Latest figures show that around one in every 4 new websites use WordPress.
That’s an impresssive number (last time I checked it was “only” one in 6).
So why is WordPress so popular?
And should you use it?
One of the big reasons is that it’s mainly free.
The core system can be downloaded or (more likely) installed via your hosting control panel.
Lots of website designs (called Themes) are free as are lots of extras to improve the functionality.
It’s kind-of a Swiss Army knife in that it can do almost anything.
Which is where confusion can set in
There are so many things you can do with WordPress that it can be a case of overwhelm.
Especially when you add in the weird terms for certain things that date back to its origins as a blogging system.
You can still use WordPress as your online blog or even diary – that’s what I do on this site, adding new pages to it on a regular basis – or you can use it to create a permanent pages older style site – that’s what lots of small (and not so small) businesses do.
That flexibility is good but you need to understand how to use it.
WordPress makes a distinction between web pages that are supposed to be rarely changing and ones that are maybe (or maybe not) more transient.
Anything that could be available in the site’s menu structure is called a Page.
By default, it appears in the menu system and you can nest pages to your heart’s content if you don’t want your site menu to take up too much of the top of the screen.
Or you can use a plugin (I use Search Exclude) to tell WordPress which pages to include in the menus and which to leave out of that system.
Web designers enjoy this flexibility – that’s one of the reasons WordPress is popular.
It’s also relatively easy to change the menu structure – most WordPress themes have the option for you to amend the menu system.
The downside to this is that once you get past a relatively small number of pages on your site, the menu system can become unweildy.
Sites like Amazon attempt to include a menu system although I suspect that it’s more for the benefit of search engines than regular users.
Other sites do the same kind of thing.
The other option is to use “posts”
WordPress treats posts differently.
It doesn’t include them on the menu system.
Instead, you usually create a blank page (I usually imaginatively call it Posts) and tell WordPress that all your posts should be summarised there.
This site is currently set up differently – I don’t have a never-changing front (index) page. Instead, it shows an excerpt from my latest posts and links off to them if you want to read more.
For this style of site, I quite like that option.
It gives the search engines a regularly changing front page and means that each new post gets some extra search engine love whilst it’s linked from the first page of the site.
It also explains why if you check out a link on a site like OpenLinkProfiler that link has moved further back in the page numbering system.
The option of most recent content being automatically shown on your front page is used on a lot of sites and WordPress makes that easy – it’s just a matter of going into the Reading Settings page in your WordPress dashboard and selecting the “your latest posts” option.
Of course, you need to know that option exists in the first place!
But it’s this incredible flexibility that makes WordPress so popular.
It’s also “open source”.
That means that anyone can look at how the program works.
Which is a complete contrast to something like the Windows operating system which is effectively a trade secret.
There are plus and minus points to open source software (and I’m not going to get into the debate here except to say that it’s my preference as a user) but it does mean that lots of people can create all sorts of things to add to the functionality.
I’ve already mentioned that I use a plugin (a program that changes how WordPress works) here.
Actually, I use quite a lot of plugins on this site – covering everything from SEO to a contact form and a program that keeps a watchful eye on my site (Wordfence) to reduce the chance of hackers.
Plus several others – you can check out my favourite plugins here.
The best thing is that it’s fairly difficult to break WordPress.
Sure you can mess around with the code behind the site. But that’s not something a normal person would do.
Other than that, if you mainly keep to themes and plugins that are available from the links inside your WordPress dashboard then you can rely on the testing procedures that are run by the owner of WordPress before those are included.
And in case you’re worried about free being unsupported, rest assured that WordPress has lots of revenue streams and they earn a very healthy amount of money so the program is likely to be around for many years to come.
Support is on a simular basis to Microsoft support – most users won’t get any help directly from the source but there are so many people using the system that you almost certainly won’t be the first person to come across a particular problem and support is a almost always a quick search away, Or you can delegate the fixes to someone on a site like Fiverr or one of the freelance sites. Either way, you’re almost always sorted out quickly.
WordPress tutorials are available all over the place
YouTube has videos covering near enough everything.
There are lots of websites around that give tutorials.
And there are paid products to help you ranging in price from a few dollars to (believe it or not) around $1,000 for roughly the same amount of information as this set of videos gives you for the price of a couple of coffees.
But I’d definitely recommend WordPress – it’s a popular choice for a reason and following the wisdom of the crowds is often the best option.
And if you’re looking to use WordPress for opt-in pages and lead generation, there are various plugins available, usually as paid plugins so be prepared to splash out around $100 or delve through CodeCanyon.