Why use WordPress?
If you’ve had even the slightest exposure to websites and web building, you’ve likely heard of WordPress. WordPress is a web-building and content hosting platform that’s been around for more than 15 years. Many of the most famous bloggers, mainstream companies (eBay, UPS, etc.), celebrities and major news outlets (Forbes, CNN and Reuters) use WordPress as their website publishing platform. Check out the WordPress Website Showcase for a better idea of what WordPress sites can look like.
Today, about 30 per cent of all websites are based on the WordPress platform in some shape or form.
WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
Google the term “WordPress” and you’ll probably see two results: WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
While they may appear to be from the same family, WordPress.com and WordPress.org offer two very different experiences.
WordPress.com is a commercial and streamlined online platform – similar in nature to competing web builders like Squarespace or Weebly. It’s the place to go if you don’t want to go through the time and effort of building your own custom site. Wordpress.com takes care of all your web hosting needs and is set up so you can have a basic blog or website up in minutes.
You don’t touch any of the back-end code and can’t run any custom plugins or themes beyond what WordPress.com already offers. While you can get all the basic website functionality and hosting with a free plan, you’ll need to pay in order to take advantage of more advanced features.
If you need a relatively quick and painless way to set up a basic website to promote your small business or want to get into blogging, WordPress.com is a good bet. For some folks, their web building journey may end here–and that’s totally fine!
On the other hand, WordPress.org offers much more of a do-it-yourself experience along with an incredibly high level of customization. To say “the possibilities are nearly endless” isn’t too much of an exaggeration. WordPress (and its devoted global user community) boasts thousands of themes and plugins that allow for every facet of your website to be tweaked and customized. For this (and other reasons), WordPress.org is often considered the true WordPress experience.
Other key differences from WordPress.com:
- WordPress.org gives you access and the ability to customize all your back-end code, database and files.
- You can upload your own custom themes, plugins and apps.
- You need to source and pay for your own web hosting.
So, is WordPress.org the right choice for your website? Generally speaking, yes. WordPress is an extremely versatile web platform and content management system that lets you get started for free and bolt on whatever functionality or additional features you might need. That said, sometimes having too much choice can be a bit overwhelming especially if this is your first time building your own website.
How much does WordPress cost?
Here’s how the five basic plans break down:
- Selecting the “free” plan gets you in the door, allowing you to create a simple, straightforward website.
- The “personal” tier runs you about $5/month (CAD) and allows you to add a custom domain and access 24/7 support.
- “Premium” will set you back about $10/month and is the most popular option for freelancers and bloggers. This tier unlocks more advanced design tools and other features like custom CSS and Google Analytics support.
- The “business” plan costs $33/month and unlocks custom plugins and themes along with other features, like SEO tools, site monetization and up to 200GB of storage and live support.
- Finally, the eCommerce runs $59/month and allows you to accept payments and serves up premium themes, marketing tools and integration with shopping carriers like UPS.
Depending on your needs, you can go the cheap n’ cheerful route (for something like a personal blog or photography site) or build out a fully customized, big-dollar corporate website for your business.
For example, building a basic, professional small business or individual blog/photography website might cost you between $100 to $500. A domain name might cost you around $14.99 a year (we can help you out with choosing and registering your .CA domain!) and web hosting costs depend on your provider and website needs. From there, you can want to add a small selection of plugins to improve your search engine optimization (SEO), track visitor stats or add contact forms to your site. If you’re craving a more professional look, you could invest in some web design.
Depending on the level of features, functionality and customization you require, the overall costs can get up into the thousands of dollars.
Advantages and disadvantages of WordPress
Everyone likes good news, right? Let’s look first at the key advantages of building your website with WordPress.
Advantages of using WordPress
It can be very cost-effective
Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org are completely free to download and use – at least, initially. WordPress.org is open-source. Where your costs come into play is through hosting, your domain name, design (if need be) and any paid plugins, extensions or apps you decide to add. The cost of your WordPress.org site depends on your needs and for what purpose you plan to build a website. Do you need a simple blogging site or way to showcase your work? Or, are you building an e-commerce page that requires contact sheets and shopping cart functionality?
WordPress is great for SEO
WordPress routinely gets top marks for playing nice with Google and other search engines. WordPress.com uses modern, reliable and secure technology, making it easier to create sites that are mobile and SEO-friendly.
There’s a strong, supportive and knowledgeable community behind you
The open-source nature (and longevity) of WordPress.org means that it’s attracted a passionate, dedicated community that includes technicians, web developers and other volunteer that will provide free advice and support.
Have a burning question? All you need to do is post your query to the WordPress support forum. In addition to providing support and guidance, the WordPress community is hard at work helping to keep WordPress updated and secure.
It’s very easy to customize with tons of plugins and themes
WordPress.com comes pre-loaded with all the web building tools one might need to get a basic website up and running. However, you may want to add more specialized features and functionality according to your specific needs beyond what WordPress.com can offer.
Lucky for you, WordPress.org boasts an impressive directory of plugins–pieces of code and apps that provide additional features like media galleries, contact forms and shopping carts. WordPress plugs allow you to create almost any type of website you want, including:
- A Wiki website with the Knowledge Base plugin
- Your very own online store with the WooCommerce plugin
- A photography/portfolio website using the Envira Gallery plugin.
User-friendliness is a mixed bag
Yes, WordPress.com is easy to use and building a website is really no more difficult than creating a Facebook Page.
WordPress.org is a different and less forgiving animal. If you’re not careful, making a few false moves when updating content or changing your website’s appearance can cause serious issues. If you’re going to dive deep into a WordPress.org site, it’s helpful to have at least a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS coding to keep things running smoothly. Failing that, you may need to invest in a web developer or designer to perform periodic updates and maintenance to your site.
Updates can cause issues
One of the things you’ll notice is with WordPress.org is the very frequent, automatic updates that get rolled out. Now, these updates are critical in the sense that they can help patch security issues and improve functionality. However, these updates can sometimes temporarily break parts of your chosen theme or plugins. The more plugins you use, the more potential there is for you to run into compatibility issues.
Open source environment can leave your site vulnerable
On one hand, the “open source” nature of WordPress.org allows for tons of free-flowing creativity; anyone can build WordPress themes, plugins and widgets, and there’s no registration process. This means certain rouge plugins can contain malware or malicious code that can make your WordPress site potentially vulnerable to hackers.
Plugins and customization can slow down your site
One of the biggest advantages of WordPress.org, the ability to add in plenty of features and plugins, can also add more bloat to your website. More plugins can lead to longer page loading times. FYI: search engines like Google rank sites and pages that load more quickly above slower sites.
(Some) maintenance required with WordPress.org
With all the previously mentioned updates, compatibility glitches and potential security issues, performing regular maintenance on your WordPress.org site can be a challenging, time-consuming process especially if you don’t have the time or expertise to adequately troubleshoot issues on your own.
We hope this provides more clarity around whether WordPress is the right website building and content management platform for you.