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What is WordPress (in non-technical words)

If you're getting a website and you've been told to use WordPress, this article is for you!

If you’re thinking about getting a website, or getting your existing website rebuilt, and someone has told you your website should be built with WordPress, then this article is for you.

What is WordPress?

WordPress new post screenshot

What it looks like when you're logged into WordPress and adding a new post.

WordPress is a content management system (CMS). This means that, as the website owner, you’ll be able to log into the website to add new pages or blog posts, edit existing content, delete content, manage who else can log in (other users), and so on. As a CMS, WordPress allows you to keep your site current and even improve it after it goes live without needing to know how to write code, or any other technical website things.

When it is first installed, a WordPress site lets you do the following:

  • Write and publish blog posts, and categorise them using tags and categories
  • Create webpages using an easy to use page-building tool (for the Home page, About page, Contact page, etc.)
  • Upload and manage “media” such as photos, videos, etc.
  • Manage comments that visitors may leave
  • Set up menus (for the site’s header and footer)
  • Add a theme, which determines what the website will look like, and customise it
  • Add plugins, which add new features and functionality to the website, allowing it to do almost anything, but often at a cost
  • Add and manage the users that may log in
WordPress themes

A few WordPress themes you could choose from.

What is WordPress suitable for?

When it was first created in the early 2000s, WordPress was built as a blogging tool. While it has evolved hugely since then into a more general purpose website building tool, it’s blogging roots are still quite obvious.

In fact, if your website is primarily about communicating to your audience through articles, blog posts, videos, and stories in general, then there’s no better software out there for you than WordPress.

Because of the thousands (and perhaps even millions) of plugins that have been created for WordPress by the community of users, a WordPress site can do almost anything that any other software can do. For example, you can turn it into a photography gallery, an events hub, a community support platform, and even a complete online store powered by the WooCommerce plugin system. Just be aware that each plugin adds extra “bloat” to your site (slowing it down a little), and some plugins cost quite a bit.

Just because a WordPress site can do anything doesn’t mean it’s the best tool for the job. In particular, WordPress isn’t great for more complex websites with lots of types of content. For example, a TEDx website (for videos of stories worth sharing) might have many events, speakers, venues, talk videos, team members, sponsors, etc. A more sophisticated CMS would be better suited to that.

It also wouldn’t be suitable for highly interactive sites, called web apps. If you wanted to build something like Facebook, or Google Maps, or YouTube, you definitely wouldn’t use WordPress at all.

Can you build a website yourself using WordPress?

Sure you can, and it might not be all that difficult if you’re relatively tech savvy and if you keep focussed on what you want it to be when it’s done. Anyone can learn to build a WordPress site in a couple of days with a good video course. That would include learning how to carefully choose a theme, and to select the right plugins for your needs.

There are two main reasons why this is probably a bad idea though:

  • You’re not a professional website designer, so you will probably find it difficult to figure out what it should look like when it’s finished. That means you’re going to spend a heck of a lot of time trying to choose the right theme and choose between plugins that all look good and say they do what you need.
     
  • Even though WordPress is fairly easy to learn, it’s going to take several weeks to learn how to use it properly and build something great, and that’s time you and your team should rather spend doing what you’re already good at that makes you money.

What are the alternatives?

While WordPress is indisputably the most popular CMS, a good alternative CMS is Drupal. There’s more to learn, so it may take longer to build, but it’s great for sites with more complicated sites like TEDx websites mentioned earlier.

If you don’t need a full CMS, you could use an all-in-one online site builder like Squarespace, Wix, or Webflow. Each of these has their pros and cons, but because of their simplicity, building a website in one of those will be faster and cost less.

If you need to sell products online, you need an ecommerce site. The king of ecommerce software right now is Shopify, because it’s incredibly easy to use, and has all the standard ecommerce features you may need.

How much does WordPress cost?

WordPress is free to download and use, so it’s possible to build a site nearly for free with it. However, there are a lot of other costs to consider. Firstly, the best themes are premium themes, meaning they cost quite a bit of money; often between R200 and R3000 once-off. Then some plugins will cost as well. Most of the best plugins have a free version with the basic features, and a paid version with all the advanced features for a moderate yearly cost.

When your website is completed, it will need to be “hosted” somewhere on the internet. This is easy to get, and will have a small monthly fee. And you’ll need a domain name (the www.mywebsite.com thing), which has a small yearly fee.

Finally, and most importantly, whoever builds your website is going to need to be paid. Sure you could have one of your employees build it, but then you’re paying their salary instead of a freelancer or agency.

WordPress websites in South Africa range in price from R2000 up to several hundred thousand, though most fall in the range of R10 000 - R20 000.

Should you use WordPress?

By now, you’ve either made up your mind to go with WordPress, or you’ve realised it might not be the right tool for the job, and you want to know more about the other software options. Fortunately we’ve written about a few of them here in our blog.

If you have any questions about WordPress, get in touch with us, and we’ll be happy to chat about it and answer them.

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