If building a fantastic online presence is akin to getting a good night’s sleep, then the platform on which you choose to build your site shouldn’t represent the monsters lurking under your bed. WordPress commonly gets a bad rap for being hard to learn, vulnerable to attacks, and not well supported, but beginners can rest soundly when they choose the world’s most popular content management system.
Developers appreciate WordPress for being easy to set up and straightforward to customize, but those perks aren’t reserved solely for people who know how to code. Whether you’re a blogger or a small business owner, WordPress remains a go-to option for building a blog, eCommerce store, or informative online profile.
Here, we’ve listed seven reasons why the user-friendly design, cost, SEO, and performance features of WordPress will give website owners sweet dreams, regardless of their technical expertise.
- Quality Hosts Take Care of the Technical Stuff
Instead of having to manually download, install, and configure the WordPress software, many top hosting providers offer ultra-simple pathways to get started. With tons of site owners flocking to WordPress each day, hosts are clamoring to show how easy they can make customers’ lives.
WordPress hosting is a popular choice for those who are new to the content management system, are new to website ownership in general, or simply don’t feel like dealing with the tedious chores and complexities of spinning up yet another site for a friend or family member.
Most WordPress hosting plans come with one-click installation scripts, automatic updates (more on the importance of that later), and frequent backups. If you’re looking for the cream of the crop of WordPress hosting, keep an eye out for packages that boast about high-performance solid-state drives, caching plugins, a staging area, expert WordPress-specific support, and extra security measures such as a web application firewall. The more features a WordPress hosting plan has, the fewer things you need to worry about.
- Premium Themes Offer Stunning Designs
Regardless of your WordPress ambitions, users can find themes tailored to a surprising number of purposes, features, or industries. Designs can be selected and added to your WordPress environment with ease, sometimes even for free.
Don’t let the price tag scare you off, however—premium themes are almost always worth the investment and usually come with extra features such as mobile-friendliness, eCommerce compatibility, tools for search engine optimization, or free stock images. Responsive designs are increasingly becoming a must-have component for site owners, since traffic from mobile devices is beginning to overtake the amount of internet usage from desktop computers.
With a seemingly infinite number of designs from which to choose, it can be easy to get bogged down in this phase of crafting your website. Whether or not you opt to pay for a theme, the turnkey consistency of a well-designed theme dramatically boosts user engagement and interest in your website’s content.
Keep an eye out for clear navigation menus, easy-to-read typography, and compatibility with the add-on programs you might need to use for an online store, community forum, blog, or business. Make sure the theme you choose is updated frequently to keep up with development trends and security threats.
- Useful Plugins Add Functionality and Performance
Once your new WordPress site has the look and feel you desire, consider using plugins that extend the functionality of the content management system or enhance users’ experience. Online WordPress reviews often include popular plugins for design, contact forms, and other useful widgets.
If you signed up for a WordPress hosting plan that didn’t include caching plugins, here is your chance to boost performance and minimize your page load times. Likewise, a bevy of add-on programs can enhance your site’s security by limiting login attempts, introducing two-factor authentication, scanning for malware, and automating backups.
The WordPress.org repository includes more than 50,000 plugins to help site owners track analytics, integrate social media accounts, add photo galleries, introduce a shopping cart, or do literally nothing.
- Efficient Performance Optimizes Page Loads
WordPress sometimes gets knocked for being among the slowest of the top content management systems, but the platform hums right along when managed properly.
The first—and easiest—way to foster speedy page loads is by signing up for a hosting service that priorities quickness and upgraded hardware. Keep an eye out for plans that tout solid-state drives, or SSDs, rather than those that use traditional hard-disk drives. SSD vs. HDD comparisons show the more modern storage devices can make page loads up to 20 times faster.
Once your hosting hardware is up to snuff, site owners can further optimize by examining your roster of plugins. First off, do you have too many? Make sure every plugin you install serves a clear, necessary purpose—and delete whatever hasn’t been updated recently or isn’t being used (We’re looking at you, Hello Dolly.).
From there, users can make a major impact on WordPress performance by installing caching plugins such as W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache. An image optimizer might be another handy plugin for the time-strapped site owner; we recommend either EWWW Image Optimizer or Smush.
- Robust Security Outpaces Attackers and Boosts Reliability
Nothing online is 100% safe, but WordPress comes decently close. The content management system is dogged by naysayers who don’t trust the platform’s security, but experts regularly release updates and security patches to keep up with emerging threats.
However, don’t take the security of the WordPress Core for granted. The vast majority of compromised sites are caused by user error or inattention—for example, fewer than half of all WordPress sites are using the current version of the platform.
The WordPress Core team introduced automatic background updates in 2013 with Version 3.7, helping users stay secure without having to check for security and maintenance patches or spending time installing updates. WordPress will automatically install minor updates to the core codebase, and users can configure their sites to stay up-to-date with major version releases, as well as theme and plugin updates.
Simply put, the popularity and ubiquity of WordPress makes the platform a major target. Out-of-the-box, modern WordPress Core code is rarely compromised, and new users will be best served by responsibly and actively updating the WordPress Core, themes, and plugins. By using sound judgement and relying on established best practices, WordPress is an online platform that doesn’t need an experienced developer to run effectively.
- Optimized SEO Settings Boost Your Search Rankings
Compared with many other content management systems, WordPress gives users a strong advantage in search engine optimization. For starters, the system excels in on-page SEO by generating strong, clean HTML pages that search engine bots and crawlers can easily understand.
One of the first things you’ll want to do with your WordPress site is to adjust your permalinks settings to include your post name or relevant keywords. The WordPress interface seamlessly handles title tags and headings when you create a new page or post, and the visual or text editors provide an excellent environment in which you can craft rich content optimized for search engine queries.
You can easily extend your website’s SEO appeal by checking off other items in this list such as using a mobile-friendly theme and working to increase your site speed with optimized images and regular updates. Naturally, SEO plugins abound for fine-tuned control over sitemaps and metadata.
- Responsive Settings Serve Mobile-Friendly Images
Optimizing a website for smartphone and tablet viewing is nothing new. More than half of the internet’s traffic comes from mobile devices, and only roughly 40% of Google searches come from desktops. Having a website that loads quickly and displays well on smaller screens isn’t a luxury any more—it’s a necessity that, if ignored, can have major impacts on traffic, conversions, and user experience.
Fortunately, most modern themes you can download or purchase come pre-optimized for mobile devices. Responsive designs reposition or hide certain content based on the dimensions of the web browser.
Google overhauled its search rankings algorithm in 2015 to reward mobile-friendly sites—and penalize those that aren’t. You can check how the search engine views your site by inputting your URL into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
For those site owners who use a theme that doesn’t support mobile devices, you have a few options (none top a modern, responsive theme, however). WordPress Core introduced support for natively responsive images in Version 4.4 in late 2015, alleviating some of the bandwidth consumption and page load concerns of desktop-only designs. Users can also call on several plugins, including the pre-installed Jetpack program, to create boilerplate mobile versions of their website.
- Free Publishing Platform Makes Your Money Go Farther
Can you believe that software used by more than 19 million websites around the world is completely free? In addition to saving both developers and non-developers ample amounts of setup time, WordPress ensures site owners can get started with practically zero upfront investment. For context, development agencies will regularly charge thousands of dollars to create a new website for clients.
WordPress has been lovingly developed under the GNU General Public License, meaning users have the freedom to run, modify, and share the core codebase. That means WordPress is open-source software, which unlocks a global community of passionate users, developers, experts, and fans who often collaborate on new features, bug fixes, and troubleshooting—all services that non-WordPress users might need to hire an agency to handle.
Beyond the software itself, thousands of themes and plugins are available free of charge to WordPress users. Many development studios pay tribute to the open-source community by implementing a freemium business model where most services are available without a price tag. Users who appreciate the theme or plugin are often either encouraged to donate to the developers or can purchase a pro version with extended features.
- Simple Interface Avoids the Need to Learn Code
Even though WordPress may not be as easy to use as a drag-and-drop website builder, the functionality and flexibility the content management system offers makes the platform a superior choice for beginners.
WordPress experts often caution new users that the system can be challenging to operate and difficult to learn, but even experienced developers will struggle with making a website on a new program. By leveraging the leg work of seasoned WordPress users, in the form of themes and plugins, novice site owners can build a professional-looking website without touching a speck of HTML, CSS, or PHP code.
Adding, removing, or customizing content can be done in just a few clicks from wherever you are. Between the built-in WordPress Customizer and the various adjustable settings found in most themes, users can adjust colors, typography, and more in a very intuitive manner.
In addition to plugins, brave beginners can easily find instructions and code snippets to extend WordPress functionality with just a few searches. A few lines of code can make a drastic difference in how your site appears to visitors or how you interact with the content management system’s interface.
- Community-Driven Support Helps You Make Connections
Just because there isn’t a centralized WordPress support team on standby doesn’t mean new users are sent out to fend for themselves. Chances are, you will never be the first to experience a particular problem because millions of users around the world have been using and developing WordPress for years.
A quick search will uncover support threads and helpful guides on just about every topic, large or small. The WordPress team coordinates a wide variety of resources, including detailed documentation and user-supported forums, to usher new users through the trials and tribulations of launching a website.
One of the most exciting parts of joining the WordPress universe is unlocking a vast community of users and colleagues with whom to collaborate. Wherever you are, odds are good a local WordCamp is only a short drive away. These casual conferences attract the full spectrum of WordPress users with learning sessions and network opportunities geared toward efficient WordPress usage, design and development trends, along with advanced security techniques and best business practices, among other topics.
Laura Stamey shows first-time site owners and experienced developers how to explore new technologies and find better ways to work with established platforms. Originally trained as a journalist, Laura has contributed to HostingAdvice, Sports Illustrated, and several of the world’s top hosting providers.