There was a time in the not-too-distant past when web design was a highly daunting task for anyone other than professional web designers fluent in the use of HTML. While there is definitely still a need for such professionals, and while this article certainly does not wish to ignore or devalue their worth, there’s no denying that the landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years, with more and more DIY options popping up for business owners.
And while there are numerous such companies out there that offer Content Management Systems (CMS) – Joomla and Drupal are the first two that spring to my mind – the one that most people favour is WordPress, and in this article I will provide the ten main reasons why I think WordPress is the way to go for your business.
Please note that in this article I am generally referring to self-hosted WordPress sites (WordPress.org), as opposed to those that are hosted on WordPress’s server space (WordPress.com). A detailed explanation of the difference between the two can be found here, but in simple terms this article is aimed at business owners who need a website that is fully customisable, and WordPress-hosted sites are not.
Ten reasons why WordPress is the best web design solution:
1. WordPress is a one-stop-shop solution for web design
WordPress started life in 2003 as a CMS for bloggers. When I first used it myself back in 2006, it was just for the purpose of running a blog which I then attached to my HTML website. In recent years, however, it has grown in scope to the point where you can easily use it to build a fully fledged website. In fact, many major brands such as TechCrunch and eBay use WordPress for their site or blog.
2. WordPress will save you money
The cost of building a website in WordPress is minimal. WordPress don’t charge anything for you to install their software, and if you go down the simplest route of using a free WordPress theme, the only cost to you will be the domain name (as little as £5 every two years if you go for a co.uk name) and web hosting (as little as £15 per year). If you were to use a web designer to build a site from scratch in HTML, you’d be looking at least £250 to £400 for a basic one, and then you’d still have the domain name and hosting fees on top of that.
Free WordPress themes will meet the needs of some business owners, but often it’s necessary to buy a premium theme. You may be worried about your site looking too generic, or you may need a very specific WordPress theme for your business; for instance, if you want to set up a web directory, you would need to purchase a purpose-built directory theme such as Vantage by AppThemes.
Whatever your reason for wanting a premium WP theme, the good news is that most premium themes do not come at premium rates. ThemeForest have themes from around £3 upwards, and Elegant Themes will give you access to all of their 87 super-stylish themes for around £41 per year (at the time of writing).
3. WordPress is highly customisable
As I mentioned earlier, WordPress sites are highly customisable as long as you have a self-hosted WordPress website. Install WordPress on your server space and you will be able to download plugins (free or paid) to your heart’s content (although bear in mind that plugins do take up space and running too many will slow your site down).
From the WordPress dashboard it’s easy to search for a plugin that meets your needs, and with over 30,000 plugins available, you’ll probably find one. You can tell which plugins are the most popular, too, by checking the number of downloads and the aggregate rating next to each one.
Plugins aren’t the only way to customise your site. Premium themes often come with their own control panels which you can access via the WordPress dashboard, so you can do things like change the size of your logo and alter the navigation bar, text size or colour scheme without any coding knowledge whatsoever. If you need to get under the bonnet and make more substantial changes, you can do this yourself (if you know what you’re doing) or you could pay a web designer to do it for you. Files can be accessed via the WordPress dashboard or via FTP (like with any other website). Whatever you do, make sure you back up your site before any changes are made.
4. WordPress is user-friendly
One of WordPress’s great strengths is its user-friendliness. It is far easier to use straight out of the box than its nearest rivals Drupal and Joomla, and as this article is aimed at business owners rather than web designers, user-friendliness is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing which path to take.
You can log into your dashboard simply by going to yourdomain.com/wp-admin and putting in your username and password. From there you can very quickly post blogs, edit your web pages and access the code of your site directly if necessary. Gone are the days when you needed to log into an FTP site, download your latest PHP files, edit them in Dreamweaver and upload them again.
As well as having an intuitive, attractive and easily navigable dashboard, the huge array of plugins available on WordPress can help to automate aspects of your site so that you can get on with running your business. For instance, why worry about backing up your WordPress site every day or week when you can download a plugin such as UpdraftPlus to automatically back it up for you as frequently as you want?
5. WordPress is responsive
Every day, more and more people are accessing the internet via their mobile phones or tablets. This is great for business owners as it means people will be able to access their website when they’re away from their desktop or laptop; however, it does present the need for a responsive website.
The word ‘responsive’ in this context refers to the ability of a website to adapt to the screen on any given device. If you look at a non-responsive website on your smartphone, you will probably have to ‘pinch and zoom’ to be able to read the text. A responsive site, on the other hand, will detect that you are viewing if from a non-computer screen and will automatically optimise itself so that you can read the text clearly. It may remove certain images to do this, or it may reduce a navigation bar to a single drop-down button, but it will keep the important content so that the visitor will find what they are looking.
The great thing about WordPress is that many of the themes you can apply to your site are fully responsive – all you need to do is install WordPress, install a responsive theme and that’s it! This is a huge benefit to using WordPress and explains why so many people are future-proofing their old HTML sites by moving to WordPress.
6. WordPress is secure
Blogging software is often criticised for being susceptible to hacking, but WordPress is actually very secure if you take certain measures. You can make your WordPress website ‘hacker proof’ by using plugins such as Wordfence, an essential WordPress add-on that provides a complete anti-virus and firewall package for your site.
It is also worth mentioning that in addition to the many useful security plugins available, WordPress itself is constantly receiving updates, many of which are designed to tighten up its security against the latest threats.
7. WordPress makes SEO easy
WordPress sites tend to be indexed quickly by Google, so by simply having a WordPress website you will be giving yourself a fighting chance of seeing your blog posts rank highly in search results, but to really maximise your SEO you would be well advised to install the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin.
SEO is such a complex and ever-changing beast that to master (or even understand) it would be too big a job for the average business owner. Luckily, Yoast’s founder Joost de Valk is an SEO expert, and his plugin does a lot of the complex stuff for you. From automatically creating sitemaps through to analysing (in great detail) the SEO value of each page or post on your site, WordPress SEO by Yoast covers all bases, giving you more time to focus on other aspects of your business.
8. WordPress is accessible anywhere
As I mentioned earlier, it is very quick and easy for WordPress website owners (and anyone else they’ve given administrational rights to) to log into their site and make changes. No need to use an FTP client to access your files – everything is accessible from the WordPress dashboard, so all you need is access to a web browser.
This is great if you need to access your site’s back end when you’re out and about or if you want to quickly upload a blog from your mobile device (using the official WordPress app for Apple/Android).
9. WordPress makes social media easier
There’s no denying the importance of social media for businesses these days. The amount of focus you decide to place on social media will depend on your personal aims for your company and also the type of business you run, but whatever you decide, it’s reassuring to know that WordPress is well equipped to assist you with various aspects of social networking.
For instance, many WordPress themes allow you to place social media buttons on each page of your site and on each blog post – and if your theme doesn’t provide this function, there are plenty of free plugins, such as ShareThis, that do.
As well as providing buttons and widgets on your website, WordPress plugins also allow you to automatically post updates on the social networks whenever you post a blog, which makes it that little bit easier to keep up your social activity. Facebook, Twitter and the other main social networks have also developed their own widgets which you can install on your site to encourage more people to follow you.
10. WordPress is the most popular and fastest-growing CMS
Whilst popularity isn’t always a good measure of quality (for instance, I for one would contest the quality of Westlife’s music despite the fact that millions of people like it), I do feel that WordPress’s popularity is an important factor for business owners to bear in mind. WordPress is by far the most popular CMS on the market, and rival CMS developers such as Joomla and Drupal are losing market share to WordPress all the time.
If this pattern continues over the next few years, who’s to say that WordPress’s dominance of its market won’t reach Google-like proportions? If you want to reduce the likelihood of having to switch from one CMS to another in a few years’ time, I would advise you to go with the most popular solution from the offset.