As web designers, we tend to “talk tech” without starting at the beginning. This can leave you wondering about the basics, like “Why would I want to convert my business website to WordPress?”
What is WordPress?
First, the basics: WordPress is an open-source, database-driven content management system. (In other words, it’s a software platform: Not to be confused with the blogging website of the same name.) This Content Management System (CMS) allows you, the website owner, to easily create and modify website content (yes, including adding images and links) through an interface that’s almost as intuitive as Gmail. WordPress is widely supported and immensely popular, with tens of thousands of free plugins and themes, and many more paid ones. WordPress currently powers approximately 1/5 of all the websites in the world. And that’s pretty impressive!
Do I need WordPress?
To find out if WordPress is the right choice for your business website, first consider if your business would benefit from a content management system; and then determine if WordPress is the right CMS for you.
Does my business need a CMS for its website?
Not every website requires a full-blown dynamic content management system. For example, “microsites” and “meme” sites often only have one page. Installing and maintaining a full-featured CMS for a website like that would be total overkill.
Your business may not require a CMS if your website is a one-and-done design, with content that you rarely or never intend to update. This works well for some microsites, or for a meme website that’s intended to provoke a laugh for a flash in the plan. If you are marketing your small business in a competitive industry, this strategy is unlikely to bring you the level of success you were probably hoping for, because the search engines generally favor sites that are regularly updated.
Criticisms of WordPress
Personally, I think WordPress is awesome. But in order to avoid simply sounding like a cheerleader, I’m going to begin by considering some legitimate reasons why you might not want to select WordPress for your website.
I think there’s a reasonable criticism that WordPress is a bit lightweight in the way it manages media & attachments such as images. The interface is incredibly convenient from the perspective of creating a blog post on the fly, and seamlessly adding supporting images to your content. (Drag and drop an image into the content editor box, and the upload begins automatically: it doesn’t get much easier than that!) But it becomes somewhat more cumbersome if you are required to sort and curate several thousand images over the long term. This is because images and media content are not considered a post_type, but are simply stored in folders on your server, arranged by upload date. This means you cannot do a “search” for a specific image or sort them by tags. If you have thousands of images, trying to find one specific image that was added some time ago can become a tedious project. This is really only a problem if you have a large website with tons of images. There are probably plugins and workarounds to address this weakness (share your wisdom in the comments if you know!); but there may likewise be a CMS that is a better fit for your organization.
Security & infrastructure
On the other hand, if your company is very small, making the switch to a WordPress based website may require you to make additional investments in website hosting and website security.
Depending on your theme and plugins, some WordPress setups can be too resource-intensive for some low-cost shared hosting servers. (If you’re currently running WordPress on a low-cost hosting plan, and you notice that it runs really slow: then you would probably benefit from upgrading your web host.) This can potentially increase your website hosting costs. Your results will depend on a number of factors.
If you have always had a “static” website (hard-coded, with no CMS or dynamic features) then upgrading your site to WordPress (or any CMS) will necessarily expose you to an ever-expanding universe of online threats. With WordPress, some of the most common problems are comment spam, brute force login attacks, and exploits targeting coding vulnerabilities in plugins, themes, and outdated versions of the WordPress core itself. Some of the better web hosts are now upgrading their own server infrastructure to automatically block or mitigate many of the most common attacks. Nevertheless, even so, dealing with security concerns is an inevitable nuisance.
Benefits of WordPress
After reading the criticisms above, you may be left wondering, “Why then would anyone want to go through the trouble & expense of upgrading their website to a content management system like WordPress?” A few reasons include:
Ease of use. Update your website content through a convenient, intuitive interface. No coding required!
Automatic updates. The WordPress developer community is actively working to improve the security and usability of the system. To this end, they introduced an automatic update feature, so interim releases of the WordPress core (including vital security patches) are applied automatically, with no action required by the website owner. Major core version updates, and updates to plugins and themes, can be applied with only two mouse clicks.
Developer community. Some of the best minds in software engineering today have lent their personal ingenuity to the WordPress code base. WordPress boasts tens of thousands of free plugins and themes available from WordPress.org, and many more thousands of premium plugins & themes available in the range from $100 down to just $15 or so.
Widely supported. It’s estimated that WordPress runs some 20% of all the websites in the world. Many hosts and developers specialize in WordPress support, so it’s easy to find qualified service professionals to help you modernize & customize your own business website. Never again have to worry about getting locked in to some proprietary CMS that nobody else supports! Just check out the incredible volume of high-quality, courteous responses in the WordPress.org community support forums, and you’ll understand why WordPress is the platform with popular momentum in our zeitgeist.
Still have questions? Get in touch!