WordPress is an open source content management system. To explain that to a novice, who may be considering WIX, Squarespace or Weebly to build a website, that means the code that is used to build your site is free and open to the public. The other three commercial sites used proprietary code to build the sites and manage the content. This means they lock you into their platform. Want to move your site- too bad.
Now, for your first site, you’re just trying to get something online quick. They all say “free” however each has conditions. Face it, there is no free lunch. Suppose you hit the big time and draw a ton of traffic- with WIX or Squarespace, you’ll be paying and paying as the resources are limited. With WordPress- moving your site to more robust hosting is not an issue- and you literally have unlimited options on where to host it.
The main draw of the commercial website builders is their promise of “drag and drop” site building. WordPress hasn’t got a true drag and drop or WYSIWYG editor out of the box- but some of the premium theme developers include tools that come real close. There are several “builder” plugins that will add this kind of functionality to WordPress themes as well. Most of them are premium plugins, but not outrageously expensive (under $100).
When it comes to extensibility- there are literally tens of thousands of plugins available for WordPress. Everything from managing team sports, to restaurant menus, to real estate listings, to ecommerce. Throw in the fact that over 20% of the Internet is now on WordPress, and you have to start wondering why you would look at anything else.
Granted, the closed ecosystem of the proprietary site builders guarantees to eliminate the headache of plugin conflicts or theme issues- but, if you are careful about selecting widely used plugins, pick a proven premium theme- you’ll end up ahead with WordPress. Also consider that WordPress is the preferred platform of most SEO companies due to it’s graceful framework for grouping your content via categories, tags, posts and pages. The proprietary site building companies may offer support, but their plumbing isn’t anywhere near as proven as WordPress when it comes to getting to the top of Google.
We’ve been using WordPress since 2004- and teaching it since 2005, which of course means we’re biased, but, considering the sheer numbers of people using and customizing the platform on a daily basis- it’s only bound to get better faster than any proprietary system. WIX, Weebly and SquareSpace don’t have a tens of thousands of developers working on improving their platform every day, WordPress does. There are also answers to any WordPress question just a quick google search away.
Your WordPress installation is made up of several parts:
- The WordPress software
- A MySQL database
- A Theme
Each does different things. And when it comes to updating, and auto-updating, you want to make sure you don’t break things.
First tip- always backup your site before doing any updates, theme changes or plugin installs. We’ve fallen in love with the UpdraftPlus backup plugin. We consider it an essential plugin for every installation- and you don’t need to buy the premium version, the free one works fine.
So, now that you have your installation backed up, it’s time to make a child theme. What is a child theme? It’s a copy of a few key files from your theme that hold your customizations. This way, when you update a theme, you won’t lose any of your custom files.
Now, that’s not to say updating a theme will lose customizations- many themes come with theme options for customizations and these files won’t be touched in an update, however, best practices still say create a child theme. If you’ve mastered FTP and a file management tool, you could do this manually- but there are plugins that will do this for you faster and easier.
The one we’ve come to like is Child Theme Creator by Orbisius although it’s not always perfect. Some of the “premium themes” have additional files that are required- and even come with their own installable child themes. Carefully look at your themes installation notes to see if yours falls into one of these categories.
Once you’ve created your child theme- you activate it, and go about your merry way modifying your theme in any way you like.
The safety and security of being able to upgrade your parent theme, without losing customizations is now yours.
While Drupal and Joomla continue to fork and swerve- WordPress continues to improve with refinements in the user experience- mainly, bringing more What You See Is What You Get WYSIWG features to the most used open source CMS going.
Almost 20% of the websites on the planet use WordPress as their backend- which is why we’ve been teaching our Websitetology Seminar since 2005.
New features of 3.9 – “Smith” are:
Improved visual editing: The updated visual editor has improved speed, accessibility, and mobile support. You can paste into the visual editor from your word processor without wasting time to clean up messy styling. Yeah, we’re talking about you, Microsoft Word
Edit images easily: With quicker access to crop and rotation tools, it’s now much easier to edit your images while editing posts. You can also scale images directly in the editor to find just the right fit.
Drag and drop your images: Uploading your images is easier than ever. Just grab them from your desktop and drop them in the editor.
via WordPress › WordPress 3.9 “Smith”.
Other features make it easier to actually see your galleries in the edit window, build audio and video playlists- and most importantly- cleaning up the horrendous whack-a-mole editing of sidebar widgets- with a true WYSIWYG editor.
All these improvements reinforce why WordPress is the 800lb gorilla in web content management. With every release, it gets EASIER to publish and manage your own site content.