As a Website Developer, I am asked often – what platform I recommend for websites and why. The answer is really easy and hasn’t changed in the past 13+ years (when I stopped coding static HTML sites). I always recommend a self-hosted WordPress website. The “short answer reason” – this set up allows for complete control of the website design and functionality. That means there are literally no limitations as to how the website can look and what the website can do. This is critical when business owners have the need to adjust their online presence and business requirements. Simply having a website in place that can be easily altered can prevent a ton of stress and wasted money.
WordPress is an open source / free software product developed in 2003. It is a powerful CMS (content management system) written in the PHP programming language with MySQL handling the database. This platform is currently used by over 60 million people and over 35% of websites online today. This is no doubt due to the incredibly useful functions that are built right into the software framework:
- permalinks (SEO friendly URLs)
- content categorization – pages / posts
- complete blogging system
- global sidebars with customizable widgets
- robust media library
- tiered user structure
WordPress Themes vs. Plugins
WordPress was developed in a way that brilliantly separates the design from the functionality. The theme of a WP site controls the style and design. The plugins in a WP site add the functionality. A site will have one theme (two if there is a child theme – and there should be child theme to properly manage design customization) and multiple plugins. An enormous global community exists today – comprised of developers and designers that contribute themes and plugins. The theme I use almost exclusivity for website development currently is Divi by Elegant Themes. Using this theme – I am able to create unique landing pages – designed completely differently than the main website.
WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
This causes a lot of confusion for sure. Here is some clarity as to what the difference is and why it is important to understand it.
WordPress.org is the self-hosted option I mention above. This option allows for complete control of your website design, functionality and data. All you need is a domain and website host to get started. Hosting starts as low as $3 per month from the company I use for my website and recommend to clients. Check them out here. It is important to note that with this option – the security, regular software updates and data back ups need to be handled for your site to run smoothly.
WordPress.com is the hosted version of the software that is extremely restrictive for the “free” option and very expensive for the paid options, up to $5,000 per month for the VIP plan. The base plan does not allow you to install themes or plugins and the sites will contain ads – that you will not obtain revenue from. You are also not allowed to install basic scripts like Google Analytics or any type of eCommerce system for selling products or services.
WordPress vs. The Other Guys
There are a lot of “competitors” for website platforms – WIX, SquareSpace, Weebly, Shopify, GoDaddy Website Builder (this one is truly the worst of the worst!), etc. I cannot stress enough just how inferior they are to WordPress. Ok – I may be a bit biased – since my background is in PHP programming – the language WordPress is written in. But I have worked in all of these platforms over the years and they never cease to amaze me in their glaring lack of options.
None of the mentioned alternatives are a true CMS (content management system). They are very restrictive programs provided by the company that creates it. Meaning – if your website is a WIX site (for example) – you are stuck there. You don’t have an option to change the website host.
Here is a quick, comprehensive list that you don’t have to worry about with WordPress:
- No website portability – your website cannot be moved to another platform
- One website design for all pages in the site – no unique landing pages
- Limited functionality to whatever is offered – no way to add functions
- No ability to add custom scripts or code
- No data ownership – no accessible database to export the site content