Part 1: What website platform is right for you? Wordpress.
This is part one of a three-part series where I look at how to choose the right website platform for your business. In this post, I'll discuss the pros and cons of choosing Wordpress. You can read Part 2 on Wix here and Part 3 on Squarespace here.
Website developers and designers are very opinionated about this question. Many will tell you, without a shadow of a doubt in their eyes, Wordpress is the only answer. It's SEO friendly, they say. It's fully customizable, they say. Don't you dare use any of the drag and drop sites, or your business will be doomed to the Google basement. (AKA, any other page than 1).
So, I don't want to get in a virtual fist fight with any of my fellow web designers and developers, so many of whom are lovely, talented and smart people. But I have to disagree.
Telling you that there is only one website platform for your business is like telling you your business will only be successful in New York City.
Hey, New York is fun. It's got Broadway. It has the Statue of Liberty. You can stay up all night in New York and still find something to do! But, speaking as a small town girl from Montana, New York is overwhelming.
What if you like sleep? What if at the end of the day, you want to drive home without navigating stop and go traffic? What if you don't really like getting lost every other day? What if you like mountains and trees?
It's a big world, people. There are more options for your business than New York.
Same goes for website platforms. And the options are expanding every day.
It used to be, if you even wanted to put one word on the Internet, you'd have to hire someone who could code a bunch of 1s and 0s, backslashes, colons and capital letters. Now, drag and drop sites have made it so that people who don't even know how to code can design a website. What??!!! Does that mean everyone should design their own website? Not necessarily. There's more to a website then laying out some blocks and buttons. But it doesn't mean you need to spend $20k on a website either.
Every platform, including Wordpress, has its upsides and downsides. There is no one solution for everyone.
Today, I'm going to look more closely at Wordpress:
Wordpress is probably the most diverse option available. The choices that fall under this platform are really endless, from design customizations to expense to complexity. The 75 million websites that exist there are evidence of its appeal.
Wordpress is a blank canvas where you can create almost anything you can dream up.
You can build databases and user portals and create beautiful animations. It is well known for it's ability to capture search engine's attention. It is a go-to for blogging, since a blogging platform is already built in.
You can expand your website's abilities with something called "plugins." These are like apps that you can install that do a particular job. For example, want to add an event calendar? There's a plugin for that. How about a video feed? No problem.
You can install what are called "themes," which are pre-designed templates that simplify the design process to an extent.
Wordpress scales well for business who experience rapid growth. With all of the customizations available, you can redesign your entire website without major upheaval.
As far as cost, the core Wordpress software is free, but costs can creep in when it comes to original development and design of the site, themes, plug-ins and ongoing maintenance. The price tag can vary wildly. This all depends on what you hope to build.
Many developers will tell you that Wordpress is easy to use. But this is a developer speaking. It is their job to navigate Wordpress. That isn't necessarily the case for a business owner who didn't got to school for computer science. If you can't afford a developer and you don't know how to manage the site yourself, what good are a million customizations?
DIYing your own Wordpress site is a little like doing your own electrical work. Can you learn how to wire a house on Youtube? Sure. But if you're not careful, you can burn your house down.
I met a business owner a few years ago who wanted to resize her logo on her website. It seems like a simple thing, right? She asked for help. So I went into her Wordpress site, which had a theme installed. It was a 10-step process that included some trial and error. It took some a little time to familiarize myself with the theme and learn how to navigate it. I wouldn't call that hard, but this is what I do. For a regular business owner who has has never taken a class in computer science, and to be frank, shouldn't have to, it took her hiring someone else do to it.
Now, I don't want to take business from myself or anything, but that's ridiculous. I have been in her shoes. Sometimes, you can't afford a team to manage your website on an ongoing basis.
The last thing is a scary prospect. Wordpress sites, likely because they make a large share of the websites out there, are the most widely hacked. The other reason is that when plugins aren't updated regularly, it leaves a site with vulnerabilities. Some business owners don't really keep track of plugin updates. When it comes to a Wordpress site, security is up to you. You need to figure out how you are going to do regular back ups, plugin updates and keep your site safe from hackers. I have talked to multiple business owners who lost their Wordpress sites this way.
Verdict on Wordpress:
Most diverse option
Blogger template is included
Has plugins for a wide variety of functions
Can be inexpensive for someone with web design experience
Easier to use than a full custom website
Most widely used platform available
Easier to scale and change over the long-term
The variety of themes have different features that require a learning curve
Not intuitive for someone who doesn't use it all the time
Developer and design costs can be more expensive
May require a developer to maintain
Plugins require regular updates
Prone to hacking
Great for: Mid-sized or large businesses who need a highly customized website and have the resources to either have a developer on staff or contract one to do ongoing maintenance. Businesses that have or expect to experience rapid short-term growth.
Not so great for: Solo entrepreneurs or small businesses who are managing a lot on their own and don't have a high level of computer tech training. Those who want a simple option they can manage themselves without having to understand code. Need support they don't have to pay for.
Don't let anyone tell you that Wordpress is the ONLY option. It does have some unique features that make it worth considering. It's a powerful website builder that opens up a world of options. But it's important to look at ALL your options to see what is right for your unique needs. Next week, we will talk about Wix.
Are you thinking about a website but curious if your business is ready? Take my quiz.