Web technologies aren’t perfect. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to creating and maintaining your business website.
Gone are the days of uploading and downloading from a cesspool of HTML files, plus endless hours teaching yourself to interpret them. Managing a website in 2020 is easier than it’s ever been!
However, a new challenge has arisen — choosing which Content Management System (CMS) to use for your website.
A CMS is an application which has three main functions: assisting you to Create, Manage and Edit the content that makes up your website. This includes your pages, copy, media, products and articles.
There are many avenues you could go down; choosing the right option will depend heavily on your specific business. As a general rule of thumb, I recommend using WordPress.
At the time of writing this article, the latest version of WordPress has more than 80 million downloads.
But, enough with the nerdy stuff, let’s talk about why WordPress may be a good fit for your business!
Not just a blogging platform
While WordPress’ roots are in blogging, after years of development, it has become a powerful tool for managing every aspect of your website.
Out of the box, you can create pages and structure the content using a built-in block editor, store media, modify your theme and publish blog posts.
With WordPress, the world is your oyster. If there’s a specific feature you want, there’s a good chance someone has built a plugin to do it. If you are a developer, you have the ability to create one yourself!
Value for money
WordPress is free to use. The only cost involved in getting started with WordPress is the price of your domain name and hosting plan.
Being free to use does not mean all websites built using WordPress are free. There are particular use-cases that require premium themes or plugins to get the job done right.
For most basic websites, you will never need to pay for additional features.
If you are looking for a completely free option and you’re happy to make some sacrifices, you can take advantage of the free tier on WordPress.com (more comments on this at the end of the article).
The tough stuff
One of the hardest parts of building a well-performing website is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and security.
If you can’t get your website to show up on google, you’re going to struggle to get traffic and generate leads. Thankfully, WordPress produces semantic markup — code that doesn’t affect your site visually, but helps you show up in relevant searches.
While nothing on the web is 100% safe from hackers, WordPress has many security protocols in place to try and keep attackers at bay. The developers also deploy regular security updates to patch any vulnerabilities in the core software and plugins.
There are many plugins that can help take your security to the next level, such as WordFence, which you can set up with little-to-no technical knowledge.
Ease of use
The best part of my job is handing my clients the keys to their new website and watching them jump into the WordPress dashboard.
Though a little in-your-face at first, the admin panel is quite intuitive. Once you’ve performed the same task a few times, it’s like second nature to repeat in the future.
Want to create a new post? Go to the posts page! Want to change a product photo? Go to the products page!
The included block editor makes it extremely easy to structure the content on your page. You can even preview your changes before publishing them.
If you’re looking for more control over the layout of your pages, there are many page builder plugins available on the marketplace. In my opinion, Divi is the most user-friendly and feature-packed page builder for WordPress. Their pricing starts at $89USD/year or $249USD for lifetime access.
No one is perfect
As much as I’d like to say WordPress is perfect, it’s not. Like any software, it has it’s own caveats.
WordPress is open source, meaning anyone can view the code that makes it tick. This is a bit like giving someone the blueprint to your vault without giving them the access code to enter. It’s not unheard of for people to find back doors but WordPress developers are usually pretty quick at patching up vulnerabilities.
WordPress sites can also be quite slow to load, especially if you are not deleting unnecessary plugins. There are tools out there to help speed up your website but most of these require a certain level of technical knowledge.
Because plugins can be developed by anyone, it’s possible for two separate plugins to cause conflicts that can crash your website. Fixing these errors can be costly and usually requires help from a developer.
You can save yourself a lot of headaches by backing up your website regularly. Your hosting company may do automatic backups on your behalf — but to be safe you can always use a plugin like Duplicator Pro to manage your backups. If something goes wrong, simply restore from your latest backup!
There are too many WordPress competitors to list, however, I’ll name a few popular ones in two categories; Content Management Systems and Website Building Platforms (WBP).
A WBP is similar to a CMS. They use proprietary tools that you can only use on their platform, which makes migrating your website difficult but also means there is less room for human error. WBPs focus more on the design of your website and less on the functionality, making it difficult to add new features in the future.
Popular Content Management Systems
WordPress— Easily the most popular CMS.
Joomla— Complicated for beginners but powerful for developers.
Drupal—Engineered for large volumes of content but not user friendly.
Popular Website Building Platforms
Squarespace — Pre-made templates make it easy to create mobile-responsive pages. However, you are limited to the templates provided.
Wix — Drag-and-drop gives complete design freedom, however, it is challenging to make mobile-responsive pages.
Shopify — An all-in-one eCommerce solution. Easy to use but expensive.
With any of the ‘hosted’ WBP solutions, you need to be aware that you do not have access to the standard web configuration options, meaning you will be 100% reliant on their support to troubleshoot technical issues. This can be problematic if they are not responsive to your requests for help.
When choosing a platform, I always recommend considering how your business will look in the future. A good website is an investment in your company’s success.
If you have more time or money to invest, learning WordPress or hiring a developer to build your website in WordPress will serve you better in the long-run.
If you are just looking to build a website yourself with little-to-no experience and as quickly as possible, it makes sense to choose a WBP such as Squarespace.
Keep in mind that it will be challenging to add new features in the future and may end up costing you significantly more to redevelop it.
Additional notes: WordPress.org vs WordPress.com
WordPress.org is the open-source version of WordPress that you download and install on your server/hosting. This is the recommended way of using WordPress, as there are no limitations in place to use it other than the knowledge required to set up your domain, hosting and installation.
WordPress.com is a hybrid between a CMS and a WBP. It’s a hosting platform with a slightly restricted version of WordPress. You cannot install custom themes or plugins and you are subject to their content policies.
The free tier on WordPress.com only allows a branded domain (eg. yoursite.wordpress.com) and will place adverts on your website (that you don’t earn revenue from).
For some people this is a good option however, be aware that this will limit your options in the future. It is possible to migrate a site from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, but it requires some technical knowledge.
For a more in-depth comparison of WordPress.org and WordPress.com, click here.