There are a plethora of platforms on which to start your website design process, whether it’s a blog, a hobby or a business venture, you want to make sure that your website reflects your values and has the capabilities you need.
Depending on the intended content of your website, you will also want to consider the ability to post film, images and text to it and whether you want it to be shared on social media. You may also want to take payments for items or services. WordPress allows all of this and is a tool which can be used to build a website by a beginner or an experienced web designer.
WordPress has lots of functionality, some of which we will touch on below, but there are a couple of other key advantages to selecting it as the platform for your site:
- it’s free
- it has a very user-friendly content management system so that you and others can keep the website up to date
It’s also worth noting that licensing agreements aren’t required with WordPress. It’s licensed under the GPL – which means that you are free to install, modify and distribute it.
All in all, there’s a lot to think about in deciding how best to build your site.
What is the purpose of the website?
This is a critical question. WordPress can deliver whatever you need, but your website will benefit if you stop and think about this before starting the project.
If your site is a personal interest blog it may be relatively simple in terms of what you need it to do, however, presumably you want people to look at it, read it and perhaps engage with it. Who do you think will be interested and how will you tell them that it exists? You’ll probably drive traffic to your site via social media, so consider the ones that work best for your topic, e.g. image driven versus text-driven content.
You might be developing a campaign site to gather support for a particular issue. If this is the case, then you need to have a sign-up form and have automatic emails set up to confirm supporters or to update them on the status of the campaign.
A business site will vary according to the type of work it does. If sales driven then you will need to have a way of taking payment online that is simple and secure, failure to do that will have people leave your website and go elsewhere. If you offer services, you need to clearly include your contact details, but also have a form for people to complete so that you can follow up. If you choose WordPress, you will be in good company, The New York Times and eBay are among the millions of websites built in WordPress.
Apart from being free, easy to use and flexible, those considering using WordPress for business purposes may be interested to read a piece in Entrepreneur, which gives a further 22 reasons to choose WordPress for business
Website Design – Bring in the experts or go it alone?
WordPress will allow you to build a site yourself. It might take a lot of time and trial and error, but most people would be perfectly capable of developing a site using the platform.
If your site is a blog, or a hobby, then you may be happy to spend the time developing a website yourself. You will learn new skills and have the satisfaction of having created a tangible product at the end of your work. However, if your website is for business purposes you may not have the time to do it yourself and there may be more complex features that you need from your website, it may be more efficient and effective to bring in a website design expert.
But, WordPress isn’t just for amateurs, web design teams from Bedford to Yeovil use WordPress to deliver quality and easily manageable website for their customers. It offers a highly useful platform for designers and developers to create a bespoke theme for a client and has a back office system – known as a content management system (CMS) – that can be easily handed over to the client to maintain. Depending on what you are looking for, you can brief an expert to design a site where you can maintain all or part of your website to suit your own ability and your design and maintenance budget. There are even a range of features just for developers to use so that they can build an uber-professional website and won’t be frustrated by limitations.
If this isn’t enough then even Matt Cutts, Googles guru on all things SEO says that WordPress takes care of 80-90% of (the mechanics of) Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Security – for you and your customers
Over 76 million people have chosen WordPress which now powers around one-quarter of the internet, so it is no wonder that it is regularly a target for hackers. Once you have an online presence, you are automatically at risk of an attack but with WordPress, you have the peace of mind that the company takes security very seriously and is constantly updating to prevent attacks.
You needn’t just take WordPress’s word for its stance on security either, Computer Weekly reported just last month (April 2016) that WordPress now offers free SSL certificates.
If you choose to develop your own website, then you should keep on top of updates and make sure you keep abreast of technology news and WordPress recommendations. For those who have a website design expert, speak to them about their service and ensure that security and regular updates are included in your agreement.
Consider using one of the security plugins, Wp Security is a firm favourite although it does require a little time to be spent in the initial setup. My recent plugin of choice is Wordfence which is ready to use with the minimum of effort.
The power of plugins
Plugins allow you to add a lot of functionality to your site: from complex galleries to forums; social networking to calendars; data capture forms to controls for search engine optimisation; plugins add useful and powerful capabilities to your website.
There are thousands of plugins available in WordPress, with more being created all the time. WordPress has a whole directory of them, and they are rated by users, giving you a guide to what’s good and what’s not.
If you were to browse the directory like a catalogue, you would probably end up with lots of ideas of more things to add to your site! Remain true to the purpose of your site and consider what you actually need and will make a difference to your visitors and customers. If your site is being developed by a web design team, then you can probably leave this entirely to them and not spend your time worrying about the 44k+ and growing number of available plugins.
Content management is key
The real pleasure of WordPress is the ease of its content management system (CMS). Even if you have chosen to employ a professional web design team to build your site, you can easily add updates via the CMS.
There is no need to use coding to make updates. You can create a draft, preview the page and schedule publication – back-dating it or setting it up to publish in the future, perfect for a product launch or responding to a policy announcement you know about while you’re on holiday or working the day job.
Who manages your pages is also important, if you’re the chief executive or the director of marketing then you probably have plenty of other things to manage, but your team can keep on top of updating the website and there is no specialist training needed. You may choose to speak to your website design team about putting together a simple session to train your staff to use the CMS.
If there are multiple people working on your website you can set their access level so that they can’t, for example, publish to the site unless someone approves the content first. Different websites have different contributors, so access levels are great for business but also for an online community.
How to be found
With so many websites out there, you want to be sure that your customers – existing and potential – will find yours. Search engine optimisation (SEO) helps your website rank more highly, you may want to pick this up in more detail with your web design team, but WordPress has a number of options and plugins to improve your SEO rankings and monitor visitors.
Don’t forget to use social media plugins and think about your social media plan too, those shares and retweets really help to get your messages out there for free, and you can give them a bit of a boost for just a few pounds.
WordPress has the advantage of being very compatible with Google, the most-used search engine, which further improves your findability. WordPress has a logical architecture, is text-based and mobile-friendly – all of which are factors in Google’s search rankings.
An essential plugin for every website, in my opinion, is YOAST for SEO, this easy to use package incorporates ever thing from snippet editor and real-time page analyses functionality which will help you maximise the SEO benefits from every page you write.
Peace of mind and the confidence that your website will work in browsers today and in the future is all part of the WordPress package. The generated code is in full compliance with the standards set by the W3C and you can rest assured that technological advances and changes won’t mean your site disappears – which could cost you money.
It is also mobile and tablet compatible, not only does this improve your SEO rankings, but with smartphones being ‘the most popular device for getting online’ (The Guardian, August 2015), you want to be sure that your site is accessible.
WordPress is open source too, this means that talented people around the world discover something they want to do and then develop a way of making it happen, so all users can benefit. Constant evolution also leaves WordPress well-poised for future technologies and changes.
Finally, it’s easy to transfer your website away from WordPress, should you ever wish to do so. WordPress has importers for many of the popular platforms, including blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Tumblr and more.
So, what next?
That’s a lot of reasons to use WordPress, far more than have been touched on within this article. Ultimately, it’s the flexibility and the control that you can have. It’s easy to update and it’s a platform that website design teams can adapt and develop for you if you aren’t an expert or want something more bespoke.