WordPress: What Is It And How Can It Help Your Small Business Website?
To understand what WordPress (WP) is, let’s go to back to the start of websites on the internet.
Back then, each page on a website had to be individually coded. It’s what made websites so expensive.
If you wanted to add content to your website, you would have to get your web developer to do it. One large credit card payment and three weeks later, you might have had the content appear on your site. If you were lucky.
Clearly not a satisfactory situation. To solve this problem, what are known as ‘Content Management Systems’ (’CMS’) were created.
Wikipedia defines a CMS as:
The use of CMS’s became widespread for websites when open source versions became available. Open source software is free to use.
Yep, you got it… FREE!
The generosity of the internet lives.
Drupal and Joomla are two of the most popular open source CMS’s, but the most popular, by far is WP. So popular in fact, that about a quarter of the world’s websites are built on it.
But before you google ‘WordPress’, there are two things that you need to know.
The first is that there are two versions of WordPress.
At WordPress.com, you’ll find a free blogging system, similar to Google’s Blogger. It’s a great system, but for business websites, you’ll need the version that you’ll find at WordPress.org.
The second thing is that although the WordPress.org software is free, you’ll need your own website server hosting to run it. You’ll also need a domain name.
So why would you choose WordPress.org over WordPress.com?
The answer in one word is flexibility.
The tens of thousands of themes and plugins developed by third parties aren’t available for WordPress.com.
Themes. Plugins. What are they I hear you ask?
Themes are template website designs.
Upload one to your WP installation and, hey presto, if you’ve picked a great theme, you’ve got a great-looking website!
Themes vary enormously. There are thousands of free ones in WordPress.org’s Theme Directory. For a business website, it’s worth considering a paid, premium theme.
Premium themes tend to be updated more, an important consideration. Updates tend to include security updates, making it more difficult for hackers to exploit your website (although you will need a security plugin as well).
Some of the paid themes are complete website builders. They’re usually combined with a plugin that makes them work. You can produce some great-looking websites with these tools ( or awful ones if you have no design sense!).
But the flexibility can come at a price. The pages generated by these themes can often be large, so may load slowly on basic hosting. Load speed is important to Google, so your site must load in three seconds at the very most.
I’ve just mentioned them in passing above.
Plugins are the other reason why WordPress.org rocks!
Plugins are programs that you upload to your WordPress.org website. WordPress was originally designed to be a blogging platform (and still is!), but plugins give it a wide range of extra functionality.
Some plugins enhance the basic installation’s functions. For example, the massively-popular Yoast SEO plugin helps make the standard installation better for search engine optimisation. There are over thirty-thousand free plugins in WordPress’s directory (and growing!) as well as masses of paid plugins.
There are plugins that allow you to turn your WordPress website into a membership site or an an online shop or a business directory, for example.
Think of a type of website that you want and there’s usually a plugin to give WordPress that functionality. And even the paid plugins usually cost less than paying a web developer to develop that functionality from scratch.
Too many plugins on a site, though, can reduce the all-important page loading speed. Thankfully, there’s even a plugin to check that.
The P3 plugin from GoDaddy is available free from the WordPress Plugin Directory.You can turn it on when you need it, as it itself can affect loading speeds if left on all the time. It tells you which plugins are taking the most computer resources when the website loads.
Another reason for building your own website rather than using a free service is a commercial one.
A website can be a valuable sales assets for a business. If you sell your business, it will have a value. That value could be considerable. If you don’t control, the website, then you might not be able to transfer it to a buyer of your business.
The control point is also illustrated by a blog I was running on a free service when I first got started on the intenet. I had spent a considerable amount of time writing original content, when one day there was a notice from the service provider.
It said that my blog’s content was, to paraphrase the notice, spam and that it would be deleting my blog.
That day, I learnt how important controlling your online properties is.
If you’d like to see how to build a website using WordPress, this video is well worth watching:
If you don’t fancy building a WordPress website yourself, the good news is that there are plenty of people to whom the work can be outsourced on one of the many freelancing websites.
But it’s worth know what you’re paying for.
Another cautionary tale from my early internet days illutrates the point.
I was advised by the guy who was mentoring me at the time to use a web development company in India. I was charged $250 for a very basic WordPress website. It only had a couple of free plugins installed together with a free theme. It wasn’t really worth $250. But I didn’t know that.
For $250, I would now want a much better specification. In the coming weeks, you’ll find more on this website about WordPress.
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