Why is WordPress so popular?
If you want to build your own website, or get someone to do it for you, the WordPress content management system is now the most popular in the world. Voice Group’s in-house WordPress trainer, and code demystifier, Lee Dyer, explains why.
WordPress is a free and open-source content management system (CMS), which essentially means it’s a nifty website creation tool that lets anyone quickly build, publish and edit a website of any size, from a simple blog to a robust e-commerce shop.
Until a few years ago, there was quite a bit of snobbery around using WordPress. In fact, you’ll still hear people say: it’s only for blogs, it’s limited, it looks cheap, it’s slow, it makes all websites look the same. To some extent, that used to be true, but in the past three or four years, there’s been a sea change in the industry. WordPress has grown into a fully fledged, extremely powerful CMS powering millions of websites all over the world.
A few WordPress facts…
- As of October 2016, 27% of all websites on the internet are powered by WordPress and it has a 58.5% market share.
- Enter ‘WordPress’ into Google, and you’ll get 603,000,000 results.
- There are now more than 44,000 plugins available, to help you expand your website and fine tune it just the way you want it.
- These plugins have been downloaded more than one and a quarter billion times.
- WordPress is used by some of the biggest names in the world including the New York Times, People Magazine and Forbes.
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Why are people choosing WordPress over all the other options out there?
A quick online search will reveal a ton of articles arguing which CMS is the best to use. There are many advocates out there for Joomla and Drupal, both of which have their merits. You can also search ‘compare CMS’ in Google for more of an overview. But rather than slagging off the opposition, I’m going to accentuate the positives here instead…
It’s very easy to use, and it’s feature-rich
We’ve seen first hand how clients of all abilities soon become comfortable using WordPress and finally take control of their websites.The ability for anyone to be able to make changes quickly and easily is standard practice, an area WordPress excels in.
Adding pages, photos, booking systems, events calendars, changing text, feeding news stories to your homepage – all these, plus myriad other features, are straightforward tasks, usually requiring little or no coding knowledge.
WordPress allows the basically computer literate the freedom to develop their website to meet the changing demands of their business.
While there is a cost for a domain name and hosting, it is completely free to download and use the WordPress source code from wordpress.org.
And if you wanted to avoid hosting costs altogether, you can even create a free account on wordpress.com to quickly deploy a simple site. (We do advise, though, that this is only really suitable for a light traffic site. Your own dedicated hosting is preferable to ensure fast site speed and technical support.)
It’s supported and developed by 1000s of programmers around the world.
WordPress is ‘open-source’, which essentially means that anyone with programming knowledge can freely edit the code to create a truly bespoke website. For us as a creative agency, WordPress gives us everything we need to deliver a personal online solution to our clients.
The open-source model creates a community of open collaboration and support for development, so not only do you have a global team working to improve WordPress, but there is no shortage of developers with the knowledge to work on your website.
This is in stark contrast to choosing a ‘bespoke’ CMS. (It was common until recently for creative and digital agencies to build their own in-house CMS then offer it to prospective clients.) The problem with this is that you are then tied to that particular agency. Should then anything go wrong you have a smaller team to help fix an issue, and if you want to move agencies, there will be very few coders willing to work on someone else’s bespoke system. Yes WordPress is a target for security issues, but with a vast community ready to highlight vulnerabilities and the WordPress Foundation, the umbrella organisation which oversees the project, updates are regularly released to fix an issue or add a new feature.
The WordPress community has been a catalyst for one of its major benefits as a CMS and that’s the available plugins and themes which expand its basic features and can transform WordPress to meet most organisation’s demands.
Plug-ins for everything
Because it is open source, and because so many people are now using WordPress, its functionality is increasing every day. At the time of writing there are 46,617 plugins listed in the WordPress directory. Although I can guarantee some are of dubious quality, there is now a tested and supported solution for most scenarios, from adding a simple contact form to a complex shopping cart. The plugins listed in the directory are free and can be easily browsed then installed at the click of a button, all from within WordPress. You can also purchase premium plugins from online marketplaces to upload.
One type of plugin we always recommend is a page builder, and there are both free and premium options available. Page builder plugins are designed to give you the freedom to create beautiful and complex pages in minutes with no programming knowledge required, often with a few clicks of the mouse.
‘Themes’ for any purpose
For ‘themes’ read ‘designs + functionality’. So where plugins can add new features to your WordPress site, changing a theme can transform the whole website, often adding friendly options to style colours, menus and layouts as well as adding new features, often grouped together, or created to meet the demands of a particular business sector like hotels & restaurants, or car dealerships.
If you’re on a strict budget, you can install free themes directly from WordPress much the same as plugins. Premium themes however, are often vastly superior, can be downloaded as a packaged folder ready to upload to a WordPress website. There are many websites dedicated to showcasing the latest themes available. One of the best, and one we often use ourselves, is Theme Forest.
WordPress isn’t going away
You could say WordPress is popular, because it’s popular. Once a system has reached a critical mass of acceptance (because of all the points listed above) it’s popularity skyrockets. With WordPress, this started to happen in earnest a few years ago. And once it did, more talented people got involved in developing it, and more businesses had a vested interest in growing it day by day. Which has created a positive virtuous circle of continual improvement, that everyone benefits from.
So, in short, WordPress is the easiest-to-use, most versatile and most supported CMS in the world. If you choose to build your next website in it, you can be reassured that millions of businesses around the world are making exactly the same choice, for exactly the same reasons.