When I’m out and about promoting my business through networking events, or speaking to potential clients, I’m often asked why WordPress is my Content Management System (CMS) of choice. The short answer is because it works. The longer answer incorporates many of the reasons it is used by a worldwide community of designers, developers, and bloggers. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, though I’d love to hear the individual reasons others choose WordPress; these are the reasons I use WordPress, and the benefits I feel it brings to my clients.
First off, a very brief layman’s description of WordPress for those who are completely unfamiliar with the concept:
WordPress is a piece of software which can be installed on your web server, and connects to a database. The interaction between WordPress, the database, and a series of design templates known as a theme creates a web page on the fly and sends it to the browser (the programme that people use to browse the web e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome) of someone who wants to see the page. All of the “content” of the page, the bits that change from page to page on a website, is stored in the database. The bits that don’t change – the design and layout, and elements which are consistent across all pages like header graphics – are controlled by the theme. WordPress mediates between the two and sends the combined information necessary to display the page to the browser. When a site owner adds information via the WordPress dashboard, this is saved in the database for WordPress to retrieve and slot into the page design when someone requests the page. This is a gross oversimplification of what is actually happening, and the technology that is driving the process, but it gives us a model for thinking about the process without getting too technical. Basically, it allows the administrator or editor of the site to log in to the WordPress dashboard through any internet connected computer and add, edit, or delete pages without the risk of breaking the design, and without needing any knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP, or any other web or programming language.
This is more or less how most modern Content Management Systems work so, again, why do I chose WordPress as my CMS?
- Putting The Client in Control – this is the main reason to use any CMS. Unlike a static site, where the client has to come back to me to make any changes, a WordPress-driven site allows the client to make as many changes as they like without paying me for my time or waiting for me to be free. This can be crucial for businesses in fast-paced markets, organisations that need to get information out quickly, and hobbyists with a lot to say!
- Usability – WordPress is fairly intuitive to use. Although I provide hands-on training and/or site-specific documentation for my clients, most people manage to navigate their way around the WordPress dashboard after minimal exposure. If you can fill in a web form, or have ever used a word processor, you’ll be up and running with WordPress in no time.
- Open Source – many people confuse open source with free, and while WordPress certainly is free to acquire and install which helps to keep costs down for my clients, it also means that the source code is freely available for developers to adapt and improve. The sheer number of developers working with WordPress and pushing the boundaries of what it can do means that WordPress is constantly evolving and improving as developers contribute to the source code.
- Popularity – WordPress is a very popular CMS both with end users and with developers. This has a number of benefits. As well as the evolving nature of the functionality, the number of installations and vast community of developers mean that WordPress is normally ahead of, or a very short step behind, the bad guys when it comes to security. I also feel that its popularity offers some measure of assurance to my clients that were I to drop dead, or my relationship with the client sour in some way, there are a legion of other WordPress developers ready and able to take over the management of the site who don’t then have to decipher some proprietary code or rebuild the site from scratch.
- Flexibility – is one of the biggest advantages of WordPress. Although many WordPress sites based on “off-the-shelf” themes will look quite similar, a skilled WordPress developer can make something totally unique by creating a bespoke theme. Add to this all the add-ons and plug-ins that developers have created to extend the functionality of the core software, and your WordPress-driven site can be pretty much tailor-made to your requirements. Do you need to add a shopping cart, a classified ads section, an events calendar, a poll, a community or forum? WordPress has plug-ins or widgets for all those and many, many more….
- SEO – Search Engine Optimisation is a breeze with WordPress. One of the problems with early CMS-driven sites was that you couldn’t set keywords and meta tags on an individual page by page basis, and this damaged results in search engines like Google and Yahoo compared to well-crafted static HTML pages. Later editions of WordPress handle page by page optimisation better natively, but also benefit from optional plug-ins offering precise control of individual setting of keywords, descriptions, page titles etc. As well as the on-page elements, RSS feeds and easy integration with social networking and bookmarking sites help to get your content noticed and drive traffic to your site.
Those are some pretty compelling reasons for using WordPress as the CMS of choice for my clients. Of course, it could be argued that there are other CMSs which meet some, or all, of these criteria. I’m sure there are, which brings me back to the short answer to the question – it works! Until I find something a client wants that WordPress can’t do, I’ll remain a WordPress specialist.