WordPress has grown from a humble blogging tool to become the most popular and widely-used content management system (CMS) in the world today. Not bad for something that didn’t even exist before 2003. WordPress is at the heart of tens of millions of the world’s top websites, and is very highly regarded – but why? What does WordPress offer that other free (and paid) CMSs do not?
- WordPress is open source, and really is free.
This is a big deal, and one of the reasons WordPress is often the first CMS anyone uses. Any user (with the possible exception of those in North Korea) can download the latest version of WordPress, install it on their domain and use it on their websites without paying any software licensing fees under the GPL license developed by the Free Software Foundation.
That being said, there are things you can pay for with WordPress, including premium templates, technical support and bespoke modifications. Just keep in mind that there are probably free resources and help sites out there, if you can spend the time looking for them.
- WordPress is surprisingly easy to use.
Being the first CMS anyone uses is one thing. Being the one they keep using as they gain experience with managing a website is quite another. WordPress keeps its users by making it easy to put up a high quality, beautiful website without ever learning to code or program a thing.
WordPress begins with a simple but effective interface, which can itself be modified with plugins if you find you need a more specific set of tools immediately to hand. The flexibility to use WordPress at your own level of ability and technical comfort is really one of its most important features.
- WordPress is nonetheless quite powerful
WordPress can be so easy to use at first that many users can be forgiven for not ‘looking under the bonnet’ and exploring some of the more powerful features that are freely and readily available to them once they’ve learned the basics.
Because WordPress is so scalable and so flexible, it can stretch to accommodate just about anything you need it to do. This is something that many paid CMSs fail to achieve, and something for which the WordPress development community should be quite proud. There is very little that you can’t do with the right combination of theme, plugins and a few deft modifications.
Better still, you don’t have to discover the perfect combination of theme, plugins, tweaks and settings alone. Users from around the world will eagerly go into great detail about the combinations they use.
- WordPress sites cost less to build and maintain
One generally expects a compromise when using open source software. It is effectively free at first, but is unsupported so you have to spend your own time, money or both developing or hiring the skills to keep it up and running.
This is rarely a problem with WordPress, though, for two reasons.
First, most of the themes and plugins available are surprisingly robust, and don’t require much fiddling or coaxing to keep working. The majority of the really popular plugins are updated and upgraded to keep pace with new versions of WordPress as well (and you don’t usually pay for that, either).
Second, there is a huge voluntary support network out there for WordPress. Forums abound where you can see if your problem has already been solved by someone else (it usually has) and where you can ask for help and advice if you really do run into a new bug or incompatibility.