You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about WordPress. You’ve certainly been to Web sites published with it (see www.RollingStones.com for a recent example). But what is WordPress – and why should you use it to build your Web site?
WordPress is a publishing platform that’s easily installed on most Web servers. If you buy hosting through a popular provider such as GoDaddy, HostGator, or BlueHost (I am not affiliated with any of those companies), then your account already supports WordPress – as do the majority of other Web hosting companies.
In technical terms, it’s software that requires PHP and MySQL – two nearly ubiquitous Web technologies – to be running on your Web server. Originally intended for blogging when it debuted in the early 2000s, WordPress has quickly grown well beyond the blog. Its ease of use, widely-available support, and endless library of themes, plugins, and widgets have made it extremely flexible for pretty much any kind of Web site.
To that end, here are five fantastic reasons to consider WordPress:
1) No special desktop software is needed to build or maintain your Web site. Once you install WordPress on your Web server – whether with the automatic dashboard installer that most Web hosts provide or via the famous “Five-Minute” manual installation method – you can log in to your Web site’s control panel to create and manage posts, pages, layouts, pictures, aesthetics, and even dynamic elements, including forms, ecommerce functions, polls, and user subscriptions.
2) It’s very easy to use. The intuitive WordPress dashboard is simple to navigate, even if your technical skills are lacking. Plus, most times you need help, you can just Google for it. Alternately, you can peruse the plenty of free online resources or countless WordPress books you’ll find at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. With such a wide user base, it’s no trouble finding someone to answer your questions.
3) You can manage and update your site via your smartphone or tablet. Yes, Virginia…there’s an app for that! It’s available for iOS, Android, and Blackberry, it’s free – and it’s spectacular. No need to tote your laptop around. Create new pages, add new blog posts, manage user comments, view statistics, and more – all while you’re waiting in line for your latte.
4) Search engines love WordPress. Out of the box, a WordPress blog or Web site structures your pages and page URLs in ways that make it easy for Google, Bing, Ask, and other major search engines to index your content. But with just a few quick tweaks (such as applying “pretty permalinks”, which give your page URLs such search-engine-friendly names as “www.yoursite.com/about-our-basketweaving-services/”) and the right plugin or two, your content will be picked up by Google and Bing every time you add or change anything.
5) It’s free. All you need is a Web hosting account, something you’ll need for any Web site you want to publish. There is no extra charge to install or run WordPress on your hosting.
Please note: I am not referring to the variant of WordPress known as “WordPress.com“. That version of WordPress is subscription-based; you can sign up for free and publish your blogs via your WordPress.com account. But WordPress.com is very limited. You have very little control over your site’s appearance – you can neither edit themes nor add plugins or widgets.
For a yearly fee, you can upgrade and add features, but even the most expensive account type there offers you nothing even close to the flexibility and freedom of having the WordPress software on your own hosting.
Bonus Reason: you can move your site to another Web host without having to start all over again. Whether via core features or add-ons, WordPress gives you great options to back up your site to the cloud or your desktop. There are myriad plugins (and hosting companies) that will move your WordPress site to another host, with just a few clicks. You can even get your WordPress site started for free on WordPress.com, then move it to your own hosting as your needs grow. How cool is that?
The Bottom Line
In sum, WordPress provides the power and flexibility of a robust content-management-system (CMS) in an easy to use and highly customizeable package. Whether you’re a Web pro or just starting out, WordPress is a great way to publish and maintain a Web site or blog. It’s free, easy to install, simple to operate, convenient to use (even from your phone), and very search-engine friendly. And, given its swelling user base, it will remain highly popular for the foreseeable future – making it easy to get help or additional features as you need them.