If you want to start a website or an online business, chances are, you have heard about WordPress.
WordPress is a content management system that is free and open-source. This means that you can use it for your website at no cost and because it is an open-source system, other programmers can easily develop add ons to enhance WordPress without cost as well.
WordPress was originally just used as a blogging platform but it has since evolved into a total website solution. You can run entire websites on WordPress including e-commerce sites.
With the explosive growth of the WordPress community, themes, and plugins it has grown to be the standard for any type of website, not just blogs.
Two Versions of WordPress
Not to confuse you, but there are actually two versions of WordPress. There is WordPress.com, which is owned by Automattic and uses WordPress.org’s open-source platform to run its blogging service.
WordPress is a popular website platform that powers 34% of all websites on the internet.
By using WordPress to build your website you’ll be joining some large corporations, universities, celebrities, and many thousands of small businesses who already know how fabulous WordPress is.
Check out this list from WP Beginner of some of the most notable sites using WordPress:
- The New Yorker
- BBC America
- Bloomberg Professional
- The Official Star Wars Blog
- Sony Music
- MTV News
There is a reason why WordPress is so popular and is used by so many large corporations. It just works and it can work for your website too.
Why Use WordPress?
The top of the line content management system for free? Oh yea! You can’t beat that. Of course, you will still have to pay for web hosting, but you will have that payment no matter what system you use.
The beautiful part of using open-source software is that you and others have access to add-on features to WordPress via plugins and themes and most of these are free too. Over the years developers have created almost any type of extended capabilities you might need through the use of plugins.
Support and Community
Since WordPress is extremely popular there are numerous support groups online. You can find groups in Facebook, Slack, StackExchange, and almost anywhere else online where people gather. Of course, WordPress.org has a forum as well where you can ask questions.
If you have a website it has to look good mobile devices. Most current WordPress themes come mobile friendly out of the book. And if the theme you want to use doesn’t, there are plugins you can use to help make your site mobile friendly.
By using the free open source version of WordPress, you have complete and full control of your website. You decide when updates are applied, what plugins are used, who has access to what. You are not limited by what features you can and cannot use that a hosted solution such as Wix might do.
With plugins like WooCommerce, Exchange, and Digital Product Downloads it is super easy and fast to get an e-commerce site up and running. If you want to create an online store, WordPress is the way to go.
Search Engine Friendly
One reason so many love WordPress is because it is also extremely search engine friendly. Many people say that Google loves WordPress. It’s set up in such a way that even a novice, with the right plugins, can put in SEO features such as meta tags, image tags, keywords, and coding without knowing how to code at all.
You Don’t Have To Be A Developer
To use WordPress you don’t need to know anything about HTML or creating web pages unless you plan to be a developer or what to achieve more advanced designs.
WordPress Is Simple To Get Started
The great thing about WordPress is that there are no programs to download to your computer. It is web-based so it’s simple to get to your website and update it from any computer with internet access.
It has so many awesome features and wonderful add-on’s (called plugins) that give your website almost any feature you could possibly want.
Because there is a very active and involved WordPress community, you can find answers to questions when issues arise, tons of written and video tutorials, as well as contractors who are willing to help you build a WordPress website.
In addition, you can take care of your site and you do not have to rely on your web designer to do everything.
These are the steps to take if you want to start a WordPress website.
Web Hosting Options
There are two options available when a person decides to use WordPress as a platform to run their website. The first option is WordPress.com. WordPress.com is a hosted solution which means WordPress hosts your site on their servers
The second option is a self-hosted solution. This means you pick the web hosting provider and install WordPress on that server. The second option gives you much more freedom with your website and because of this is my preferred option.
WordPress hosting is widely available but some hosts are better than others. Ideally, the hosting account will preload WordPress for you the first time, but as long as they have cPanel and “one-click” install available you can do this!
My recommended hosting provider is A2 Hosting but there are many others.
Some Questions To Ask
- Is it a shared hosting, VPS, or dedicated plan? Shared hosting means you share the server and all the server resources with other people. VPS stands for “virtual private server” and means that you will share a server with other people but your resources are not shared. A dedicated plan means you have a server all to yourself. It’s usually the most expensive option.
- Does the technical support have WordPress experts on staff? If you run into a problem with WordPress you want to make sure the tech support will be able to support it, especially if you are not technologically inclined.
- How do you contact support and how long is the average wait time? If a company cannot provide same-day support, it won’t do you any good. You don’t want to lose money because your website is down and you can’t get support.
Pick a Theme
Once WordPress is installed, you have to pick a theme to create the look you desire. A WordPress theme is a template that you can use and modify to match your own tastes and colors.
There are free themes that you can find at the WordPress.org website as well as premium themes that you must pay to use such as Studio Press and others.
You can also have themes made for you or if you are proficient in PHP, HTML, and CSS you can create your own. Since it is open-source software, you can find out more information about creating themes by visiting WordPress.org’s developer forum.
Choose Your Plugins
If you need additional features beyond what’s included in the basic install, you can install “plugins” to add new features.
Essentially, plugins do things like add in a shopping cart, create backups, provide security, and extend the functionality of your website beyond the basics.
It is a good idea to research WordPress plugins and find out which plugins are considered must-haves.
Some plugins are incompatible with others so it is important that you fully understand how they work and use the fewest number of plugins to avoid problems. Just use what you need to get the job done.
Putting It All Together
It is the fear of the unknown that stops most people from starting a WordPress website not the lack of skill or inability to do it.
The best way to get started with WordPress is to just try it. Buy some inexpensive hosting, watch the tutorials, and before you know it, you’ll have a website up and running, usually within hours.
The trick is getting the right theme and using the right combination of plugins to create the look and feel of the site that you desire. You can browse free themes and plugins at the WordPress.org site and also find numerous premium, or paid, themes and plugins online.
Because WordPress is so popular and the community continues to grow, you can find free and paid WordPress help easily. WordPress.org has a free support forum and there are numerous free WordPress help groups on Facebook.
If you need paid support, you should be able to find an expert at a price you can afford since there are so many offering their services nowadays.
Can WordPress Be Used For E-Commerce?
Do you want to start an online shop selling physical or digital products? Do you want an easy way to create your online shop that will easily integrate with your already existing website? If you are using WordPress to run your website, you can easily add an e-commerce shop to your website.
WordPress is very versatile and with the use of plugins can accomplish almost any website goals you have, including integrating an e-commerce store. Depending on the plugin you use, you can set up an online store to sell physical or digital products, dropship products, affiliate products, and even run a membership site.
So why would you want to use WordPress with a plugin for e-commerce when you can use a full-fledged e-commerce sites like Shopify or Magneto?
Keep Everything On One Site
When you use WordPress for your e-commerce needs, you are keeping everything on your site. No need to send customers to a shopping site to complete their purchase. You keep everything on one site!
You Have Complete Control
Just like with WordPress, you are in complete control of your e-commerce site. You control when updates are implemented and the overall look of your e-commerce site. If you use other managed e-commerce systems, you are required to abide by their rules and regulations. By hosting your own e-commerce site, the only rules you are required to follow are your own.
Integrates With Your Blog
It integrates directly with your WordPress website and/or blog. When using a WordPress plugin for e-commerce your online store will fit seamlessly with the rest of your website. The styling and brand will be consistent and you won’t confuse customers by sending them off-site.
It’s Cost Effective
Using WordPress with an e-commerce plugin may be more cost-effective as well. Depending on what plugin you decide to use, your only cost for running the e-commerce site, maybe the transaction fee. The transaction fees will varying depending on which payment processor you use, such as PayPal or Stripe.
Are you convinced that WordPress is the way to go for your e-commerce store? If so, here are some plugins to check out to help get you started.
- WooCommerce – This e-commerce plugin is actually owned by Automattic, the same company that owns WordPress.com. It is constantly being updated and new add-ons pop up all the time.
- Easy Digital Downloads – This plugin is great if you only plan to offer digital products such as ebooks, reports, printables, etc.
- WP eCommerce – WP eCommerce is similar to WooCommerce in that the base plugin is free and you pay for any additional integrations you may want or need.
When first starting a WordPress based e-commerce store you make a list of must-have features and a list of features you don’t want. Then start looking at WordPress e-commerce plugins. See which ones will meet your requirements and which ones won’t.
Also, take a look at other WordPress e-commerce stores and see which plugins they are using and how the shop works.
Once you have decided on the right e-commerce plugin, the fun starts and you get to set up your online store!
When You Shouldn’t Use WordPress
With WordPress running over 34% of the websites on the internet, you might be wondering when you should not use WordPress for your website. It really depends on the needs and features your website will require.
Here are some reasons you might not want to use WordPress.
Drag & Drop Design
If you want to design your website by using the drag and drop method then you should choose a platform other than WordPress. While some developers have created drag and drop themes and visual builders, they tend to be clunky and are still not a true drag and drop web design app.
SEO and Security Ready
If you want your website to be secure and SEO ready right out of the box, WordPress isn’t for you. While WordPress can be made to have tight security and SEO features with plugins, it doesn’t come that way with the base install.
If you are not tech-savvy, the plugins might be frustrating for you to figure out and learn to use.
WordPress can be a magnet for internet spam. While any website can and will get internet spam, WordPress’ blogging system seems to attract lots of spammers.
There are plugins you can install to help keep it under control, but if you don’t want to deal with any internet spam as all, WordPress might not be for you.
If you don’t want to pay for support or are not willing to quickly learn about tech issues then WordPress might not be for you. While WordPress is easy to learn, you will have to do some of the maintenance yourself.
If you want to make significant changes to your theme or plugins, you will either have to pay for support or learn how to do it yourself. While there are a lot of great people who offer free help, most will charge.
If you want a unique, one of a kind look for your website right out of the box, then you might not want to use WordPress. While unique, one-of-a-kind looks are very possible with WordPress, they can be costly and most of the free themes are overused. This can make your site look the same as others on the web without spending a little time tweaking your theme.
Now don’t let these five issues keep you from using WordPress completely. Despite its shortfalls, WordPress might still be the best option for your website. Be sure to check all the features and compile a pro and con list before choosing any platform for your website.