Like many freelance website designers, I use the WordPress content management system (CMS for short) to build websites. In this article, I’m going to explain what WordPress is, and give my 5 reasons to use WordPress.
What is WordPress?
Everything you see on a website – the text, logos, images, videos and downloadable files – is content, and a website needs software to manage this content.
WordPress is just one of many different CMS platforms which can be used to build websites.
You’ve maybe seen adverts for WordPress alternatives like Squarespace, Weebly and Wix. With so many options to choose from, then why choose WordPress?
There are many reasons why, but I’m going to focus on the 5 key reasons.
My 5 reasons to use WordPress
1: WordPress is open-source
WordPress began life as a blogging platform in 2003. It’s open-source, which means that the platform isn’t restricted by any copyright or trademark, and so it’s freely available for anyone to download and modify. The first version of WordPress was in fact a modified version of an open-source blogging system called b2/cafelog, which was no longer being maintained.
Since 2003, tens of thousands of talented people from across the globe have contributed to the project, making WordPress the great software that it is today. The fact that it’s open-source also means that there’s no risk of the company going out of business, which can’t be said for many WordPress alternatives.
Because anybody can download WordPress for free, the only things you need to pay for when building a WordPress website are a domain name and website hosting.
2: WordPress community
According to W3Techs, who measure these things, WordPress is used to power over 40% of the top 10 million websites (as of February 2021). That’s a lot of websites. Its closest open-source alternatives are tiny in comparison, with Joomla at 2.1% and Drupal at 1.5%.
Over the years, a very large WordPress ecosystem has grown. For example, there are people who specialise in building themes and plugins (more on this later), and there are hosting companies which only host WordPress websites.
This WordPress community isn’t just online though. Before the pandemic, informal WordPress meetups were held across the world. I went to my local one, where I met up with a friendly bunch of people – a few website designers like myself, plus e-business owners, hobbyists, bloggers and digital marketers – sharing knowledge and helping each other out with any website issues. Hopefully things will return to normal soon.
More formal weekend-long annual conferences, known as WordCamps, are also held in different regions across the world. I have attended the London WordCamps in the past, but because of Covid-19 these are now held virtually.
The WordPress community is underpinned by a wealth of online resources such as WordPress blogs (naturally) and social media. There’s a huge amount of very helpful information out there.
3: WordPress is highly customisable
Wouldn’t the internet be a very boring place if all websites looked the same? Fortunately, WordPress is highly customisable.
Each website is based on a theme which governs the basic layout and functionality of the site along with the look & feel – the fonts and colours – and there are thousands of themes to choose from.
Many of the basic themes are free, but others, giving more control of the web page layout, can be installed for a modest sum. My favourite theme is called GeneratePress, because it is lightweight and can easily be customised with Cascading Style Sheets (or CSS) which is the language used to manage how a web page is presented.
The real strength of WordPress though is plugins. Plugins are code modules which add functionality to a website, and there are currently nearly 60,000 plugins available.
These plugins can be used for loads of different things. Some of these are widgets that appear on the web page, such as forms, or image carousels, or interactions with social media.
Other plugins add functionality behind the scenes, to the ‘back end’ as it’s known, providing functionality for things like website security and taking backups.
Lots of plugins are completely free to use, whilst other ‘freemium’ ones let you use the basic functionality for free, but you need to pay to unlock the advanced features.
4: WordPress is SEO friendly
Core WordPress has been built with an emphasis on speed and performance, which is critical if you want your site to rank well in Google. There are also many plugins available which help you optimise your site design and content. My preferred SEO plugin is the super powerful RankMath.
WordPress can only do so much though, and there are lots of other factors to bear in mind if you want an SEO friendly website, such as optimising images so that these load quickly. One of the most important factor though is content, as your site will not rank very well with stale and outdated content that is poorly structured.
5: WordPress is scalable
WordPress can be used to power anything from the smallest blog through to websites for some of the largest multinational companies. For example, BBC America, Sony Music, Walt Disney and the New York Times all have websites built with WordPress.
If you want to sell things from your website, you can build a WordPress ecommerce store by installing the WooCommerce plugin.
Core WordPress can also be extended into a multisite network, which may be useful for a franchise business.
All of this means that WordPress is the ideal platform for your business website, because you can easily extend your website as your business grows.
So to summarise, my 5 reasons to use WordPress are as follows:
- WordPress is open-source, so it’s not under the control of one company
- the huge community means that WordPress is continually evolving
- it’s highly customisable, with new functionality being added all the time through theme and plugin updates
- WordPress is SEO friendly, helping you get your site to rank well with Google and other search engines
- it is scalable, so your website can grow as your business grows
Many of the rival platforms do offer viable alternatives for building websites but, for me, WordPress is the best all-round CMS. It’s probably fair to say that WordPress has a steeper learning curve, but its strengths more than compensate for this.