In our hosting article last week, a mention was made of the various applications that many hosts make available to customers such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. This week we’ll be looking at WordPress, which is by far the most popular of all the applications out there. This is because it’s highly usable, easy to customise and very powerful.
In fact, WordPress is the most popular CMS (Content Management System) in the world, used by 52% of the world’s top blogs in 2013 – and this figure is rising all the time. As the image below shows, WordPress is by far outpacing its competitors and even custom designs are no longer the first choice of many when it comes to their website.
hy Is WordPress So Popular?
There are many reasons that WordPress is becoming the platform of choice for many sites, not least the fact that the back end is simple to find your way around and upload blogs and images with little to no technical knowledge.
Other reasons include:
- The availability of 1000s of themes, most of which can be adapted to suit the company branding
- A huge amount of plugins available, allowing for additional functionality, such as ecommerce, ratings and voting, image galleries and much, much more
- The ability for a professional web developer to create custom themes using the basic framework
- It’s open source, meaning that whilst you may (and probably should) pay for your theme, the actual WordPress platform itself is completely free to use
- Search engine friendly – plugins allow for easy optimisation
- Supports a range of different media types such as images, video etc.
WordPress for Business
Whilst it’s primarily known as a blogging platform, WordPress sites are not limited to a rolling page of blog posts. You can create a static front page and allow the blog to be linked to this. In fact, you can create as many pages as you like, just as you would with any website.
Many of the biggest sites out there use WordPress; certainly the majority of businesses that I deal with do. It’s perfect for online collaboration with remote workers as, with the correct permissions, anyone can login and create a post, without having access to any other areas of the site which they could break.
Techcrunch use WordPress, as do the PlayStation blog, Gizmodo, Lifehacker and Mashable (below).
All of these are sites with readerships in the millions that create a huge amount of content and WordPress works for them.
WordPress for Developers
Many developers adapt existing WordPress themes to make them suitable for individual clients and this means that they work with the theme code using coding standards set out by WordPress. The WordPress Codex is the online ‘manual’ for the software and carries strict guidelines on getting the coding right.
However, this doesn’t mean that the developer can’t make a theme for a business as a private affair. The WordPress codex allows devs to get their theme distributed, often for free. They can then sell upgraded features or the theme itself – prices for themes vary quite wildly, as does functionality.
Any developer looking to create a theme for the codex should also be prepared to make regular checks and bring out updates and patches, as well as provide customer support, all of which can be overwhelming if a theme has been developed, submitted, accepted and then proves to be wildly popular.
If you’re thinking of developing your own theme, then it’s worth checking out the (extensive) theme documentation before making a decision; it’s a very involved process to get a theme approved and accepted into the official directory.
Devs that don’t want to go to the considerable trouble of submitting to the directory, can always use sites that allow them to build a theme without the hassle, using a pre-configured framework.
Finding a Great Theme
There are such a vast amount of themes on the market that finding one you like can be quite tedious. From the perspective of a business, it will be a part of your market research, but you should involve the developer/designer from the start. This is because they are much more likely to know what functionality and options to personalise to look for than you will.
- How image-based aspects such as sliders will work on the site
- Is the theme responsive and if so, how it might affect performance
Probably the most popular site to find themes is Themeforest and at the moment, the site is billing a theme called X as the ‘ultimate’ theme you can get. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you though, so it’s worth taking a look around at what else is out there, and discussing with your designer.
Finding Your Way Around WordPress
For business admins and those that will carry out the day-to-day running of the blog who are not particularly tech savvy, the idea of uploading and adding images, SEO information and so on is quite daunting at first. However, WordPress is easy when it comes to posting and it won’t take a huge amount of training to get staff up to speed.
The ‘Dashboard’ is available on login and from here, all manner of things can be carried out, from adding posts and pages, to altering the design and giving the site additional functionality through plugins.
Not all plugins are created equally, so it pays to get the advice of your developer and read reviews before installing any yourself. Additionally, themes and plugins sometimes just don’t like each other and just one plugin can cause problems that can take down the entire site. This is fine if it happens immediately, as the cause will be obvious, but sadly that’s not always the case. This is because updates to both WordPress itself and plugins can cause the occasional compatibility issue.
Creating a post is simple with WordPress; as you can see from the above screenshot, to the side of the dashboard, on the left-hand menu, there’s a ‘posts’ option. It’s just a case of hovering on that and choosing the ‘add new’ option. You’re then presented with a box where you can insert the written and/or multimedia content.
Here you can also add contact forms as well as allow comments and tweak SEO (with a good plugin such as Yoast). For employees, it’s only necessary to give permissions that are necessary for them to carry out their jobs and this can be done when you set up their user account via the dashboard and users. Again, this is on the left-hand menu, which every part of the site can be accessed from if you have full administrative rights.
As you can see, you have four choices when it comes to how much access to the site a user can have. The Administrator will of course have full access and at the other end of the scale, a subscriber will have access only allowing them to leave comments, depending on the set up.
The chart below by BOBWP, shows what each user role allows, although as he also points out, it should be borne in mind that whilst Authors can see the posts of others, they can’t delete any posts except their own.
The submission process for themes makes one thing very, very clear and that is that any theme creator has to adhere strictly to the security guidelines. WordPress is a secure platform, but like the majority of popular software, is of course open to attack.
Many WordPress sites exist that have effectively been abandoned, leaving them open to attacks that place malicious code on the sites. However, don’t think that this means the platform is insecure, it’s not, but security is as much your responsibility as the software itself and the developer’s.
Change the default login from admin as soon as the site has been set-up and choose strong passwords that contain letters, characters and numbers. Yes, they are difficult to remember, so write them down or use a password manager.
If you’re building a website, or having one built, you can’t go too far wrong by choosing WordPress. A good developer will be able to customise it perfectly to suit your needs and it doesn’t require extensive knowledge for managing the content.
For personal blogging, the main site can be used, which gives the extension .wordpress.com to your chosen username. However, the free online blogging platform has reduced functionality and is recommended for personal blogs, not business. The latter should choose hosted WordPress installations for the best results and ability to build a professional site.