What is WordPress?
WordPress is a content management system used by over 75 million people around the world.
So what is a content management system?
A content management system (CMS) is a platform for creating, storing, and calling content in a way that serves the desired purpose. Some CMS platforms create a method of working collaboratively between users to increase productivity. Some CMS platforms are built for the purpose of managing large amounts of data for one user, such as billing and budgeting applications for managing household affairs. There really is no limit to how you can utilize a content management system.
For the purposes of web design, a CMS is a platform for users to create, arrange, and call information in a way that helps build modern and functional websites. Presenting the CMS in a graphic user interface (GUI) helps the user to build and call content without needing to learn the basic coding structure of websites.
What is WordPress?
While WordPress has always been a CMS, it was not always intended to be a website building platform. WordPress got its start in the early 2000s as a personal publishing platform, in other words, it was a platform built for building, managing, and deploying blogs.
The structure of the WordPress platform was based on a pretty groundbreaking set of principles developed by Michel Valdrighi who developed a blogging platform called “b2”. When Valdrighi abandoned his work, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little were inspired to follow the direction that Valdrighi had started in. A few years later, the first version of WordPress was born and the principles inspired by Valdrighi’s blogging project are what inspired WordPress to be built on a GNU/GPL license.
Once WordPress was born its extendibility became a legend with those in the know of how to write to the blogging platform in a way that would serve up the post like static webpages. The open-source licensing and Mullenweg and Little’s encouragement for developing WordPress in a community environment eventually led to the invention of WordPress themes and third-party plugins.
Today, WordPress’s development environment has grown bigger and bigger. WordPress’s theme repository has grown into a collection of thousands of free and premium themes that serve up websites of almost anything you can imagine. The third-party plugin system has created a means for savvy developers to offer unlimited ways to extend the WordPress platform for both simple and complex tasks.
The challenge of WordPress
Of course, with a robust worldwide development community brings the challenge of maintaining a stable platform. The complexity of any CMS presents opportunities to find vulnerabilities in the scripting. Multiple teams of developers from various teams with their own scripting styles and development process present the challenge of how to stabilize a platform with very little code uniformity. For this reason, third-party plugin development is considered the biggest challenge in creating a stable WordPress environment and the source of criticisms towards WordPress’s security.
When you know this challenge exists there are many different opportunities to prevent stability issues. First, by learning some rudimentary HTML and CSS, you can avoid additions that could easily be solved with a code block and a CSS file. For more complex development situations, such as building an online store with a shopping cart, there are many choices that have been thoroughly vetted by the WordPress development community- such as WooCommerce.
If you have limited development abilities, WordPress provides options for codeless creation. Buyers beware! While there are some truly amazing free tools out there, sometimes you get what you pay for. So when you use a free app, look for the app builder’s reputation and look for evidence of a business model.
For example, WordFence, one of WordPress’s best security plugins, has a free option that does an excellent job. But WordFence has a proven track record and solid reputation, and they have a premium version of their app that provides extra security options and live support. In other words, this is a business they have been doing for years and they get paid to do things that the app does not.
Ideally, you are working with your own developer and can eliminate the need for more than a few plugins. If you can’t, then I would advise you to just do some research about what you are building your website on.
WordPress is what I build my client’s websites on
It’s confession time. I was not always one of WordPress’s biggest fans.
As a hotshot web builder who enjoyed building sites from the ground up, I didn’t understand its full value. I thought professionals who built WordPress sites were lazy. And certainly, there are “professionals” who build on WordPress and can barely style their CSS, but what I was missing were all the ways that WordPress could speed up my workflow and reduce my client’s hourly development costs.
I don’t want anyone to walk away and think I’m bitter about WordPress. I’m not. I was apprehensive about using WordPress, but after diving into the architecture I became excited by the unique opportunities that presented themselves. I read about the journey of Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, and I thought to myself…these guys think as I do. That’s very exciting for me.
Thanks to WordPress, I still get the opportunity to challenge myself, keep my skills sharp, and reduce my development costs for business and services of every size (pricing page).
Over the years, I’ve found ways to incorporate my favorite building grids, like Bootstrap, and CSS preprocessors, like SASS, for keeping my site code clean. I like frame working plugins for helping me keep my structure clean and allowing me to easily enqueue scripts. By fully embracing the WordPress Loop- which is the series of files that WordPress uses to assemble a page, I learned to bring my style of page building into the WordPress CMS.
WordPress also has the advantage of being a website platform that is easy to educate my clients on how to use for themselves. Once the site is built, editing content is fairly straightforward and doesn’t require my clients to know any serious code. I can lock in my design elements, so there is no danger of a client making a mistake that breaks the site functionality.
At the end of the day, WordPress is the first choice of what I choose to build on for my clients. And I hope by now, you can understand why I choose it.