I am constantly amazed when recommending WordPress to a potential client that even now people still seem to think it is only for blogs!
When I explain that WordPress is used by the New York Post, TED, Thought Catalog, Williams, USA Today, CNN, Fortune.com, TIME.com, National Post, Spotify, TechCrunch, CBS Local, NBC and a lot of other internationally viewed sites they can hardly believe it.
When I go on to point out that WordPress powers 14.7% of the top 100 websites in the world, that some 500 sites are built daily and that WordPress runs 35% of the entire internet the look of surprise has to be seen to be believed.
I could give a whole lot of other statistics to support my reasons for presenting WordPress as, more often than not, the most cost-effective, functional, timely and practical option for a new website, but Karol K on CodeinWP has done a much better job, so if you really want to delve into the data I suggest you visit them and see for yourself.
But stats are only part of the story. Most people don’t really understand what WordPress is or the benefits of using it rather than spending a fortune and the time involved in having a bespoke site coded from scratch.
Without getting too technical, a website consists of two parts. A “backend” which enables the site to run correctly and appear in a browser, and “frontend” which is what visitors see when viewing the site. A developer who can write the code for both of these is referred to as a Full Stack Developer.
WordPress is the backend of a website consisting of all the requirements to run the site and a database to manage it. Putting this in a different way, think of an F1 Ferrari (or on present form possible a Mercedes). The primary requirements for a winning car are a superb chassis and a powerful engine. That’s WordPress. A framework and database that has been refined over 16 years since its initial release in 2003. And, what’s more, it is free! Just go to wordpress.org and download the most recent release, either directly to your host’s server or to your computer and away you go!
One thing that worries clients is that they think that if they purchase a theme they will be stuck with the colors and layout they see in the samples provided, but this is not the case. All good quality themes will have many options to amend the layout, colors, fonts, text size and spacing and be responsive to appear correctly on smartphones, tablets and laptops/PCs. And there are themes that offer total flexibility with design and layout enabling the same template to produce totally different looking sites. Avada and Divi probably being the most well known.
Furthermore, anyone with knowledge of HTML/CSS/JS can make even more personalized amendments to a theme to ensure it meets the client’s requirements, although this does require the use of a child theme.
So, at this point, we would have a solid framework, engine and styling in place but what about all the extras, the knobs and whistles required to perform the interaction with visitors the website owner requires.
This is where “plugins” come into play, if not already included in the initial template or theme. What will be needed does, of course, vary depending on the site and its purpose. It may be e-commerce, an on-line helpdesk, a directory, classified ads, sign-up forms linked to mailing lists, analytics, CC payment systems, Amazon affiliate links, Shopify, SEO, spam protection and captcha, etc.
The list is endless and with some 50,000 plugins to choose from it is almost impossible to think of any requirement that cannot be answered with “there’s a plugin for that”.. And another excellent point is that the vast majority of these plugins are also free, or offer a free basic option with a premium version if more features are wanted or necessary. Oh! And don’t forget if you need your site in more than one language – there is a plugin for that as well!
Again, as with themes, plugins need to have been approved by WordPress to ensure compatibility and quality of the code.
To summerise so far with WordPress you get a backend that is solidly coded and works out of the box. This is also important for search engine optimisation as well as functionality. Google likes properly coded websites! Templates/themes that can be tailored to make the site look just the way you want it to appear to visitors and whatever interaction you want to have with visitors can be catered for with plugins.
And, as an extra, you get a client management system (CMS) that with a little bit of tuition will enable you to carry out many of the routine jobs you may want to do on the site. Additions to pages or posts, reviews of analytics, reports on sales, accounting, if e-commerce, can all be dealt with via the WordPress Dashboard. This does not only provide useful data but the ability to do jobs in-house instead of paying a developer every time something needs to be changed.
Ah! But what about “hacking” I hear you say. WordPress sites get hacked a lot. Well, this is true but in real terms, this is not due to any fault with WordPress but a failure on the part of the website owner to provide initial protection or not keeping the site up to date. Hackers are always looking for vulnerabilities to exploit and one of the excellent points with WordPress is the rapidity with which any risk is quickly patched. It is now accepted practice to allow these updates to be automatically applied, but not every site owner is aware of this or has activated this option so their site is open to potential problems. Exactly the same applies to themes and plugins.
If you have read this far you might well be thinking that if it is really that easy and all I need to do is download the free WordPress package, buy a theme for a few dollars and add a few plugins do I really need a developer? Well, you could do that, and you may well end up with a working site but it might not look or perform quite the way you really want it to.
Themes and plugins all require “setting up” and despite many suggesting that no coding is required an appreciation of the interaction between the front and backend of websites is a basic starting point. You will be faced with choices on how you want the theme or plugin to work and that alone can require more than just guesswork to understand what effect the option you chose will have on how the site will look and work.
Unless you have a basic understanding of how websites work and at least some knowledge of code you really are better served employing a WordPress developer to make the site for you. It will be completed quicker, it will have all the right components, will present your visitors with a site that reflects your company image and is laid out to offer the best user experience possible. In addition, it should have built-in protection to stop hackers, and when I build sites all the SEO is incorporated as part of the package. I also offer and recommend an ongoing maintenance contract to ensure everything is kept up to date and any minor adjustments can be made quickly.
How much a developer charges will often depend on the size and complexity of the site and the time frame involved as well as the developer’s personal circumstances. On some freelancer sites, you can get very cheap offers, mainly from far east countries but, as with most things in life you tend to get what you pay for, and cheapest is not always best.
I have seen current WordPress Developer rates quoted at $50 per hour but mine are usually about 50% of that because I am retired and build WordPress sites for enjoyment and not the necessity of earning a living. My ongoing maintenance contracts are normally around $20 per month much less than comparable terms on the open market.
I hope you will have found this both interesting and enlightening. If you are planning a new site or your first website I will be delighted to discuss working with you to produce something really special that will move your business forward and provide a presence on the world wide web that will not only look great but will also be found by potential clients.