WordPress is a flexible open source web content management system that powers almost one quarter of all websites on the Internet 1. It’s been wildly successful as a blogging tool, but is also fully-featured enough to run complex, high-traffic websites. We use WordPress for many of our client projects, and I’d like to explain why we often think it’s a good choice when building small business and non-profit websites.
First of all, a clarification: when I say we build websites with WordPress, we’re not talking about using off-the-shelf templates. Each site we build starts as a blank canvas, with hours of research and design work put in before a single piece of code is written. We use many different tools as part of our build process, some of which plug directly into WordPress, and some of which are standalone components. WordPress is just another tool we use (albeit an important one) as part of our custom website process.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about a few of the reasons we like to recommend WordPress as a custom website solution:
- WordPress is open source, freely available, and widely supported. There’s no vendor lock-in, as with many proprietary CMSes. You can export your data at any time, in any format, and you’ll be able to find a developer to help you with updates for a very long time into the future. WordPress is a community as much as it is a piece of software, and that community is generous with their knowledge.
- WordPress is powerful, flexible, and capable of near-infinite customization. As I mentioned above, each site we build includes a fully custom front-end design, with no limitations imposed by the CMS. Our sites often include extensive custom back-end functionality as well. A well-developed plugin architecture and robust add-ons like Advanced Custom Fields and WooCommerce give us the ability to build full-featured, data-driven web and e-commerce sites in less time and for less money than in the past.
- When implemented and maintained correctly, WordPress is a secure and stable platform. Most of the security issues you may have heard about WordPress are caused by out-of-date versions of software, insecure third-party add-ons, and cheap web hosting. Fortunately, all of these can be mitigated by keeping your software up-to-date, vetting any add-on software closely before installing it, and choosing the right web host. We partner with a WordPress-specific host called WP Engine so we can offer fast, reliable, and secure hosting for our clients.
- The WordPress admin interface is well-thought out, intuitive, and continually refined. We remove unnecessary dashboard elements, add inline documentation, and provide training so even non-tech savvy clients will have no problem making updates to their site.
If you run a small business or non-profit organization and your website is important part of your business, we believe there’s a good chance WordPress will be a great fit for you.
Now that we’ve looked at the benefits, what are a few reasons you might not choose WordPress for your next website?
- You don’t need a site with a lot of custom design or functionality. Perhaps all you need is a simple portfolio website with a well-designed template? In that case, a hosted service like Squarespace might be a good choice for you.
- You don’t have the resources to implement WordPress correctly or keep the software up to date. If you’re not willing to commit the time and resources to keeping your website software up to date, then WordPress is probably not a good fit. Even with automatic software updates for the WordPress core software, plugins and themes need to be checked before every update, too. You should be keeping backup snapshots of your site before and after every update so you can roll back if necessary. If this sounds too complicated and you don’t want to pay someone to do it for you, you’re probably better off with a hosted or static website solution.
- You have an in-house technology team with a preferred solution, you just need some outside help with content strategy, design, and the front-end build. Awesome! We can help with that, too. Our process is about content strategy, backed up by solid design and technology. If you’ve got the back-end technology in place, we’re glad to help with everything else.
In any case, the days of not taking WordPress seriously as a web CMS are long behind us, even though myths about capability and security continue to persist. If you’re thinking about building a new custom website in the near future, WordPress should probably be near the top of your list.