WordPress started in 2003 with a single bit of code to enhance the typography of everyday writing and with fewer users than you can count on your fingers and toes. Since then it has grown to be the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world, used on millions of sites and seen by tens of millions of people every day.
Everything you see on WordPress.org, 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.
Isn’t WordPress Just for Blogs?
You may be confusing WordPress (the open-source software package, found at WordPress.org) with WordPress.com. The former is a fully-fledged software package while the latter is a service that hosts personal websites in much the same way as Blogger, Tumblr and other such managed offerings.
WordPress began as a personal publishing system back in 2001, but by 2008 or so had evolved into a complete content management system.
It’s installed on your own server (or that of your hosting service). You own everything that’s created there and have full, unlimited creative freedom.
Furthermore, WordPress is built using widely used, fully tested programming languages including PHP and SQL, and can accomplish just about any task asked of a website. It’s eminently extensible with a vast and growing library of plugins – around 40,000 in the WordPress repository alone! Many plugins are free, which means you can get the site you want faster and at a lower cost than if it were hand-coded from scratch.
You’re not limited to preexisting ‘themes’ (i.e. designs) either. Developers often use these merely as starting points so that they can create unique designs without having to reinvent the proverbial wheel.
WordPress Is Just for Personal Sites and Small Businesses, Right?
WordPress is used by some of the most widely recognized brands in the world such as CNN, CBS New York, Harvard Business Review, Boise State University, New York Times, Dole, Glad, Mercedes-Benz and Vogue. Boom.
Think of it this way: If WordPress is good enough for the Library of Congress, government sites in the U.S. and Great Britain, and the U.S. military, it’s probably robust enough for your needs, too.
As of August 2015, WordPress powers nearly one in four sites on the Web – and of all sites that use a CMS, WordPress is the choice of more than 80%. In 2014, WordPress remained the fastest-growing CMS for the fifth year straight.
Won’t WordPress Negatively Affect SEO?
On the contrary, WordPress is an SEO powerhouse coded to be SEO-friendly “right out of the box.” It supports a wide variety of plugins that help developers fine-tune every aspect of SEO.
Google’s latest algorithm puts fresh, original content in the spotlight – and at the top of search result pages. WordPress makes adding content easy for you and your staff, if you’d like to do it on your own.
I’ve Heard That WordPress is “Responsive.” I Don’t Know/Care About That.
You should! A “responsive site” means that it’s built to perform well across all devices used to access the Web. Think you need a site that looks good only on desktop computers? Think again. More people now access the Web on mobile devices than on desktops.
Responsive sites are better for SEO. Google’s latest ranking methodology gives props to sites that perform well on mobile devices. You reach more people on more devices, and score higher in Google searches, thus adding reach and credibility to your brand.
WordPress helps with all this by supporting responsive themes – and if a given theme is not mobile-friendly, WordPress enables developers to change that without trashing the site. Like a boss.
WordPress Isn’t Secure!
The company behind WordPress, Automattic, employs a security team consisting of 25+ experts whose only job is to make sure the WordPress core is safe from attacks such as injections, viruses, etc. They even have a Security Czar, Nikolay Bachiyski, who really knows his stuff.
A Software Package This Good Can’t Possibly Be Free. What’s the Catch?
There isn’t any. Really. WordPress (and its updates) are open-source, which means you are free to use the software any way you like. And unlike sites hosted on WordPress.com, you have complete creative and functional freedom. If it can be coded, it’s okay to do.
A worldwide team of developers is constantly improving and rigorously testing WordPress. Some are employees of Automattic (the company behind WordPress), while others do it simply to contribute to the very active, supportive WordPress community. Updates are released regularly at no charge whatsoever.
The WordPress software package is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), meaning that anyone can use, copy and distribute the software itself. (Don’t worry: You have full copyright to the styling and content you add.)
So If It’s Coded and Maintained by a Bunch of Volunteers and Some Employees, How Good Can It Really Be?
The WordPress community comprises top-notch coders, testers and other contributors. Unlike software that’s marketed by a single company and developed and maintained by a single team, WordPress has thousands of talented, dedicated folks behind it. Updates, fixes and improvements come at a steady pace.
WordPress meets all guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium, an international community that aims to develop across-the-Web standards for coding.
WordPress also follows best practices as laid out by Google, Bing and Yahoo.
It works in all modern browsers. Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and other browsers (particularly Internet Explorer) have their individual quirks, which websites coded “by hand” must address. That means more time (and therefore more money) is required to cover the reworking and testing needed to make sure your website displays properly no matter what browser a visitor uses. On the other hand, browser compatibility is baked right into WordPress. Sure, if your developer makes extensive changes and customizations, he’ll need to make sure those changes work across all browsers.
You ‘Specialize’ in WordPress Development, So It Will Cost Me More, Won’t It?
WordPress gives a developer all the basics, so he doesn’t have to create them anew each time, and it’s ready to be customized to your liking.
If you’re the least bit computer-savvy, you can add and style posts easily without paying for a developer’s time. And if a developer goes AWOL, another can pick up where he / she left off.
Real Developers Hand-Code.
Long story short, the skillsets of WordPress and traditional developers complement and overlap each other, and WordPress developers are no less professional than any others. The difference? The latter don’t start every project with a blank screen. Instead, they begin with tested, proven, widely used and well-coded framework that’s already done a lot of the heavy lifting.
Sounds smart, doesn’t it?
Reliable Sources of More WordPress Information
- WordPress.org’s showcase, where you will find many recognizable brands
- 35 Reasons a WordPress Site Is Better Than a Traditional Site
- 14 Surprising Statistics About WordPress Usage
- WordPress Market Usage Statistics
- How WordPress makes money
On the WordPress.org site you can download and install a software script called WordPress. To do this you need a web host who meets the minimum requirements and a little time. WordPress is completely customizable and can be used for almost anything.
What You Can Use WordPress For
WordPress started as just a blogging system, but has evolved to be used as full content management system and so much more through the thousands of plugins and widgets and themes, WordPress is limited only by your imagination. (And tech chops.)
Connect with the Community
In addition to online resources like the forums and mailing lists a great way to get involved with WordPress is to attend or volunteer at a WordCamp, which are free or low-cost events that happen all around the world to gather and educate WordPress users, organized by WordPress users. Check out the website, there might be a WordCamp near you.
A Little History
WordPress was born out of a desire for an elegant, well-architectured personal publishing system built on PHP and MySQL and licensed under the GPLv2 (or later). It is the official successor of b2/cafelog. WordPress is fresh software, but its roots and development go back to 2001. It is a mature and stable product. By focusing on user experience and web standards WordPress is a tool different from anything else out there.