WordPress started out as a blogging platform. But is WordPress just for blogs? The short answer is no. WordPress can be used for blogs, websites or a combination of both. But read on to discover just how versatile WordPress is.
A Quick but Important History of WordPress
Web 2.0 was a movement at the turn of the century that made publishing content on the internet easy for everyday people. Matt Mullenweg, a university student studying political science, was one of these everyday people.
He loved sharing photos using the open-source blogging platform b2 (cafelog). Today you can see these photos at Matt’s WordPress website https://ma.tt/2002/.
Then Michael Valdrighi, the creator of b2 stopped updating it.
As the b2 code was open-source, other people were free to use and change it as they saw fit. Matt took on this challenge and WordPress was born. Not long after, Michael Valdrighi joined Matt in his efforts.
Two things about this history are important to note. A commitment to:
- Free, open-source software
- Make it easy for anyone to put things on the internet
- Social media platforms such as Facebook and website builders such as Wix make it easy to put things on the internet, but they are a closed system not owned by you
- Web 1.0 required you to know how to code (e.g., HTML code) in order to put anything onto the internet
WordPress is Free, Open Source Software
WordPress is a free platform that you can use to create a new website. You install WordPress on a hosting server, just as you would install software like MS Word on your computer. Your web designer will often do this for you.
But first, you will need to buy your own web hosting account. This involves renting space on a computer server of a web host. The WordPress software and your site content live on this server. This is what is meant by the term self-hosted WordPress.
You also need to buy a custom domain name. For example, my domain name is websmall.net.
After you install WordPress, you then personalise this software to create a website that:
- Looks the way you want it to look (WordPress themes)
- Does what you want it to do (WordPress plugins)
WordPress themes are simply a collection of code that gives your website a visually consistent look across the entire site. Customization options within a theme include the:
- Layout of pages and posts
- Font or fonts you want to use
- Colours you want to use
There are many free themes available, but you can also buy premium themes.
Personally, I prefer to use a packaged theme as a foundation and then create a customised child theme. The best:
- Free WordPress theme to do this is GeneratePress
- Premium WordPress theme to do this is GeneratePress Premium
You then install plugins, which are little packages of code that enable your website to do certain things. They are like an app for your website. For example, there are different plugins for contact forms and booking appointments.
As with themes, there are many free plugins (over 59,000 of them). But you can also buy premium plugins.
A lot of plugins run using a freemium system. This is where the plugin developers offer:
- A free version of the plugin
- An extended version with more features – but you pay for it
Content Management System
WordPress then acts as your content management system or CMS. Put another way, it allows you to easily:
- Add new pages, add images and add other content
- Modify existing pages
- Delete pages and content
This content includes:
WordPress is always improving. And with each of the WordPress updates, you are able to do more and to do it more easily.
WordPress is SEO friendly. According to Google’s Matt Cutts, “WordPress takes care of 80-90% of the mechanics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)”. But what makes so WordPress SEO friendly?
Out of the box, WordPress:
- Generates an XML sitemap (allows Google and other search engines to crawl your site)
- Allows you to create an organised permalink structure
- Adds metadata such as post date, and lets you easily add more such as alt descriptions
Then a wide array of SEO plugins can help you:
- Add schema markup
- Incorporate rich snippets
- Speed up your website
- Improve on-page SEO
SEO is important because it can bring more traffic to your website.
WordPress Remains Great for Blogs
A blog is simply a series of posts organised by date with the most recent posts shown first. A blog post can include words, images, videos etc., – just like a Facebook post.
While blog posts are automatically organised by date, you can also organise them into categories of your choice.
Matt started WordPress as a blogging platform. You can still use it to create a simple blog
And, it is now the most popular blogging platform on the web. Well known blogs include:
- Organisations, such as the White House and TIME magazine
- Individuals, such as Katy Perry and Kylie Minogue
And because WordPress is open-source, there are a lot of plugins that can enhance your blog, including:
- SEOPress to help your blog rank on Google
- MEOW Gallery to display a gallery of photos within a blog post
- Holler Box to help you gain email subscribers
- Polylang to translate your blog post into multiple languages
WordPress is Also Great for a Business Website
In 2005, WordPress added the ability to create web pages as well as posts. The key differences are that a web page:
- Does not have an author (shown on the page)
- Is not organised by date
This allowed users to create a WordPress website that could function as an online brochure. The web pages were called static pages, as the content didn’t change very often.
Since then, people have developed more plugins that allow you to build a website with a much wider functionality. Small businesses can now create WordPress sites to advertise and sell:
- Physical products
- Digital downloads
- Online courses
It is a complete, all-in-one solution that allows WordPress users to compete with the big guys. I now use it when designing all my sites.
Although WordPress started out as a blogging tool, over the years it has evolved into a powerful website builder and a robust content management system (CMS).
Since its start, the WordPress platform has received many updates and support from developers who have turned it from “Only for blogs” to a powerful and flexible platform capable of creating websites of any type.
As of January 2022, WordPress powers over 43% of the websites on the internet and has proven itself as an industry leader.
Sites Selling Services
Websites that sell services typically include:
- A home page
- One or more service pages
- A contact form and phone number
They can also include an online appointment booking system.
WordPress Websites Selling Physical Products
As well as a home page and a contact form, online stores that sell physical products have:
- An online store – most commonly using the free WooCommerce plugin
- A payment gateway (e.g., Stripe, PayPal)
WordPress Sites Selling Digital Products
I recommend those website owners who sell digital products use the plugin Easy Digital Downloads.
Other Types of WordPress Websites
Websites that sell courses, memberships and subscriptions often have a landing page (sales pages). When people click on an ad (e.g., in Google or social media) the link takes them straight to this landing page.
The landing page is filled with sales copy intended to persuade the person to buy the course or subscription.
WordPress in a Nutshell
Simply put, WordPress is the simplest and most powerful blog and website builder in existence today. WordPress is an all-in-one CMS, from blogging to eCommerce, business and portfolio. As a website builder and CMS platform, WordPress boasts an impressive array of features. Everything from simple websites to blogs, complex portals and business websites.
The WordPress software is totally free. However, there are other costs you manage when you have a WordPress site.
A blog is a collection of posts that show the author and are organised by date, with the most recent showing first. Blog authors often let people comment on their posts. A website has pages that do not show the date or the author. Websites can also have other things such as contact forms and shops.
Yes. You can have a WordPress blog that only includes your blog posts.
Yes. You can use WordPress for a blog or for a website. You can also create a website that includes a blog.
The cost will vary with the complexity of what you need from your website. But a small business website is likely to cost between $1,000 – $3,000. I would not pay more than $3,000 unless you needed very advanced functionality.