If you’re a small business owner in the market for a new website, you might consider WordPress as a website platform to get your business started online. WordPress is a popular Open Source software for website creation that is free to use by individuals or businesses. As of this writing, it’s used by over 34% of the internet to run a variety of websites and serves a wide range of businesses. Its main advantage as a platform is its flexibility to build about any type of website you can imagine. It powers everything from small mom and pop websites to large e-commerce websites and is a great choice for small business websites building their online presence.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is an “open source” website creation software that is mostly written in the programming language of PHP. It was released on May 27, 2003, by its founders, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little as a variant of b2/cafelog. It is readily available to download at wordpress.org and licensed under GPLv2. Historically, WordPress was used to create blogs. Today, its capabilities have evolved and allow it to serve as a full-fledged content management system (CMS) and a web creation tool for sites across the globe.
What does WordPress cost?
Many people ask why WordPress isn’t sold as a commercial software package–especially if it’s as good as users claim. The self-hosted version of WordPress is completely free to use for personal blogs or commercial websites and is released as “open source” software. Open Source software comes with the freedom to use, change, add to, and redistribute it in any way you like. However, there are peripheral costs associated with WordPress like web hosting and website maintenance.
For most small business owners, the cost in using WordPress is related to 3 things: the design and development of the company site, 3rd party software costs outside of WordPress and Site Maintenance or Support.
A good web developer is a handy ally.
Unless a small business owner is already highly skilled in the programming languages needed to build a WordPress site, a web developer is generally needed to create the design and build the web pages necessary. Costs vary from developer to developer, but because WordPress is used so extensively across the internet, it has a huge developer base of capable professionals that can build or support a website for any business. Generally, if you need help with WordPress, it’s not too difficult to find it, as a result.
Sometimes third-party software costs are necessary.
Out of the box, WordPress offers many powerful features used to create and customize a business owner’s content. There’s also a huge repository of free plugins and themes that extend the functionality of the CMS. However, sometimes 3rd party software is needed to provide custom functions or capabilities not found in WordPress core. In some cases, premium plugins (or extensions) for WordPress may be required to add to give your site the appropriate functionality. The main advantage here for business owners is that as your website and business grows, WordPress is ready. WordPress is extensible enough to handle just about any needed additions to accommodate your business. As a matter of fact, it powers large-scale websites such as The New Yorker, MTV News, Bloomburg Professional and Sony Music.
Maintenance and support are a must.
Any software system that is exposed to the global internet through a website requires updating and maintenance to keep the programming code powering the website optimized, secure and free of malware. This is generally best left to a professional to provide these services. Small business owners should plan on housing their website on the best managed WordPress web hosting they can afford and to have a maintenance company or their web developer handle the daily upkeep.
Is WordPress safe?
Generally, WordPress is as safe and secure as any web platform can be on the internet. When properly updated, maintained and backed by rock-solid web hosting, WordPress can be used for banks, insurance companies, online magazines or even robust e-commerce stores.
Where many small businesses get into trouble is letting WordPress power their website unmanaged. Some business owners try to save money by either managing the sites themselves or, even worse, not managing their website at all. When that happens, the WordPress software isn’t consistently updated, extensions are used that are security risks and many WordPress best practices are ignored. When basic WordPress maintenance is ignored or mismanaged, it increases the potential for site hacks, intrusion, and malware.
What makes WordPress better than website builders like Wix, Squarespace or Weebly?
Website builders like Wix or Squarespace are great platforms for starting a website. They have a lot of attractive features that small business owners trying to save money might consider. These platforms generally have a low entry point cost-wise in the form of a monthly fee, provide robust site-building tools, provide the web hosting for the site and manage all the security and updates of their platform. So why wouldn’t a small business owner opt for a service like this that seems fairly low maintenance and usually has well-built website templates to get the non-programmers of the world started?
It boils down to flexibility and what you’re trying to accomplish with your website. If the success of your business hedges on the up-front price of the platform, then maybe a self-contained platform like Wix or Squarespace is a better fit. However, there are some factors to keep in mind that might be deal-breakers later on.
For example, most of the limitations to these platforms usually appear when your business grows and you need the ability to add custom functions or scale-up. In some cases, scaling up and adding features requires add-on modules that can increase your overall monthly cost. Additionally, services like a Wix or Squarespace may not have all the features to accommodate your business’ growth and migrating your site out of these services may or may not be an easy task.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the template design and website infrastructure are the property of these platforms. You’re basically renting space for your website and they can change their service without any say from their customers. These changes could come in the form of price increases or the removal of key services.
WordPress can be a powerful tool in the small business space. The pros and cons vary depending on which website builder or platform is compared to WordPress, but the bottom-line is that WordPress’ huge developer base, software marketplace and extensibility make it a solid platform for small business owners to build their site on without worrying about outgrowing the platform. Here are some of the many benefits:
- The WordPress software is open-source and costs the small business owner nothing out-of-the-box.
- WordPress is a powerful Content Management System
- WordPress is highly extensible. There are thousands of themes and thousands of plugins available — more than most third-party website builders like Wix or Squarespace.
- WordPress has a large repository of free plugins and themes.
- WordPress has an extensive developer base and active community.
- At its heart, WordPress is a powerful blogging platform that is very search engine friendly.
- WordPress is highly customizable which is great for the small business owner and the developer. It provides a framework that can grow with successful businesses.
- WordPress can power the smallest website or a site as large as a news network or ecommerce website.
If you’d like to learn more about WordPress and test drive the software, contact Cooperata for a free demonstration of its capabilities. We’re more than happy to answer questions that this artice does not address or clarify or update anything that changes after publication. We also encourage you to compare and try other platforms to compare and see how they stack up against WP.
Jonathon Cooper is owner and creative director of Cooperata LLC. He specializes in creating effective digital marketing and web solutions for websites using the WordPress blogging and CMS platform.