What is WordPress?
WordPress is a software used to manage websites, also known as a content management system (CMS). WordPress has been around since 2003 and is considered to be the most popular CMS on the market. In fact, WordPress powers at least one-third of all websites on the internet.
What is WordPress used for?
WordPress can be used to manage business websites, eCommerce stores, blogs, and much more. And because it’s an open source software, thousands of developers around the world contribute to updating and refining it, ensuring it stays current with modern web standards.
What makes WordPress a better platform for managing a website?
WordPress is considered the leading CMS on the market and is an excellent choice for anyone looking to build and manage a high-quality, high-performance website. Here are a few reasons why:
It’s flexible and customizable
The ability to build custom themes means there is no limit to what you can create (at least if you’re coding themes from scratch, discussed below). You can also further customize the design and add functionality by adding plugins to your website. Just be sure to choose plugins wisely as adding too many can really slow down your page loading time, negatively impact SEO, and can introduce security risks (if the plugins aren’t reliable and secure).
It’s SEO friendly
There is a myriad of factors that contribute to search engine optimization (SEO), and WordPress delivers on many of them. For example, the Yoast SEO plugin (commonly installed on WordPress sites) makes adding metadata (title tags and meta descriptions) a breeze. Metadata tells Google what your web pages are about and helps it crawl and index each page.
Websites properly built and integrated with WordPress are also capable of quick page loading, which plays a huge role in page ranking on Google.
It’s easy to optimize images
Non-optimized images can negatively impact your SEO and page rank on Google. WordPress helps you optimize every image on your site by adding alt image tags with keywords and resizing images for optimal page speed.
Despite what some may think, WordPress can be very secure. The key is to make sure it’s properly set up, integrated and maintained. WordPress will regularly (and automatically) implement security updates to ensure your website is always protected against the latest security threats. But don’t just set it up and forget it. You should do plugin updates regularly (at Tiller we do this monthly). This is an important aspect of ensuring your site remains secure.
While WordPress websites in and of themselves are not mobile-friendly, most WordPress themes are responsive and the content will adapt to whatever device the user is using. Beyond templated themes, you can also easily integrate responsive custom themes with WordPress. Mobile responsive web design not only delivers a better user experience but can once again improve your SEO.
It’s open source and free
That’s right – free! WordPress is a community project that thousands of developers across the world have contributed to. And because it’s open source, there is no cost to you to use it.
Now, that doesn’t mean that there are no associated costs. Some plugins come at a cost, and unless you’re building a WordPress.com website, you’ll also need to pay for hosting, design, and build costs.
Off the shelf WordPress themes vs custom WordPress themes
At Tiller, we’re often asked about the difference between a templated WordPress theme and a custom, built-from-scratch WordPress theme (we always build from scratch at Tiller).
While there is a long list of differences, here are a few that often come up in conversation:
We’ve heard many complaints about WordPress themes with poor page speed. This is because off-the-shelf themes are often incredibly bloated. They lean heavily on plugins for basic functionality and, as a result, they can’t be optimized the same way a custom theme can be.
Off-the-shelf themes often introduce security issues because you need to add multiple plugins for functionality. These plugins may or may not be supported over time. Errors in a plugin’s code can introduce security risks to your website. And the more plugins you add, the greater the risk.
While it may seem like off-the-shelf templates are incredibly flexible (after all, there are many options for layouts, pages, and functionality) they do have their limits. If you want to change an element that is core to the template, you may have to hack the template to add in that functionality. Naturally, this incurs technical debt and makes it very challenging to scale the template over time.
What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
Yes, there are two versions of WordPress. While they use the same software, they have different limitations and capabilities. Here’s a quick breakdown of both options.
WordPress.com allows you to quickly build a free website using WordPress themes (template layouts). In fact, you can get set up in minutes. WordPress.com websites are all fully hosted and managed by Automattic, the company behind WordPress, so you won’t need to worry about security updates or hosting fees.
There are multiple pricing plans available for WordPress.com. Perhaps the most appealing: the free plan. However, if you choose the free option, you will only have access to 100 WordPress templates and have limited features to choose from. You won’t be able to install additional plugins beyond what’s included at setup, and you are restricted from using your website for eCommerce purposes. Paid plans also come with limitations, but you can expect more features and customizations with each tier.
Choose WordPress.com if you:
- Want a simple, fast, one-click-setup solution
- Don’t mind having limitations on features and customizations
- Want WordPress to handle all hosting and management for you
To build and manage a website using WordPress.org, you’ll need to download and install WordPress yourself. Because the software is open source, it’s free to download. Unlike with WordPress.com, you will have full autonomy to customize existing WordPress themes and (better yet) upload your own custom themes. You can also install whichever plugins you want to enhance functionality.
The software is free, but you will need to pay for your own website hosting and certain plugins, in addition to the cost of designing and building your website.
Choose WordPress.org if you:
- Want ultimate control over your website
- Don’t mind self-hosting
- Want the ability to upload custom WordPress themes