You’ve heard WordPress mentioned. You’ve seen people blog about it on the web. But what is it? Should businesses be using a WordPress website? Why is WordPress so popular?
WordPress is an open-source Content Management System (CMS) platform. It was created in 2003 and has increased in popularity over the past 15+ years. It has become the bread and butter platform of web development agencies throughout the World. So, let’s look at the reasons why it is so widely used for building websites. I’ll also throw in a few disadvantages to provide some balance.
No other CMS has the sheer volume of themes that WordPress has. You can find a theme to cover most styles of website. So, whether you want a monochrome business website or a colourful, vibrant sweet shop website, you’ll be able to find a theme that suits.
A WordPress theme developer such as myself can add features to WordPress themes that you otherwise wouldn’t normally find in the free themes. In fact, one common misconception that clients have is they can build an entire website structure just by dragging and dropping within the admin area of WordPress. This isn’t entirely accurate, although WordPress is working towards this with the recent Gutenberg editor update.
Whilst you can add and style text, and upload images, WordPress isn’t so good for allowing a layman to style their website without input from a developer with coding and HTML/CSS skills. Essentially, individual pages on your business website, e.g. a Home or Services page, will still need to be designed and coded to give them a professional finish, instead of a dull single column layout.
Is that not what you expected from WordPress? What’s the point of WordPress then? It is…
WordPress began life primarily as a blogging platform before developers started to make fully-fledged websites with it. This is where WordPress excels. Having a page where you can regularly add a news or blog post is the primary purpose of WordPress. If you want to know why WordPress is so popular, this is the main reason.
Adding posts can be done easily by someone who isn’t tech-savvy. You don’t have to contact a developer just to add posts.
You can only have one news or blog page by default in WordPress. To have more than one, you require a developer to extend the core functionality of WordPress.
For example, take a look at my own website. Specifically my Blog and Portfolio pages. Obviously the Blog is the default function that WordPress provides. I can add posts, they are automatically paginated, categorised, tagged, etc. Just what you would expect from WordPress.
Now, take a look at the Portfolio page. Notice I have a list of six projects I have worked on, with the option to click through to a second page to view another set of projects. I can add each of these projects, in the same way, I add a blog post. Being able to run two separate ‘blog’ sections like this isn’t possible by default. I custom coded the project posts within the portfolio page. So, WordPress isn’t just something you can download and use. Well, strictly speaking, you could, but your website will not look professional. It will most likely look like a Word document.
Adding plugins to a website is a non-coder’s method of adding additional functionality. You can find a plugin to cover most use cases.
Some of the most popular plugins are used for adding a contact form, caching your website (to speed it up), and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) plugins. Why is WordPress so popular? It’s easy to add plugins, and by extension, functionality.
A down point of plugins is they can conflict with each other, causing fatal errors on your website and can also be a security risk. In addition, the more plugins you install, the slower your website is likely to become.
I find the SEO plugins to be the most useful. They offer a handy pointer to improvements you can make in your content writing.
If you didn’t already know, Google ranks your website primarily on the quality of content. There are other factors, such as how is your website HTML structured, other technical SEO issues, website performance and backlinks to your website from other websites, but the content is probably the most important non-technical feature of any website. That’s why having a website on its own is not enough nowadays. You need quality content and an easy way to add content. A blog page for example. This way, you get a boost in Google rankings.
Sometimes, it’s sufficient to have a website without any frequent content updates. Usually when you have no local competition for your local business. For example, I live in a small town. It has one dental surgery. If I search Google for a dentist in my town then only one answer will appear.
However, if you live in a large city and there are 100 dentists, you need to rank higher than the other 99. This is where SEO comes in. WordPress makes SEO easier. You can add the previously mentioned SEO plugin to analyse your content and give yourself an idea of how it can be improved.
Additionally, WordPress can change the URL structure to a more SEO friendly setup. E.g. a Blog post can be changed from ‘https://www.example.com/2019/06/wordpress-is-wonderful’ to ‘https://www.example.com/wordpress-is-wonderful’ with the click of a button. On an ordinary static website, you would have to rearrange the files on your server and rename them to achieve this structure. WordPress allows you to do this on the admin page. It may seem like a minor change but it does have a positive effect on SEO.
As a developer, I build WordPress websites according to technical SEO principles. This goes beyond the scope of this article, but rest assured, it isn’t much use putting the effort into writing engaging content when your web developer hasn’t built the WordPress theme with SEO in mind. Sadly, an all too common failing with developers, who rarely give digital marketing any consideration. This is a problem that is all too common with free themes you download online. Beware the developer who tells you that a single SEO plugin is all you need.
However, when WordPress is set up and used correctly, it can be a wonderful tool for keeping on top of Search Engine Optimisation. Why is WordPress so popular? It’s SEO friendly.
I’ve already stated that a WordPress website could end up looking like a Word document. But if your website is initially properly designed and developed, then these problems can be overcome.
When I speak to clients, I identify section/pages of their website that are unlikely to update often. Content can be added there and mostly forgotten about. Additionally, identifying the sections that will update frequently with content structured the same, i.e. the latest news section with a title, date and text; allows a bespoke design to be made with easy updating functionality, that will save your site from looking like a text document. This method is cheaper for the client.
You can add text or images to your site with no real knowledge of HTML. Sometimes a little bit of guidance or training is required. Mostly, you can just add content yourself. Images are easy to crop as this functionality is also built into WordPress. Yet another reason why WordPress is so popular.
WordPress is the World’s most popular CMS for a reason. It’s simple to use, has thousands of plugins and compliments SEO.
Gone are the days where WordPress was simply a blogging platform. Wonderfully styled websites can be made and still have the benefit of a simple blogging function. An ideal solution for those who want to write regular content.
To be a successful online business, you need quality content uploaded to your website on a regular basis. Being able to do that yourself, rather than paying a web developer every time is cost-saving. The initial costs of getting a web developer such as myself to make your website is paid back by being able to then manage your website yourself.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on Why is WordPress so Popular? You can read more of my articles on my Blog page.
Alternatively, you can check out my web design, development and SEO business website.
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© Ian Morrison