Anytime someone asks me a question about building a new website, you can be confident that at some point early in the conversation I'll mention "Wordpress." It's my de-facto recommendation. Why? Simply put, in 98% of cases I believe Wordpress is hands-down the best platform to build a website on, whether the site is a personal blog chronicling your die-hard obsession with the Jonas Brothers (hey it was a phase, okay?) or a small business e-commerce site selling thousands of dollars worth of products and services per day. (Note: the 2% exceptions are huge enterprise sites or unique sites that require something like a custom-built AJAX interface on-top of an interactive 3D Flash application... if you're confused, you're supposed to be: trust me when I say that Wordpress is the right choice for pretty much everybody).
What is Wordpress?
Technically speaking, Wordpress is as an open-source content management system (CMS). Practically speaking, Wordpress lets anyone create a beautiful, functional, heavily-customizable website in a couple of hours. Wordpress gives you the ability to:
- Structure the information on your site in a clean and organized way
- Change your site's entire design at the push of a button
- Limitlessly extend your site's features and capabilities with plug-and-play "plugins"
- Create sites in under an hour that five years ago would have taken a week
- Easily add, edit or remove content on-the-fly
...and more. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Why is Wordpress the Best Choice for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs
1. Your on-page SEO is done. There are a lot of factors that play into search engine optimization: link building, site structure, page rank, etc. On page SEO refers to having your HTML code written in a way that makes it easy for search engines (primarily Google) to understand what your pages are about. It's hard to over-estimate how important this is. Get this wrong, and your site won't show up in the search engines for the keywords that your business needs in order to attract potential customers. The good news? Wordpress takes care of this aspect of search engine optimization for you. All you have to do is install one or two plugins (which are explained below), then set them up and forget about them. Wordpress lets you spend less time worrying about SEO and more time focused on generating customers with your website. My favorite Wordpress SEO plugin: Platinum SEO.
2. It's free. Not only is Wordpress free, but using it will reduce (and in many cases eliminate) future costs associated with your website. For example, Wordpress' intuitive user interface means that you will no longer need to pay some kid in San Francisco or India any time you want to make a few changes to your site. And I'll explain more about plug-ins further down, but for now, know that they let you add very cool functionality to your website... functionality that in the past you would have had to pay a developer or designer big bucks to put on your site. Plus, you'll save a ton of cash on your website design. The days of having to pay a web designer $3,000 to have a nice looking site are gone. Using Wordpress "themes," you can have a high-quality looking site for free. And if you do have some money to spend, for a couple hundred bucks you can get a premium Wordpress theme that would make anyone living in 2005 ask if you had to mortgage your house. I know of cases where people have paid thousands, in some cases even hundreds-of-thousands of dollars for sites that realistically could have been created drastically cheaper by using Wordpress.
3. It's easy to use. Wordpress lets you (or one of your employees) be a webmaster without needing to be a tech geek. Thanks to Wordpress, creating a website about as easy as setting up a Facebook profile. Its intuitive administration panel lays out everything in a clearly organized way that is flat-out simple to use. Once you get the hang of it, which should roughly take 1-2 hours, you'll be creating posts and editing categories with ease. And unlike other "easy website builder" applications (GoDaddy's Website Tonight, anyone?) that create amateur-looking sites that have nothing under the hood, Wordpress sites look professional and their functionality can go toe-to-toe with the best of the web.
4. Plug-ins. I've touched on these a few times above, but I have to give plugins their own paragraph because they really make Wordpress great. Think of plugins like Apps for the iPhone; 3rd party programs that add really cool features. Wordpress is truly open source, which means that the entire code for the platform is given away to developers everywhere to tinker with. The result is a ton of free (and a few paid) applications that extend your Wordpress site's functionality in thousands of different ways. Just like the iPhone, you can download and install these plug-ins at the push of a button. Wordpress plugins can do everything from placing customized contact forms on your site to automatically optimizing your pages for search engines like Google.
5. Themes. Think of themes as 'skins' for your website that change its entire appearance. Just like plug-ins, Wordpress themes are designed by the community, and thousands of them are available for free. Before hiring a custom graphics/web designer to create a site from scratch, take some time to browse through a few pages of Wordpress themes and I bet you can find one that works for the type of site you're creating, whether it's personal or professional. There are many instances where you'll need a theme to undergo some customization in order to fit your needs (especially for small business/professional sites) -- however, whatever you have to pay for this will pale in comparison to what you would have had to pay a web designer to create a 100% original site. The two sites I recommend for themes are WooThemes and ElegantThemes. For some time, WooThemes has been putting out high-quality, high-performance Wordpress themes that are easy to use and great to look at. They have a great collection of premium, professional looking themes for under $200, and also have very nice free themes available as well. ElegantThemes has a great collection of premium themes, and for $20 it is a bargain.
Bonus reason: Wordpress is fun. This may seem a bit intangible, especially when we're talking about business websites. I can hear you now... "John, forget about having fun, I just want my site to do one thing: make my business money." I hear you. But trust me when I tell you that a website that's fun to tinker around with will be a more functional, more profitable website 99 times out of 100. If any time you want to add content to your website all you can think about is how big of a pain in the ass it is, you'll naturally put it off until later -- perhaps indefinitely. Having a site that is fun to work with will cause you to find yourself thinking of cool improvements you're excited to experiment with, vs. not wanting to make any changes to your site because it would require a call to India and another $2,000. To get Wordpress, go to http://www.Wordpress.org.