I’ve been building websites for a long time. And one thing I discovered early on is that the technology behind the web changes at a breathtaking speed. What was shaky and ground-breaking technology a year ago is now used every day without a thought by many developers.
An excellent example is the technology to make the site easily editable by the site owner. In the past, I made this work with databases and programming, which works well for short sections but gets clunky and expensive if you want to change large parts of the site.
From a blogging platform to a web platform
WordPress was originally developed as a blogging platform, but some developers discovered that, with a little modification, it was an excellent way to build websites that could be edited by their owners. WordPress presents the site owner with an interface similar to Microsoft Word, so it’s familiar to almost anyone. It lets you create pages, add menu items, and add and position images. Is it fool-proof? Absolute not. Can a ham-handed user break the site? Sure, but that’s what backups are for.
And it’s flexible. WordPress itself is very basic, but it has provisions for two types of additions that add tremendous flexibility. They are:
- Themes. In the HTML world, we called them templates. But in the WordPress world, a theme contains more than just the site design. It provides many of the parameters that control how the site looks and works. A good web developer can also make significant changes to a theme, thus tailoring it to the client’s need while preserving the structural properties that make it a good theme. Because a theme modifies some of the basic components of a site, themes have to be chosen carefully. Some have vulnerabilities, others don’t stand up well to WordPress upgrades, but there are many excellent ones that more than make up for the clunkers.
- Plug-ins. A plug-in adds a specific feature to a site. There are plug-ins for almost everything, from backing up a site to creating a calendar. Plug-ins also have to be chosen carefully. Some don’t work with certain themes, and others have dangerous vulnerabilities. But there are a lot of excellent plug-ins out there and lots of user experience to help choose a good one.
Like any tool, WordPress is a compromise and has its share of issues. But fortunately it is backed by a stable and hard-working development group, so it is constantly improving.
One benefit of using a popular tool is that lots of other smart folks are using it. As they use it, they find problems, solve those problems, and document their solutions. It is now rare to find a WordPress problem that someone else hasn’t already encountered and solved. And for those cases where a solution isn’t easily found, there are a number of excellent technical forums where developers ask questions and other developers answer them.
For all the reasons mentioned above, I am now building most of my clients’ sites in WordPress. There are many ways to build a WordPress site, and I have explored a number of them. I have encountered a few of the clunkers and many of the jewels. This experience has resulted in a library of good-looking and reliable WordPress tools that I bring to your website project.