Yesterday, I received two emails from different clients, both inquiring about building WordPress-based websites. I responded, as I usually do: “WordPress is awesome! I love building sites with WordPress! Let’s do it!” I’ve found that I’m using it as the backbone for a lot of my websites these days (including the entirety of this one!), and I love it more and more the more time I spend with it.
1. It’s open.
Compared to similar platforms—Movable Type being the obvious example that comes to mind, which all is proprietary and messy and hard to work with—WordPress is a dream. Their website puts it best:
Everything you see here, from the documentation to the code itself, was created by and for the community. WordPress is an Open Source project, which means there are hundreds of people all over the world working on it. (More than most commercial platforms.) It also means you are free to use it for anything from your cat’s home page to a Fortune 500 web site without paying anyone a license fee and a number of other important freedoms.
So instead of building you a customized system (which I still do where the project warrants it), we start with a totally free, full-featured system (with fancy-pants features like revision history and autosave and such already built-in), then build on it. And whenever the core system upgrades, you can upgrade your installation at the click of a button. Essentially, instead of having a static system that never changes, you get one that is constantly being improved and worked on by a huge team of developers.
2. It’s flexible.
Once you’ve got the core system up and running (so about five minutes after you start, because it’s super-simple to install, too), you can customize it to behave in exactly the way you want.
So, while it’s technically intended as a blogging platform (and at its core, it really is), there are thousands of plugins, widgets, and themes you can install in order to change its functionality. Generally speaking, I’ve found that I can almost always find something close to what I’m looking for. And if you can’t, you can edit your theme templates of write your own plugins—and since WordPress is all written in PHP, a highly popular and easy-to-use scripting language, it’s easy to work with.
(The portfolio items this website, for example, are actually entered as blog posts. They are then displayed using a highly modified template, called only for posts in the portfolio category.)
3. It’s easy.
Not easy in the “sleeping with your brother” sense, but easy-to-use. WordPress is crazy easy to use. I’ve set up systems for clients who don’t have a great sense of technology, and they get going with very little direction from me. Even the more complex CMS-type setups are simple to use: last week, I met with a client for a training session I’d anticipate might take all day—instead, it took two hours.
I’ve seen the UI go through a number of different revisions, and it keeps becoming more intuitive and user-friendly. And as far as text formatting goes, well, if you can handle Word (which I actually cannot, but that’s a different story), you’re set.
4. It’s friendly.
To search engines, that is. I don’t know a great deal about SEO—it’s complex, it changes all the time, and there are many companies who do nothing else but SEO. Accordingly, I focus my attention on making websites that work well and look great. WordPress does all sorts of clever things automatically, like creating permalinks for your pages, that means that search engines will just naturally pay more attention to you, without you having to worry about it. (And of course, if you’d like to get more fiddly, there are quite a few plugins that will give you some extra control.)
5. It’s pretty.
Of course, for all its brilliance, WordPress would be entirely useless if it weren’t pretty. Luckily, it’s built with a mind for aesthetics. This means that there are all sorts of gorgeous themes you can download and install, if you’re so inclined, or you can hire a designer to make you a fantastic one-of-a-kind design and they won’t be pulling their hair out trying to do it for you. It also means that some nitpicky typographic elements you’ll probably never notice, but I will (like smart quotes, formerly the bane of my web-existence, although I’m still keeping my toes crossed for em-dashes, which I use like they’re going out of style, which admittedly they most likely are), will automatically be inserted into the text you type. Generally speaking, it takes great care to ensure that what you enter, no matter how nutty, turns into nicely-formatted code (which will also, trust me, save your designer’s hair).