A casual look around the internet for ‘how to build a website’ results in WordPress appearing as the means to achieve this as a major result. There is a potential for confusion when discussing WordPress, and this is due to the WordPress.com free hosted blogging platform, which a lot of people tend to think of when the name is mentioned. The blogging platform is excellent, multiple featured, free, and used extensively, but this is not what I am talking about. I refer to WordPress.org’s content management system and blogging software provided by WordPress.org; this is only usable on a personal hosting account. WordPress is, in essence, a website content management system; it enables you to create pages, articles, add multimedia of every kind, all from a central administration panel. You can even create membership sites, from simple blogs to many paged monster sites suitable for large corporate entities; wordpress is scalable.
All of this is possible, and it is relatively easy to accomplish. If you do not have web coding skills, it is not an impediment, and you can build your website by selecting the best theme, which is the template shell of any WordPress site. Each theme is developed with a particular set of appearance options; you can load your own custom headers and edit the layout according to need. If, for instance, you wanted a magazine-type layout, you can achieve this, and there are thousands of free themes available. In simple terms, you can create any website you can imagine; the features and design philosophy behind WordPress allow you to do this.
PHP & CSS figure strongly underneath the functions of WordPress; the ability to load smaller PHP-based applications into the main structure of your site is perhaps the strongest point of WordPress. These smaller PHP applications are called ‘PlugIns’; they can vary from a simple design tweaking plugin that turns off comments for pages right through to fully optioned event management systems that a major business could use. The vast majority of these plugins are available without charge; however, some plugins may have premium-level features available for a modest fee also.
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The big enabling aspect of WordPress is that it is within reach of people with modest technical skill sets. Like all software, there is a continual learning curve. Still, the availability of training from the many user-based groups, wordpress.org itself, and indeed from individuals who post ‘how-to’ videos on YouTube, means that a committed individual can become skillful with WordPress quite readily. Currently, over 1 billion WordPress sites are online; this is 22.3% of the entire internet. This figure rises daily; even with the advent of free web building products like ‘Wix’ and ‘Weebly,’ the sheer quality and level of control of the result possible with WordPress eclipses these other free offerings.
Basically, WordPress is just a huge presence online, and this generates enormous demand for services. WordPress has also created a huge industry of website builders and support people who can make their living from WordPress; this aspect of WordPress is not often spoken about. All coming from a GNU open-source software project, this is ‘People Power’ on rocket fuel. Yes, there are alternatives to WordPress, Drupal, Joomla are both very respectable options, both have their strong points, and both require a considerable learning curve to get them up and to run. I have used both Drupal and Joomla in my work as an online specialist, but these two systems do not compare with WordPress for efficiency and ease of deployment, let alone versatility. There are some circumstances when I would select one or the other over WordPress, but very rarely.
WordPress is largely enabling the current interest spike in online business. The word ‘Entrepreneur’ is used extensively, stay-at-home moms, dads, people wishing to leave their careers, very young people seeking immediate independence, retirees hoping to boost their dwindling resources. All of these groups can consider managing their online efforts because of WordPress. To me, this represents an enormous change in our western work culture. For the first time in history, individuals can create ‘the means of production’ for themselves, independent of the state or employers. While freelancing is nothing new, it has never been so available to so many in its online form. Moreover, the possibility of creating a personal business of various types has been massively enabled through WordPress.WordPress is one of the new faces of personal liberty; if you are interested in the possibilities of taking direct control of your life and work, you can access WordPress and begin the journey. But be aware this will take some effort on your part; there is a learning curve. Nothing of value comes without effort; being prepared to put in the work differentiates the 5% who manage to make a good living from the 95% who give up because it requires focused effort.