What is WordPress: Why It Powers Over 30% of the Internet
What is WordPress? WordPress is a way to create your own website (typically blogs). It's the most popular way to do so. It also happens to be very easy to get started.
As of this writing, WordPress powers more the 30% of all websites across the internet. Incredible, isn't it!?
WordPress is open-source, meaning anyone can use the source code to build their website absolutely free (yay for the open web!). Software considered open-source typically uses the GPLv2 license.
Content Management System (CMS)
WordPress is a Content Management system (and more), a tool that helps you manage the copy (text), images, pages, etc., of your website, all via an intuitive and user-friendly interface.
In short, a CMS is a tool that makes it easy to build a website without the need to know any code.
What is WordPress Used For?
When I first started learning web development, I, like all who venture into making websites, learned about WordPress.
It was exciting. The possibilities seemed endless.
Learning WordPress seemed to help unite many concepts that seemed so disparate early on in my learning.
The obvious first step was creating a blog. I read several how-to guides for setting up a WordPress site and started with a project helping my sisters create a blog about helping newly diagnosed celiacs go gluten-free.
WordPress isn't just limited to blogs, though. You can create any number of types of websites such as:
- Portfolio (Great for showcasing photography, artwork, or anything else you want.)
- Personal website (Build a website all about yourself and your hobbies.)
- Membership (Paywall content you write or curate. Require a login or paid account.)
- Forum (Create a place for discussion on a specific topic.)
- Social Network (With some advanced additions, you can create a place for people to interact socially.)
- eCommerce store (Sell goods or services online. The most popular plugin for enabling eCommerce on your WordPress site is WooCommerce.)
- Resume (Show off your resume and recent work).
- Business website (Establish an online presence for your business. Add sign-up forms for your newsletter or contact forms for a potential customer to get in touch with.)
- Affiliate website (Review products and services with special affiliate links. Drive lots of traffic to earn a commission.)
Customizing your website is even more comfortable due to WordPress's immense ecosystem of themes and plugins (more on these later). Find the ones you want to use, install, and configure (be aware that not all play nicely together—this is where it helps to have an expert involved).
Who are the Creators of WordPress?
Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little created WordPress back in 2003 as a side project. It has matured and changed significantly since its early days.
Matt Mullenweg eventually started a company called Automattic, which provides a for-profit service on WordPress.com (not to be confused with the open-source and free WordPress.org).
The creators built WordPress using the LAMP stack (the technology used for a full-featured application). The stack has evolved since then, but generally speaking, the concepts are similar (and you don't need to know much about it to get one set up).
Who Uses WordPress?
WordPress is used by some of the largest companies and organizations globally, down to individuals and startups.
If you think about it, one out of every 3 or 4 websites you visit on the web is a WordPress website.
Here are some of the biggest brands using WordPress today:
- Tech Crunch
- BBC America
- The Walt Disney Company
- The Mozilla Blog
- Facebook Newsroom
- Microsoft Newsroom
- Sony Music
How to Learn WordPress?
I've personally found the best way to learn WordPress is by doing. Find articles and blog posts about it and follow their instructions.
There are more tutorials for WordPress than practically any other software out there.
Some of my favorite resources include:
- WordPress.com (be aware that they may consist of things that are specific to their paid services)
I often google what I need to do, and there are usually several articles on the topic.
Benefits of Using WordPress
There are many benefits to using WordPress for your next project or website. It's a great option if you want to do-it-yourself or enlist help from an expert.
- Free: WordPress is completely free due to its open-source licensing. You don't have to spend any money to use the software. Saving you a lot of money in comparison with services such as Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, etc. Many of the plugins and themes are also free and open-source, opening the door to many options completely free of charge!
- Simple Installation: WordPress is straightforward to install and set up. Today you can find any number of hosting providers that have one-click installs with managed dashboards. My top two hosting providers for WordPress are SiteGround and Cloudways (these are great for self-hosted WordPress).
- Many WordPress Experts: Due to its popularity, there are many experts out there. Hiring a talented WordPress developer is cheaper, and it's easy to find help when you need it. It's also easy to find answers to your questions when you want to do-it-yourself.
- Extendable: Because WordPress has a big ecosystem of themes and plugins (many of which are free and open-source), you can create almost any type of website you can imagine. Currently, there are nearly 60,000 WordPress plugins and over 3,500 GPL-licensed themes (this infographic has some great stats and info about WordPress).
- SEO: SEO (search engine optimization) can be very technical to implement. WordPress has excellent SEO capabilities right out of the box. It's tough to beat when combined with the Yoast SEO plugin.
- Block Editor: The block editor is relatively new to WordPress. In a nutshell, it's a built-in, sort of drag-and-drop approach to creating your content. It's also allowed for some great integrations.
- Simple Interface: The user interface is kept very simple, so you don't get lost when diving into it. Accessibility is built right in!
- Blog With Built-In Comments: WordPress started as a blogging software, and it has stayed that way. It's one of the most comfortable blogging options out there. Blog commenting is also built right into the system.
- Custom Menus: Creating menus is a breeze in WordPress. Create any navigation you want.
- User Management: Did I mention WordPress can do anything? Yeah, it can manage users as well. WordPress includes user account management, logins, etc.
- Media Management: As stated earlier, WordPress is a content management system, which means it also has an entire section dedicated to organizing your media files. You can easily add these to your posts and pages.
- Own Your Data: You own all the data when you use WordPress.
I'm a big fan of WordPress. I don't anticipate it going anywhere anytime soon. Many of the projects I've worked on in the past is WordPress. Clients are more comfortable using what they've used in the past. It's also a great tool for your digital marketing efforts.
As I've built more sites and learned more, I've found that it's not always the best option for a few reasons (some of which I cover in my jamstack article 😉).
WordPress has a few downsides, but most of these aren't noticeable until you start to get a lot more traffic to your site. Things to keep in mind that are more difficult for WordPress to do is security, keeping it up to date, backups, speed, and customizations (where a plugin either won't due or conflicts with existing plugins).
Alternatives to WordPress include companies similar to those I mentioned earlier (e.g., Wix, Weebly, Squarespace). For the more ambitious, better-funded (i.e., larger companies), or those who are more code-savvy, a headless approach may be the better option (headless is a decoupling of the front end from the backend allowing for a completely custom website).
After using WordPress for nearly a decade, I've found specific plugins, themes, hosting providers, and services I go back to time and time again for each project. Here are some of my favorites (non-comprehensive):
- Kadence Themes - Probably my favorite theme out there. They stay on the cutting edge of WordPress theming, have great plugins, fantastic support, and FAST loading times.
- Astra Theme - This is a crowd favorite. It's popular, which means there are a lot of resources about customizing it out there.
- WooCommerce - If you want to sell online fast without paying a dime, WooCommerce is the ticket. It's wild how many extensions there are to make your shop do almost anything you want.
- iThemes Security - While there are more comprehensive plugins out there, I've used this one the most due to it being mostly free. It's easy to set up, and they have good support.
- Yoast SEO & Yoast SEO Premium
- WP Rocket - The best-paid caching plugin hands down. Speed up your site for a better user experience.
- WP Super Cache or SuperCacher - WP Super Cache is an excellent option for speeding up your site for free. It's a straightforward configuration. Super Cacher is terrific if you host your site on SiteGround.
- Code Snippets - This plugin makes it easy to add PHP (the coding language WordPress is written) code to your site in an organized manner and inject it where needed.
- Elementor & Elementor Pro - By far the most useful plugin for WordPress. Because so much of the web is visual, it's great to have a drag-and-drop page builder. You can build almost any layout you want. You practically don't even need a theme these days when using Elementor.
- WP Mail SMTP - Sending emails from WordPress can be finicky, sometimes requiring a unique hosting setup. This plugin makes setting up emailing simple.
- Updraft Plus - Because WordPress is not controlled and relies heavily on a database, it's vital to run frequent backups of all your code and data. Many things can ruin your day if you don't have a backup.
- Cloudflare - Site speed is all the rage these days, and for a good reason. Getting your site closer to the user and loading faster will help you with SEO and make the user more likely to stick around. Cloudflare is one of the most popular ways to accomplish just that.
- Siteground - Good shared hosting is hard to come by. Siteground is better than any others. They use modern technology to build their platform, and you get all the benefits when you host with them.
- Cloudways - Hosting on specific cloud services can be technical to set up. Cloudways makes it simple to host all the big ones (DigitalOcean, Linode, VULTR, AWS, Google Cloud).
- AffiliateWP - If you plan on selling anything through WooCommerce and want to make it simple for others to promote your products (for a commission), this plugin is the best out there.
- CartFlows - If you're into bro marketing funnel marketing, this is the best alternative to ClickFunnels. It's significantly cheaper.
- Enable Media Replace - Replacing images in the database can be fussy; this plugin helps solve that.
- MonsterInsights & MonsterInsights Pro - Probably the best plugin for implementing Google Analytics on your website. It's expensive, though, so if you don't need more advanced features, execute the script via something like Header and Footer Scripts.
- PixelYourSite - Implement social scripts quickly with this plugin.
- User Switching - When managing users, it can be useful for an admin to login to a user's account (make sure only admins or trusted individuals get that privilege).
- WP Mail Logging - This plugin keeps track of every email triggered in WordPress. It's useful to see if your emails are sending or if there are any errors.
WordPress is Popular
It's easy to see why WordPress is so popular. It's a straightforward way to get something out on the interwebs rapidly without much complaint.
Learning to do it yourself can seem a little overwhelming, but I promise it'll be more comfortable than it looks. If you don't want to worry about it or have a more complex specific use case, then hiring a professional is your best bet to getting what you want.