WordPress is something that every web user has enjoyed the benefits of, even if they didn’t realize it. So, what is WordPress? Among a few popular alternatives, it’s one of the most used content management systems (CMS) in the world and after more than 15 years of operation, has expanded from a basic blogging platform into one of the most versatile ways to manage website content ever made.In fact, it’s what runs your favorite tech site, DigitalTrends.com. Ask any of the writers here and they’ll have good and bad things to say about it, but they all know their way around WordPress.
If you want to use WordPress yourself, note that WordPress.org is the official site for the CMS. WordPress.com offers managed WordPress sites. Still a great service, but it may not be what you’re looking for.
What is a CMS?
Understanding what WordPress is, is understanding what most of the modern web is built on, and that’s content management systems. No longer do web content creators need to be versed in the intricacies of HTML coding, understand cascading style sheets, or remember their FTP login information. All of that is still useful, even for humble writers like the content team here at Digital Trends, but WordPress makes our lives, and those of many other website content creators, far easier.
A CMS makes the job of the developers crafting the website easier too. Although alternatives like Joomla or Drupal do things a little differently to WordPress, all of them incorporate search engine optimization, great looking templates for page layouts and navigation, easy installation of additional features and plugins, user login systems for admins and moderators, comment systems for user interaction, and a whole lot more.
The idea behind a CMS, and by extension, WordPress, is to facilitate a simplified management of a website that’s secure, optimized, and able to handle the influx of anywhere from hundreds, to millions of regular visitors.
How popular is WordPress?
In short, very. It’s the most popular CMS available today. As of 2018, W3Tech’s web survey service notes that around 32.5 percent of all websites — which total around two billion at the time of writing — run WordPress, which works out to just under 60 percent of the entire CMS market.
From there the drop off is enormous. The second most popular CMS is Joomla, which has just 5.5 percent of the CMS market and three percent of all websites. Drupal has 3.5 and 1.9 percent of the respective markets, while others like SquareSpace, Wix, Blogger, OpenCart, and Weebly, command a few percent points between them, at most.
There are tens of others which make even less of an impression, but at the end of 2018, WordPress manages more websites than all of them combined.
How does it compare?
So, why is WordPress so popular? There is a snowballing effect, in that web developers who are familiar with WordPress, are likely to use it for their next website. But it has a number of things going for it that make it versatile, as well as easy to use.
Arguably it’s greatest strength, especially when it comes to attracting new users, is that it’s free. There are tiered versions of WordPress that offer greater benefits, but you can use WordPress entirely free with some limitations, which is perfect for checking to see whether it’s the right CMS for you. It’s also open source, so the code behind it is verified regularly by the wider community of programmers and developers all over the world.
WordPress is also very versatile. It supports a wide range of widgets, upgrades, and website types. You can use it to run a single page blog, a web store, or a complicated, multi-page site with thousands of entries, integrated social media platforms, comment systems, video players, and just about anything else you can think of. This is because WordPress is largely hands-off. You have a web server, you install WordPress to it yourself, and then you set it up how you want. This differs from website builders like SquareSpace or Wix, where the bulk of the back end is managed for you. That certainly has its strengths, but such sites lack the expansive options that a CMS like WordPress gives you.
There are services out there that offer managed WordPress sites, however, if you want the best of both worlds. WordPress.com is one, but there are plenty of alternatives, so shop around if that’s what you’re after.
Despite its depth in all guises, WordPress is relatively simple to manage and use. It is well documented, has regular updates and patches, and offers an intuitive interface that’s powerful but not without its warnings and tool tips. There’s also an expansive community of web developers out there who are willing to help with problems you run into.
That said, WordPress does have its disadvantages. By being so popular, it’s regularly a target for hackers, though so are many of its contemporaries. Since WordPress is unmanaged by anyone but the site creator, the onus is on that person to keep it updated and secure. As powerful as its back end options are, too, that does mean that a wrong move can break your website if you aren’t careful.
Also, while WordPress itself is regularly updated, not all of the third-party plugins are. That can mean even an update can break important functions of your site.
None of this is the end of the world if you’re careful and willing to learn how to use WordPress properly, but it is not necessarily the best tool for website owners who want a hands-off experience. For everyone else though, WordPress has proved a capable and popular tool for years and shows no sign of slowing.