Updated: Oct. 31, 2022
Originally Published: Nov. 30, 2020
More than 43% of all websites run on WordPress for many reasons. If you’re considering WordPress as your site’s content management system, you should know about the key features that marketers and IT teams prize.
How Does WordPress Work?
WordPress is a content management system created and maintained by Automattic. The platform includes everything one may need to build and maintain a website, but also offers a vast library of themes and plugins that add designs and functionality.
There are three main pieces that make WordPress work:
- The WordPress Core – This is the base software that runs everything.
- Theme(s) – Designs can be added to WordPress to give a website a different look and feel.
- Plugins – Individual apps that can be added to give a website more functionality.
All three pieces work together to make a WordPress website function successfully. If one component is broken, a WordPress website may experience problems that affect the user experience.
Also, all three components receive routine updates that should be maintained each month.
WordPress is Highly Customizable
WordPress is an open source content management system, meaning the source code is available for all to see. Developers use this access to create customized themes and plugins.
You can build your WordPress website your way. Developers have created more than 60,000 plugins and 11,000 design themes to meet the varied needs of a wide spectrum of users, from e-commerce stores with detailed product catalogs to simple blogs. Trained developers and non-technical webmasters alike can leverage the power of the available plugins and themes to customize a website without writing code.
But with great power comes great responsibility. WordPress can be a great choice – if you’re mindful in adding technologies.
We've found that both developers and non-technical webmasters often fail to think through a strategy for applying themes and plugins. This failure results in bloated, slow websites that are difficult to scale or manage, and it can create security risks.
With a sound strategic approach to the technology, WordPress is an amazing CMS that will work wonders for your organization. If you don’t know how to create such a strategy or if your WordPress site performs poorly and is difficult to maintain, we recommend hiring a vendor. (Hint: Northwoods is good at this.)
WordPress Can Be An Economical Platform
Don’t confuse the two versions of WordPress.
- Everyone knows the free version available at WordPress.org.
- Automattic also offers a managed hosted version that comes with a monthly fee (depending on the plan one selects).
WordPress.org, on its own, is free to use. This core piece of technology runs your website and comes with a base set of tools, so you can create a website without spending a dime (as long as you have a host or server to put it). The tools are somewhat limited, but fine for a simple website.
The only costs of maintaining a base WordPress.org website rise from purchasing a domain and paying for hosting. Domains vary drastically in price, depending on the desirability of the domain name and the length of the usage contract. Some domains can cost thousands of dollars a year; others cost 10 dollars.
Hosting, likewise, can be a few dollars a month or many. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for with hosting. (Learn more about how to choose a good WordPress website host.)
Simple websites can run on the base install of the WordPress core alone. But what if you need a website with high design or greater functionality?
The complexity of functionality and the support level for the theme and plugins ultimately determine cost. You can add simple themes and plugins, but many free tools come with little support. Complex, supported tools tend to have one-time or annual license fees. Before purchasing a theme or plugin, perform due diligence as to its functionality and update frequency. Be sure to read the user reviews.
Note that even with these additional charges, most organizations find WordPress less expensive than other content management systems.
WordPress Has a Massive Library of Themes and Plugins
The world-wide WordPress community has built a massive library of themes and plugins that can be added quickly to WordPress-based websites. This library is at once the biggest draw and the biggest drawback to WordPress.
WordPress plugins can add functionality that's not available in WordPress out of the box. Plugins can provide something as simple as a contact us form or integration with your email marketing tool and such complex features as e-commerce stores, custom filtering and navigation.
WordPress themes dictate the look of your website. Even without a background in web design, you can apply a pre-built WordPress theme and build content that looks great from the start.
Some plugins and themes are free to use. Some developers charge one-time or ongoing costs.
Given the vast number of available plugins and themes, chances are the functionality you need is already built and ready to be added to your site. You can add it at any time, so your site’s functionality can grow along with your needs.
Again, power comes with responsibility. Before you dive in, ensure that your prospective plugins and themes come from reputable sources. Plugins, in particular those from third-party developers, can pose security risks. Lacking proper security precautions, plugins could give easy access to hackers intent on stealing data. (For more insight, follow this link to our advice about what to consider when launching a WordPress website.) Also, plugins, like certain combinations of drugs, can interact in conflicting ways and cause damage.
Before you dive in, ensure that your prospective plugins and themes come from reputable sources. Plugins, in particular those from third-party developers, can pose security risks. Lacking proper security precautions, plugins could give easy access to hackers intent on stealing data. (For more insight, read our advice about what to consider when launching a WordPress website.) Also, plugins, like certain combinations of drugs, can interact in conflicting ways and cause damage.
Uncomfortable about managing all this? Turn to an agency – again, Northwoods, for example – to provide monthly site maintenance and lift responsibility from your shoulders. Learn more about our Worry-Free WordPress services.
WordPress Can Be Easy to Use and Learn
If set up properly, WordPress can be easy to use. The themes and plugins generally don't require technical skills. You can add new pages and images and edit page copy easily with tools built into WordPress.
But WordPress websites that aren't set up properly or are overengineered can be extremely difficult to maintain. WordPress messes call for expertise to come in and clean things up. (We can help if you find yourself in this situation.)
Let’s assume that your WordPress website is set up properly with supported themes and plugins. If you get stuck, WordPress has a large network of support tools. The worldwide community that develops these tools creates helpful content about how to keep WordPress sites running well. A search on YouTube typically provides hundreds of WordPress how-to videos. Also, thousands of WordPress users and community support resources online stand ready to assist you, as well at Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
With just a little bit of training and social interaction, you can learn the skills needed to fix, change and improve your website.
Ultimately, which CMS you choose comes down to your individual goals and needs. WordPress is a great solution for some organizations, but isn’t right for all. That’s why Northwoods develops websites on both WordPress and our own Titan CMS. If you’re wondering how to choose the best CMS for your needs, we’re happy to help you make the right choice! Contact us today.