Why has WordPress Become so Popular?

wordpress_600_badgesIf you’ve looked at website content management systems, or CMSs at all in the past year, you’ll have seen people talking about WordPress and that fact that about 20% of websites now run WordPress — and if you only look at the web’s busiest sites, the percentage is actually higher. Of the 20% WordPress sites, about half are at WordPress.com and half are hosted elsewhere at a variety of web hosts, including here at 100%. Earlier this year, WordPress marked its 10th anniversary, but its popularity has really exploded in just the past four or five years. Having used and watched WordPress for all of this time, I can offer a number of thoughts about what has helped recently to make it gain such popularity with mainstream users. Here are five significant ones, in no particular order:

  1. Availability of Themes. Literally thousands of themes are available for WordPress, including both free and paid options. Since 2010, WordPress releases have included a new default theme each year, and each of these helps showcase some of the newest features and capabilities that the CMS has. Users can browse freely available themes within their own site admin area to select and activate a new look for their site in minutes with just a few clicks. (Any delay will be from browsing through all the options!) Numerous paid or “premium” themes are also available from a variety of vendors with support, and many of them can be customized to render a unique site view — all with no “coding” knowledge required.
  2. Availability of Plugins. As with themes, thousands of plugins are available to extend WordPress’ capabilities beyond what it does “out-of-the-box”, and for almost any feature you can imagine. This includes integration with third-party sites, newsletters, members-only content, forums, events calendars, social media integration, and of course, ecommerce. Again, many of these are free (or have free versions with feature limits), while others are available at a cost that includes support from the vendor. Some of the plugins are even extensible by adding plugins that modify plugins… such as adding a payment gateway or shipping calculator to an ecommerce plugin. The variety of available plugins has really improved in the past few years, so finding a plugin for a given function meets with a high degree of success. This makes WordPress a good choice for users who anticipate they may need to add features to their site in the future but don’t know today what the requirements will be. As with themes, these can be searched, added, enabled, and configured right within the site’s admin panel with no coding knowledge required.
  3. Search Engine Optimization. Site owners are more conscious than ever of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, and its importance in getting traffic to their site from search engines like Google or Bing. While SEO has become a specialized field, WordPress actually makes the basics very easy and accessible to site owners. A few really good SEO plugins are available to assist with this, but most modern WordPress themes are also written to be “SEO-Friendly”, making the task of getting found just a little bit easier.
  4. Ease of Administration. By simply choosing WordPress as a CMS, a lot of administrative functions are automatically made available. The admin area of WordPress has been improved a lot in the last few years, and another refresh is due to be released before Christmas was released December 12th. Not only is it fairly easy to navigate, it can be customized by plugin or theme developers, and functions that aren’t regularly used by authors can be hidden from view. Add to that the fact that plugins are available for many routine maintenance tasks (like backups) and the ease with which software updates can be performed from within the admin interface, and WordPress site administration becomes a task accessible to any site owner.
  5. Availability of Support. Although a WordPress site is easy to update by adding or editing content and easy to administrate, there are situations where a site owner may not want to take on the task themselves. Perhaps maintenance is something that doesn’t get done regularly and can get forgotten, or perhaps a particular custom feature is needed, or, commonly, a site owner wants a unique design that reflects their business. As well, most business site owners consider their website an integral part of their business operation, and cannot afford downtime. Even if they can manage the can have tasks themselves, they prefer to outsource it or to have experts on call when needed. Enter the WordPress professional. A growing number of web developers are specializing exclusively in WordPress, whether in theme or plugin development, hosting, or maintenance and support. Finding someone that knows WordPress well in order to get you started has become a fairly routine requirement. This also means that should you wish to move your site or change developers or support firms down the road, it’s not at all difficult to find another vendor.

These are not the only reasons we use and recommend WordPress, but just a few that contribute to its rise in popularity. Taken together with other factors like open source software, extensibility, and scalability, these underscore our continued recommendation of the platform.

Note: 100% Helpdesk promotes using WordPress as a CMS for sites we host. In fact, we will support not only the web hosting service, but also support WordPress (and select other applications) to offer our clients a seamless support experience.

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