WordPress: The CMS for more than just blogs

For a long time now, the free CMS WordPress has been the premier blogging software. It’s simple really: those who run a blog, use WordPress. A review of the most popular CMSs comparing WordPress functions to other large content management systems like TYPO3, Joomla!, or Drupal, shows that WordPress has significantly expanded its spectrum as a CMS. While it is still geared around the creation and management of a weblog, the customisation features offered on WordPress mean it can be used for comprehensive business pages, news portals, and web stores.

Create your own website with WordPress

WordPress tries to be as simple as possible to use. This starts right from the installation, which is over in a matter of minutes (the free download can be found here. Those wanting to host their own WordPress site will also require a web server, a PHP, and a MySQL. Alternatively, it’s possible to run a website on WordPress directly. This means simply registering on wordpress.com. Upon registering, users have the choice to either:

  • Use the lite version of the software for free (with limited functions, less web space, and a subdomain of WordPress e.g. example.wordpress.com)
  • Pay for a premium package (featuring a custom domain, more web space, no ads, and other benefits).

Unlike a self-hosted CMS, both of these WordPress versions take care of system updates and basic safety measures. But they also offer users less functions overall. Another option is to use an internet service provider, who can offer fully-furnished WordPress versions to rent. This scenario also takes away the stress of system updates and security, but these ‘managed WordPress’ pages come at a cost – mainly determined by the size of the space to let.

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Should I use wordpress.org or wordpress.com?

Hosting a website is generally recommended for experienced users. But WordPress’ local installation variant (software download via wordpress.org) isn’t only for ambitious web designers. The wordpress.org installation is perfect for anyone who wants to improve their understanding of a website’s technical background (like the integration of plugins) and wants to learn about care and maintenance of websites and servers. The diversity of WordPress features and the maximised control over site management are to the fore.

For inexperienced users, wordpress.com offers a simpler way to create a website. Not only does this simplify the use of plugins, but it also means that users don’t have to worry about setting up a server, updating and maintaining the system, and taking care of general safety precautions. With wordpress.com, users can concentrate solely on the content of their site. The target market here is beginners who just want a website with as little effort as possible.

Both WordPress variants offer plugins (to extend functions) and themes (for design and layout). But the development of an internet presence through the plugins and themes of wordpress.com is considerably more limited than with wordpress.org. So the following introduction to the individual WordPress functions is mostly related to the self-hosted wordpress.org.

WordPress features overview

The WordPress focus is on being easy to use. Users don’t need experience with PHP or HTML – this CMS offers useful options to help anybody create and edit their online presence. Some of the basic features include:

  • A WYSIWYG editor for writing articles that is quite similar to text-writing programs like Microsoft Word.
  • The WordPress Media Library for easily embedding images, videos, and audio files.
  • Four different roles (administrator, editor, author, contributor) for creating and editing content.
  • The option for site visitors to create their own account in order to get access rights to certain parts of the site (e.g. only registered users are allowed to comment on posts).
  • A tool allowing website users to subscribe to posts on their newsfeeds.
  • A responsive design for both the front end (site visitors) and back end (page editors) of the WordPress site.

These features help bloggers, but they are also useful for company websites, news portals, online magazines, web stores, and community platforms. Famous examples of sites made with WordPress include the New York Times Company, fashion magazine Vogue, rock band the Rolling Stones, Sony Music, and the official website of Sweden. There are also numerous specialised extensions which users can easily integrate into any WordPress website.

WordPress CMS extensions

By comparison with other CMSs, WordPress offers a huge number of add-ons, mostly thanks to its substantial community. There are already more than 40,000 extensions, with figures rising. The following is a list of some of the best and most coveted plugins, which can be downloaded for free from the official WordPress site:

  • Jetpack: this helpful extension gives access to over 30 different tools for optimising a WordPress page and simplifying admin tasks. Among other features, Jetpack displays visitor statistics and gives tips for increasing site traffic.
  • Wordfence Security: even the standard version of WordPress is seen as a very secure CMS, but this add-on further protects sites from hacking and malware.
  • WP-DB-Backup: this tool creates a quick and easy backup of your database.
  • NextGen Gallery: this extension allows you to manage photos, create galleries, and add digital watermarks to photos and graphics.
  • WooCommerce: this online trading plugin offers users a wide range of ways to implement a web shop with WordPress.

WordPress SEO plugins

Even the free WordPress format is quite well-equipped when it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO). But the following extensions improve the ranking of a WordPress site further still:

  • Yoast SEO: this complete SEO package has been popular for years. It features tools for page analysis, optimising meta and link elements, social media integration, and much more.
  • All-in-One SEO Pack: another plugin that combines many SEO features, this extension can also be combined with the aforementioned WooCommerce add-on.
  • Google XML Sitemaps: this tool creates sitemaps to your website that search engines can index more efficiently.
  • W3 Total Cache: this very complex plugin optimises site performance.
  • Broken Link Checker: this extension analyses your website for broken links and suggests appropriate action.

New themes for WordPress

In addition to the numerous plugins available, WordPress has a large number of themes on offer. Themes – also known as skins or templates – determine the design of a website. Choosing a theme also helps highlight one particular website function. This means you can adjust your WordPress site to specific requirements. If you want to make your website accessible, then selecting the right theme is crucial.

New themes (some free and some subject to cost) can be downloaded from the official WordPress website. Further design ideas can be found on GitHub. The largest collection of WordPress themes is available from Themeforest, with over 6,000 different themes at a range of different prices.  

Unfortunately, the vast collection of themes and plugins poses certain security risks. Not every extension is produced by professional developers. In some instances, they are poorly maintained and missing necessary updates. Since this can quickly lead to security gaps, it is important to update your extensions regularly to protect your system.

WordPress summary

There are other drawbacks to WordPress, like the limited user and rights distribution and that it is quite complicated to make your website multilingual. Many missing functions can be retrofitted with extensions, but the more complex a site becomes, the more plugins it requires – one of the main disadvantages of WordPress.

But in most cases, the positives outweigh the negatives. There’s a reason that WordPress is the leading CMS by some distance. Because of its popularity, WordPress’ huge community helps care for the immense supply of plugins and themes as well as assisting with queries and difficulties. There are regular system updates, and professional help is always on hand from various external WordPress specialists.

Lastly, the ease of use puts WordPress head and shoulders above other CMSs for beginners. With its WYSIWYG editor, drag-and-drop tools, a practical media library, and other useful functions, WordPress makes it easy for anyone to create beautiful, functioning websites without any prior knowledge of HTML.