setting up websites with WordPress can take as little as 5 minutes if you know what you’re doing.

But, WordPress can also become very expensive by choice. As you’ll see soon, WordPress is highly customizable and the sky is the limit on what you can build with it. But this is by choice and as we’ll also see WordPress’s community has made it very easy to create a feature rich website that costs very little.

King Of The Hill

Before we continue, let’s back up real quick. We’ve gone over that WordPress is the undisputed champion of the CMS market. Of sites that use a CMS, well over 50℅ use WordPress. That equates to nearly 250 million sites.

But being that large brings many advantages that you can easily miss. The community is huge and the WordPress ecosystem is vibrant. There are over ten thousand themes to choose from. And over 45,000 plugins at the time of this writing. Part of the community is motivated by nothing more than wanting to help people. So their themes or plugins are free to use. Others want to be compensated and their plugins and themes are required to be purchased. Either way, there is a vast amount of options when it comes to what the community provides.

It’s Skinnable

WordPress is probably most famous for its themes. Themes are installable items that change how your WordPress site looks. As we said above, there are over 10,000 themes to choose from.

However, you don’t have to use a pre-made theme. You can make your own theme or hire someone to do that for you. This makes WordPress fully customizable in terms of look and layout.

Some may say that themes have actually become a bad thing. Because themes can be used by many websites, it has become very easy to spot pre-made themes if you know what to look for. But most people don’t know what to look for, and you can always edit the themes, or build your own!

It’s Upgradable

Plugins… ahh… plugins. Plugins extend the functionality of WordPress. And with over 45,000 plugins there is no shortage of things to tack onto your site. Some notable examples would be WooCommerce, which lets you add a store to your site. Then there are plugins such as Contact Form 7, which lets you easily add a contact form to your site.

That’s awesome! I will take all of the plugins and make a website to rule them all! Some people actually go a little plugin crazy, and having too many can be a bad thing as they can slow down your site and cause security vulnerabilities if they were not built correctly.

The WordPress Team also sends out updates to the platform that fixes bugs, security issues, and adds new features to the platform. This is taken care of inside the dashboard with the click of a button.

If WordPress Is So Awesome Should I Use It For Everything?

While WordPress is extremely flexible, there are some instances when other platforms or technologies would be a better choice. For instance, if  you don’t have at least a little bit of technical knowledge on how to set WordPress up or edit the themes, you may opt for going with something like SquareSpace or Wix.

 

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Really Simple Sites

SquareSpace and Wix are CMSs that allow non-techy people to build websites through a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get, pronounced like Wisseewigs) editor. These allow you to drag and drop elements and change how they look. They also come with some pretty nice templates that you can use. However, both of these services require monthly subscriptions and are very limited in terms of how you can edit the look of the site as well as what type of functionality you can add on. These types of sites are great for simple, non-dynamic content sites. An example of a good fit for this type of site would be a mom and pop bakery that wants to put a page up with where they are located and maybe a description of some of their products.

Really Complex Sites

Another example of a time you should not use WordPress would be when trying to develop an app. An app in this case can mean a web app, a phone app, and anything in between. While you can use WordPress to create web and phone apps, it’s not a great idea from a technology standpoint. A few reasons are that WordPress is heavy out of the box and is built upon a convoluted framework. The WordPress team has done a fantastic job of making sure that you can’t notice just how heavy it is. However, it will quickly become apparent as you add on features and functionality. WordPress is also built in a way that is great for a CMS but poor for an app. You’ll spend more time dealing with the framework instead of building features.

If you’re looking to build an app there are hundreds of ways to do it. At 1903 Studios, we typically use Ruby on Rails as the backbone of our apps. Some other well known technologies would be Node JS, Python with Django, or .NET. These technologies and frameworks will wipe the floor with WordPress when it comes to heavy lifting.

Conclusion

WordPress is a fantastic choice for building websites of all shapes and sizes. You don’t want to build the next Facebook on top of it, but it’s a great choice for nearly anything else. You can easily change the look of the site as well as add additional functionality. If you’re looking for something to build your site that will grow with you, then WordPress is the right tool for the job.

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