Over the years, more than 50 open source Content Management Systems (CMS)s have popped up, but only some have survived the rigors of our fast-moving world of web technologies. It takes an incredible effort, and often the help of a solid community to create, mature, and maintain a great CMS. This article is my summary of Why I love WordPress and why my company (weCreate – Website Design & Marketing) uses it extensively in our website development. I’ll spare you the deepest technical details, but if you’re a nerd like me, I love to talk tech! – My author info is at the bottom of this article.
A Few Things First…
You need to hear this. It’s important: My conversations with others regarding WordPress almost always start with a sense of hesitance or fear of WordPress. There are a lot of rumors and misunderstandings about WordPress that I’ll gladly steamroll throughout this article, but as a precursor to this article, my advice is that “Everything Bad You’ve Heard About WordPress is False”. Well…maybe almost everything. So just clear your head of any presumptions and go forth with an appetite for revelation!
A “Second-to-None” Community
“Massive” is an Understatement
WordPress’s community is massive (to say the least). Why is this important? If you’re choosing to build your website(s) on a platform of any kind, you want to be sure that platform is backed by a community of passionate, knowledgeable people. This community is packed with experienced developers (those guys/gals who code things), designers, business owners, beginner users – the list goes on. It’s also frequently referred to as the most popular CMS in the world – “WordPress was used by more than 23.3% of the top 10 million websites as of January 2015” (W3Techs), so you can be sure that if you have an issue, someone else has probably already solved it – and Google is your friend ;-). So if there’s any question of whether or not WordPress is here to stay, I think you know the answer.
Thousands of Eyes are Better than Two
For those who have not already realized the power in Open-Source Software, WordPress was born of such power and its progress over the last 12 years can be attributed to thousands of generous developers who (in their spare time – unpaid) have contributed to WordPress’s code-base. This is largely why WordPress has been so successful. Why does this matter? This means that the knowledge and experience of thousands of developers and security experts make up the platform that is powering your website. The combined effort of a community so large is arguably impossible to reproduce with any one standalone team of developers (aside from maybe the teams at Google or Facebook for example). If there are bugs or security issues, you can rest assured that they’re usually fixed much quicker than most other software.
Future Proof by Popularity
One final (very important and often overlooked) point to make is that choosing a CMS that is popular is a very future proof decision. There are many (upwards of 50 reasonably well-known) CMSs out there, but a lot of them come and go because the community dies off or there just aren’t enough 3rd party extensions for them to be useful. It’s very important to choose a CMS that will be around 5-10 years from now to avoid having to redevelop your website in the future. This concept also holds true for availability of developers. If you choose to use a different developer in the future than you did when you originally built your website, you can be confident that you’ll easily find another developer with WordPress experience due to its vast popularity.
Plugins, Plugins, Plugins
While not all plugins are created equal (in fact, some are horrendous and poorly maintained), the WordPress community arguably has the largest and most polished database(s) of plugins (both free and premium) of any open-source (or even closed source) CMS on the market. Stop spending time and money reinventing the wheel, creating custom functionality for something simple that numerous people have already found a solution to. Some examples of types of plugins available are Online E-Commerce Shops, Form Builders, Portfolio Showcases, Traffic/Statistics Tracking, Online Payments – the list is tremendous and there are many reputable plugin authors who have developed great plugins for all the above use-cases and more. The WordPress Plugin Database is full of them (just watch for good plugin ratings/reviews) and some great examples of premium plugin/theme providers would be WooThemes and GravityForms.
Theme All The Things
The WordPress Theme Database is the WordPress Plugin Database’s partner in crime. WordPress has a massive number of exceptional and acceptable themes available for it, allowing you to choose a unique look for your website and some themes even have extra functionality in them (read the theme’s description/documentation). Much like plugins though, all themes are not created equal. If you’re choosing a theme from WordPress’s Theme Database, watch the ratings/reviews to make sure you get a reputable one. Some great examples of premium theme providers are WooThemes and StudioPress.
Stable at its Core
The WordPress Core (meaning WordPress itself, themes & plugins not included) is incredibly stable. Matt Mullenweg (one of the founders of WordPress) and the developers behind it make an incredible effort to maintain backwards compatibility with previous versions of WordPress and to create a core platform that is rock solid. That means as few hiccups and surprises as possible. Every new feature and change to the Core codebase is carefully tested before it’s released to make sure you can confidently update your website without issues. This is a virtue of any good piece of software, and WordPress does well with this.
Learning Curve isn’t as Steep as Most
Learning a CMS (especially if you’re new to them) can be a bit daunting at first. This is mostly because the concept behind organization and separation of content is, in and of itself, not a simple concept. In order to properly create and administer content on a website, there needs to be logical organization and separation of concerns in place to allow developers and the creative functionality behind their plugins/themes to do their magic. That being said, WordPress does a pretty good job at simplifying as much of this as possible. My personal opinion is that WordPress has a reasonably gentle learning curve compared to other CMSs. All CMSs are going to require you to learn how to use them in order to take full advantage of their features and to keep your content organized and easy to maintain. Take some time to watch some tutorials and play around a bit and you’re time will be well-rewarded. Not only that, but once you learn one CMS, you’ll find that most others are often similar in a lot of ways! Here are a couple links to get you started: First Steps, More Tutorials.
Still a Real CMS
WordPress is unique in that it bares a relatively low entry level for beginners to get their hands dirty in creating and administering their own website or blog. This is mostly because the community of WordPress developers have put a lot of hard work into taking some of the dirty work out of installing, setting up, prettifying and launching a website using WordPress. They’ve also done well with providing a polished Admin User Interface for you to administer your content with. What most people don’t realize is WordPress is more than just a “One and Done” solution. Behind the beautiful Admin User Interface is an extensible code base, full of opportunity for developers like myself to add functionality onto WordPress to our heart’s content. As a developer, I have the power to completely change the look of every aspect of a WordPress website, add any amount of functionality onto it, change the Administrative Interface to look and function how I want it to, and much more. Of course, these benefits aren’t for the faint of heart, but if you’re ready to bring your website to the next level, developers can transform a simple WordPress website into a fully custom, beautiful representation of your business, your portfolio, your blog, etc.
Easier Better than a DIY Website Builder
There are a lot of Do It Yourself (DIY) website builders online (ie. WIX, Weebly), and these in many ways are great tools and some have an even more gentle learning curve. However, it’s important to understand their limitations and the difference between them and WordPress. A DIY website builder is typically a hosted platform, meaning a company created and provides the builder/service to you in The Cloud. These are typically created with a pre-built list of features, themes, etc for you to choose from. Most DIY website builders leave you faced with the reality that once you’ve reached their limits, it’s time to start over (yes that means build your website all over again on a different platform – eh em…Wordpress). There are a few DIY website builders out there that provider tools for developers like myself to add onto a website, and that’s a great thing, but the size of the community behind 3rd party themes/functionality for said builders is arguably much smaller than WordPress’s community. So you likely won’t find everything you’re looking for, nor will you always find the help you need when issues arise. With WordPress, the sky is more/less the limit. There are cases where other platforms like Drupal are a better fit for the functionality needs of a web application, but WordPress can scale much farther than most people realize.
Tight as a Drum – Security
WordPress Core is rock solid in terms of security. That may not be what you’ve heard, and if so, here’s your revelation: Remember all those “thousands of developers and security specialists” I mentioned earlier? They’re all looking at WordPress’s code base – all the time. WordPress Core has very very few reported incidents of vulnerabilities in its past, and this is greatly due to the mass number of intelligent people constantly auditing the code base for potential security issues. You might be saying right now: “But I’ve heard of TONS of WordPress websites getting hacked in the past. It seems like it happens all the time”. Well, you’d be correct in that statement. Websites get hacked all the time, and the reason for that is not the code found in WordPress’s Core. Compromises nearly always happen due to poorly written code that was installed into WordPress by the owner or creator of a website in the form of a theme or a plugin. When I mentioned earlier the importance of paying attention to the ratings/reviews of plugins/themes you’re planning on using, I meant it. Not all developers are experienced enough to be creating code to be used on a production website. Stick to plugins/themes with good ratings/reviews and reputable premium theme/plugin providers like WooThemes & StudioPress and you’ll be fine. There are also some decent security plugins for WordPress (ie. iThemes Security, Wordfence) that help to mitigate some common security issues and alert you when incidents occur.
WordPress is Fast (Well, it should be)
WordPress Core performs pretty darn well in terms of page load speed and navigating around the Admin Interface. Most performance issues arise when theme or plugin authors implement functionality that is computationally expensive (that means the computer processor in the website’s server takes a while to process the code) and fail to properly implement caching where it’s needed. This is not a WordPress problem. It’s once again a problem of theme/plugin authors not doing their job, regardless of what CMS we’re talking about. Proper in-code caching, mixed with optional plugins like W3 Total Cache or WP SuperCache will make for a screaming website. There are even more technical solutions that can/should be implemented on the servers the website is running on (ie. OpCode Caching, HTTP layer caching such as Varnish for the detail-oriented among us). The bottom line is: WordPress is not slow. Developers just need to do their job in creating good quality themes/plugins and your website will scream. I promise you.
More Polished than Most
I won’t spend too much time on this subject, but to iterate on some of what I’ve mentioned earlier, WordPress developers have done an exceptional job at polishing the Admin User Interface so that it’s not only very attractive, but relatively easy to navigate. This polish comes in the form of carefully chosen colors/shades, font choice/size/spacing, menu layout, etc. Other CMSs like Drupal (although I love Drupal for many other reasons) don’t always get the love that WordPress has for it’s User Interface, thus contributing to it’s slightly more daunting learning curve.
Open-Source & Free. Yes, Free.
One of the greatest benefits of some open-source software is that it’s free to use (at least in the case of WordPress). Some commercial (closed-source) CMSs come with incredibly high license fees just to make one point. While most of those CMSs aren’t necessarily an appropriate choice for your use-case, they’re out there and often are targeted at highly complex website builds. The benefit in using WordPress (or any other free, open-source CMS) is that you save your budget for the things that matter to you, such as adding functionality to your website like an E-Commerce shop. And we all want to get the most for our money don’t we?
All Myths Busted
Have you heard any other myths about WordPress that I haven’t covered yet? If so, feel free to hit me up in the comments for this article and I’d be glad to provide my two cents. Otherwise, here are a couple well-known misunderstandings about WordPress and my opinions/advice on them:
“All WordPress Sites Look The Same.”
This myth always get’s me laughing. What you have to understand is that because of WordPress’s low entry point, there are countless beginners out there, popping up new WordPress websites with very little experience and quite possibly no development experience at all. A lot of these websites look the same because these users follow simple tutorials, install WordPress, choose a popularly-used theme, set a few settings and launch their website. These websites are not a fair representation of what WordPress can do. Put WordPress in the hands of a developer or even just an experienced user, and there are no limitations whatsoever to how your website can look (or function for that matter).
“Our Company is Serious. We Prefer Something More Secure.”
I already covered this earlier, but I’ll reiterate. WordPress is no less secure than the other CMS options out there. The security of a website is only as good as the themes/plugins installed in it as well as the server infrastructure it’s hosted on. If you’re having security issues, it’s not WordPress. It’s an error in one of the aforementioned areas.
“You’re Just a WordPress Fan-Boy”. Nope.
I frequently find myself in similar conversations when talking about why I love Apple products (but that’s a whole other article), and my response to those who suspect I’m just a WordPress Fan-Boy is very simply: “Nope”. As an industry professional, my job is to realize the software available to me for what is really is, not solely for what my opinions are on it. I’ve used software for both personal projects as well as to solve real problems for real clients. My “opinions” are heavily based on what the development community as a whole has to say as well as my analysis of the software when used in real-world situations. My experience is that most people who tend to have an obvious “Fan-Boy” aura to them are typically just lacking knowledge of the software in question or of the other software options out there. You won’t find me writing an opinion on software I haven’t used extensively.
Still Not for the Faint of Heart
At the end of the day, website design & development can still be a complicated subject. Our web technologies move very quickly and provide us with an almost exhausting number of options and opportunities. While I always encourage the brave to play around and see what they can learn, there are still industry professionals around to help you on your website project(s) – and for a good reason. My company (weCreate – Website Design & Marketing) was founded on the need for web professionals like myself and we’re glad to help you get the most out of your website, whether it be creating something stunning or driving traffic to it to make more sales. If you’re ready for that next level, we’d love to hear from you. Just visit our Contact Us form and shoot us a message!
I’m always writing out of passion and a true love for the technology field. If you have something you’d like to chat about or have questions/comments about anything I’ve written, please engage me in conversation in the comments below!