Sure, we would be lying if we said we weren’t big fans of website builders like Weebly, Wix, and Shopify. Their commitment to simplicity of use has made millions of customers the webmasters of their own websites. However, there are scenarios for which website builders just aren’t the right tool.
We don’t only review website builders; we also use WordPress.org on a daily basis. This guide wants to show you scenarios where it makes sense to use WordPress – and when it doesn’t. Robert and his team are looking forward to receiving your questions!
The main difference between WordPress.org and a hosted website builder like Weebly and Squarespace is the level of complexity. While you barely ever get in touch with the technical side of things using a website builder, you will indeed need some technical understanding in order to run a website with WordPress.org.
One big advantage of WordPress is its expandability: once your website runs on this platform there are hardly any limits left. These are a few real world examples of scenarios when WordPress makes sense:
Flexibility and database integration are very good arguments for at least considering WordPress.org.
Please note: This article will only cover the open source version, WordPress.org. WordPress.com, which is easier to set up, is much more reduced in features and really only useful for blogs, while .org can be used for practically any kind of website.
Free: The software is completely free and can be downloaded on the web. Hosting and premium templates, however, must be purchased.
Great flexibility and future-proof: Unlike a website builder or employing a third-party programmer, you can change anything you like in the code to suit your wishes. Additionally, WordPress is easily the largest content management system (CMS) in the world, which is precisely why it won’t be disappearing anytime soon.
Your choice of web host: You can move your WordPress website from one hosting provider to another with little effort. There are also several providers who specialize in WordPress (see examples below).
Templates: You will not find a CMS with a greater variety of templates than WordPress. Sites such as Themeforest and Templatemonster offer plenty of designs ready for immediate use.
Plugins: There are plugins for just about any scenario you can think of including e-commerce, member pages, multilingual websites, booking engines, etc.
Community: While you will receive no professional technical support the way a website builder offers it, there are thousands and thousands of programmers who specialize in WordPress.
Installation: Unless you choose a hosting provider who offers a 1-click installation procedure, installing WordPress manually is not exactly trivial, and it requires some basic technical knowledge (FTP, MySQL, etc.).
Maintenance and security: One of WordPress’ great weaknesses is that you need to update the software on a regular basis, or your website can become compromised. The update procedure itself is simple (one click), but individual plugins may cause problems which could, in turn, disable your entire website in a worst case scenario. Unless you have sufficient technical skills, this may go beyond the limits of your abilities.
No direct support: While there are forums where you can ask for help, these people are volunteers, and you can’t always expect people to have an answer for you.
No WYSIWYG: When entering content, you don’t immediately see what the end result will look like because the typing is done in an abstract interface mask. Website builders, on the other hand, offer a true “What You See Is What You Get” experience.
Basically, you can install WordPress using any hosting service that offers PHP and MySQL support. It gets even easier if your webhost offers a special WordPress package. Such plans usually start at $4 to $7, which makes them just as expensive as your run-of-the-mill website builder. Often times, a domain and e-mail addresses will be included.
One.com: The Low-Cost provider for Small to Medium-Sized projects
One.com is one of the most affordable hosting company we’ve heard of. Although they don’t come with every feature professional WordPress developers may need, they are a suitable provider for small and medium projects. On top of that, they offer a solid website builder. Their cheapest plan is $ 1.89 month. Unbeatable!
We’ve put together a tutorial where you can see how to easily install WordPress with their 1-click solution.
Tutorial: 1-Click WordPress-Installation with One.com
BlueHost is one of the most famous WordPress hosts. The starter plan in the shared hosting section is usually sufficient for the beginning. It includes a domain and 100 e-mail addresses. Its regular price is $5.99 per month.
One of the biggest advantages is the one-click installation procedure. It helps beginners to get started right away. The plan is inexpensive, and it includes technical support – although this support only covers hosting issues. You will not get support for WordPress-specific questions.
When your WordPress-based website starts to grow and attract more and more visitors, your loading times could get significantly worse. This is due to the fact that, on the starter plan, you share your server with other websites (a setup called shared hosting).
Accordingly, if you don’t know whom you are sharing your server with, you also don’t know how much traffic is too much traffic. Should your loading times get worse, you can switch to one of the WordPress managed hosting plans (starting at $24.99). If you want to invest that kind of money, however, there are better options – let’s have a closer look at one of them.
SiteGround: A Player for Serious Projects
SiteGround is a hosting provider that is fully geared towards business. They offer a combination of outstanding support, reliable performance and cutting-edge features in their higher plans.
One nice thing about SiteGround is that they have a range of plans that can grow with your project:
All these plans include the domain name and email accounts, so they have everything you need to start your WordPress site. Be aware that they offer big discounts during the first year.
Support: SiteGround’s support is top class. They offer 24 hours responsive support by phone, live chat and email.
Hosting location: They have servers in the US, Asia and Europe.
Speed & uptime: With their combination of solid hardware (e.g. SSD disks) and advanced software solutions (e.g. caching plugin) your site will be really fast. Additionally, they offer outstanding levels of uptime (close to 100%).
Staging area & Git: Advanced developers that need slick features such as a staging area or a git repository, can go with the GoGeek plan.
Visits & bandwidth limit: unlike many similar providers they don’t have a visit or bandwidth limit.
Security: They monitor WordPress-related security threads on a daily basis. WordPress and plugins can be updated automatically and they make daily backups for your protection.
If you want to have all the features you’ll need to get the GoGeek plan – this can be a bit expensive.
One of WordPress’s greatest advantages are easily the many templates you can acquire at low prices. We would advise against using one of the many free templates out there – sometimes, the designers will include SEO links to untrustworthy websites.
Premium templates will not cost you much, and can be purchased on websites such as Themeforest or Elegant Themes. Our experiences have been limited to Themeforest so far. Prices start at single payments between $30 and $60.
Some things you should pay attention to:
The installation is pretty simply. Upload the template file and then select it from the menu – it’s just a few clicks:
After activating the template, it might look broken. This is normal – you need to add content now. Check the template documentation for any changes you might have to make. And please be aware of the difference between a page and a post. Pages are usually static, such as the “About Us” page on a website. Posts are news items of some sort, usually with a date and time attached.
There are some basic ground rules you need to follow for your WordPress installation to be safe.
If you want to be found in a web search, we recommend Yoast SEO. This free plugin allows you to customize the page title and description. You can also see right away how Google would show your website in the search results list. To top things off, there are plenty of very useful settings for advanced users that can be managed via the Yoast plugin.
TinyPNG is a very useful plugin and free (up to 500 pictures per month) as well. It shrinks image files (jpg and png) with no loss of quality to increase loading speeds – loading speeds have become an important ranking criterion for Google.
Akismet is also a must-have plugin – it helps you in your fight against comment and trackback spam. Alternatively, you can also use Disqus to manage comments on your site. This will prevent spam comments too.
WPML for multilingual websites
A very frequent question is how to make a website multilingual. At WebsiteToolTester, we use WPML.org, which is pretty much the standard plugin for that case. It starts at $29 per year, and adds language variety pages to your complete WordPress installation (backend and frontend).
Ecommerce plugins for WordPress
One of the most popular eCommerce plugins for WordPress is WooCommerce. The basic version is free and enriches your WordPress website with a powerful online store. If you want to know more about this plugin, head over to our WooCommcerce review.
Websites with member areas and subscription service
There are great plugins to make premium content available for customers via login. MemberPress and WP Wishlist are often used to distribute text, video, or audio course materials in a protected member area.
You can set individual levels of access and set up payment for membership through the plugin (e.g. via PayPal, Stripe), either as a single payment or as a regular plan. These plugins will cost you ~$99 / year (including one year of support and updates).
Personal Support for WordPress Websites
If you want personal support for your website administration, you can try out WPCurve.com. For $69 per month, you get unlimited “small jobs”, meaning tasks that can be carried out in 30 minutes or less. They can adapt your stylesheet, update your WordPress installation, or implement changes to your template.
If you are looking for more of a one-off relationship, you can also search Odesk for WP developers that you pay on an hourly basis. The advantage to WPCurve is that you don’t need to pay your developer unless there is actually any work to be done. Also, when working with the same person on a regular basis, he or she will be much more familiar with the ins and outs of your particular installation.
As you can see in this review, WordPress is just the right choice for some projects. When compared to Weebly or Wix, you will, of course, need more time in the beginning to get the hang of things, and even if WordPress is free in and of itself, hosting, templates and programming costs will most likely run you a higher bill than just going with a website builder.
But if you already know that your project will likely go beyond the scope of what a website builder can handle, we recommend investing the money and saving yourself the hassle of a move later on. WordPress is future-proof, and the possibilities that come with it are practically infinite.