WordPress. If you’re a website owner and have looked around for a content management system (CMS), then you have probably heard the name.
What is a content management system (CMS)?
A CMS is a piece of software that works within a system to add or edit content using a relatively simple user interface (UI). In this article, we are referring to a web CMS, which is an interface (or platform) where multiple users can login to a website’s ‘back end’ and use the interface to change the content of their website (mainly text, links and images).
In the old days, a website owner would have to contact a webmaster (such as us) every time they wanted to update their site (this is known as a ‘static site’). But with a CMS you are able to add and update content as much as you like, without having to spend years learning how to code.
WordPress is currently the biggest CMS on the web. There are currently about 74.6 million websites running WordPress. That’s 18.9% of all websites on the internet¹. To put this into context the 2nd biggest CMS, Joomla, has about 2.5 million websites using it.
But should you choose a particular system based on its popularity? No. But also, sort of yes… you see, the popularity of WordPress is indirectly the cause of many of its best features. Though it sounds like a cliché, WordPress is more than just a CMS; it is a community.
The WordPress community
As well as being a terrific platform for a website or blog, WordPress actively encourages its users to develop for it. The platform itself is open source, meaning anyone can download a copy and then do whatever they want with it. This, to my mind, is fundamental to its success.
There have been many open source CMS platforms over the years, but only a few have ever taken off in a big way.
Once WordPress told us we could do what we wanted, it didn’t take long for people to start playing with it, sharing it in the community and extending its capabilities. There are primarily two types of extension you can apply to your WordPress site:
- A Theme – is a set of templates and styles that change the layout and design of your website. Creating themes is mainly the job of a web designer.
- A Plugin – is an extension or modification to the behaviour of WordPress. Usually, these are used to add a particular feature to your website. Contact forms, e-commerce platforms (online shops) and slideshows are all examples of plugins used in WordPress. Creating plugins is mainly the job of a web developer.
The beauty of a system like this is that rather than the product being produced by the company alone, it becomes a collaborative project between the company and a community of enthusiastic users. These users often need their websites to do something slightly different, so they will go through the (often arduous) task of getting it developed. Once it has been developed for one site, the owner may choose to make that development available to the community, and a new plugin is born. Create something good enough and people will even pay you for it. And the profit margin on a plugin or theme once it has been created is almost 100%, so there’s no lack of incentive.
On the internet, unlike the high street, you are able to get an idea of the quality of a product by seeing how widely it is used and how highly rated it is. In this way we have an almost perfect meritocracy, if you can create something truly worth selling, it will sell. As a buyer, you know that when you get a highly rated plugin or theme for WordPress you can be confident that it will work and be worth the cost. They are also often well documented and provide high-quality support. If you have an issue, the creator will often personally help you find a solution.
So what is it exactly that we do at SCL to make such great WordPress websites? Well, when we create a website, we build a custom theme each time from (almost) the ground up. The result is a theme built around the requirements and specifications of the client. We much prefer this approach to what we see as shoehorning the client’s needs into a theme that has already been made.
As well as building the theme itself, knowing how to adapt a website by using the right plugins for the right job is critical to making a successful site. Over years of building websites, we have found out the most effective ways to customise them to achieve particular goals. Every website is different, so there is never a single correct answer.
What we do is bring together the right combination of plugins, as well as writing our own. As developers, we can provide many of the premium (paid for) plugins to our clients for free, as we have a developer license which allows us to do this for as many sites as we like. This combination and approach are how we create great websites, and WordPress provides an excellent platform for us to do this.
When we build a WordPress website, we combine our knowledge and investment into the WordPress community (which is effectively outsourcing to tens of thousands of brilliant minds all over the world) and bring it all together and then customise it to achieve a single goal, which is decided by the client. To aspiring developers out there, we would say this is the most effective method in today’s world.
Do you use WordPress? Do you use a different CMS? Do we make some good points? Tell us what you think below, we’d love to discuss our favourite CMS with you.