A lawyer asked me about WordPress

WordPress logoDuring a seminar presentation for lawyers last week I was asked whether I would recommend WordPress for a blog site. My answer was definitely yes. In this post I share some reasons for that response.

But first I should probably not assume that everyone knows what WordPress is. The short version is that WordPress is “a free and open source blogging tool and content management system (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL”.

That CMS bit is important.

A couple of caveats

Note that I’m referring here to the self-hosted WordPress.org variety, not the one that is hosted by WordPress at WordPress.com. Technically speaking, there are not two “varieties” as it is the same product, with the difference being in the hosting. I don’t recommend WordPress.com for businesses, mainly because of  the limitations and caveats spelled out it the Terms of Service and especially that they can shut your site down without notice.

Also, I should probably add that the lawyers I was talking to were mostly from small, even one-person practices and my focus in this blog is on small business and especially home-based professionals. WordPress is certainly scalable, as is evidenced for instance by its being the platform for the Mashable site with its 20 million unique monthly visitors, but I’d be writing a different post to this one if I was looking at what blogging solutions might be appropriate at the enterprise level, where my recommendation would more likely be for something like WordFrame Integra, with appropriate support for setup and configuration (contact me if you want more information about that).

And a word about terminology. I’m sure WordPress is technically correct in calling the various configurations of its software “themes”, rather than, say, “templates”, but it is potentially confusing to anyone who doesn’t know the jargon. Basically, from my non-technical viewpoint, a WordPress “theme” refers to different configurations of the software, especially in the “look and feel” of the site on which you are using one or another theme.

My 5 Reasons for Recommending WordPress

Here are the reasons I gave to support my recommendation for WordPress, plus a couple extra – five in all.

1. Your own site to manage as you choose

Knowing how easy it is to get a site set up on a reputable, helpful hosting service, which understands and actively supports WordPress, such as the one we use, HostGator, I am always upset when people tell me about problems they are having getting access to their site which some web developer set up for them.

 2. Ease of Use

I’m not a coder, so any software I use and that I want to be able to tweak has to be very accessible to non-technical people.

Having spent far too much time futzing around with software I’d been told was “really easy” but wasn’t, except maybe for people who can play around easily with code, I emphasize very accessible.

And I tried a lot of what was on offer. In fact, I lost count long ago of all the blogging platforms I’ve tried out. Just from memory, they include Blogger, Typepad, Blogware, Drupal, Movable Type, Squarespace, WordFrame, Xanga, Greymatter, and of course WordPress.

Some of those are easy to use within the parameters allowed, for example Blogger and Typepad. But when I say “ease of use” I mean “ease of use with the ability to modify my site to my needs”. Which is where WordPress.org comes in.

With all the WordPress themes available, both free and “premium”, and a plugin for just about every add-on or tweak you can think of (according to WordPress 18,968 plugins, 284,585,645 downloads, and counting), and many of those plugins available free of charge, you can get started quickly and get on with your content creation.

3. Huge User Base

There are currently 72,490,811 WordPress sites worldwide, of which about half are hosted by WordPress: that leaves somewhere around 36.25 million self-hosted sites.  What that means for me in practice, and as I have proven many times, is that there is a whole army of people from whom I can get tips and advice about problems that arise. And while that user base statistic doesn’t show how many WordPress-savvy developers there are, I know enough in my neck of the woods and in other countries, especially the USA, to be confident of finding someone for my support or for others’, should that be needed.

4. You can have a traditional website and blog too

I understand completely that many businesses would prefer to have the home page of their site look more like a traditional website than a blog. The WordPress architecture makes it very easy, literally just a few keystrokes, to do that. An example is my Des Walsh dot Com site, which I re-designed recently so that the home page is basically static, with a “featured post” from my blog, and the blog is accessible easily via a tab in the navigation bar. I also have many pages, just like a traditional website: there is nothing in a traditional website that I want to do and don’t feel I can achieve with WordPress.

As I commented above, WordPress is not just a blogging platform: it is that but it is also a well-developed content management system (CMS).

5. Economical

Builder theme icon from iThemes WordPress theme designersThe WordPress software is free to download and any respectable web hosting service, such as HostGator, will have options to help you upload and install WordPress quickly and easily.

There is a plethora of WordPress themes available free of charge. Others, “premium” services, you have to pay for, whether on one-off or subscription basis.

In the past I’ve spent many hours fiddling with free themes to get them to do what I want. No more, especially as the prices charged for premium themes are very reasonable, especially when compared with what people pay web developers for other solutions.

StudioPress for professionally designed WordPress ThemesFor a business, I strongly recommend using a premium service, mainly because:

  • I’ve found I can have more confidence in the comprehensiveness of their design
  • If something isn’t working, you can ask them and expect reasonable support (not something you can expect if the theme was free)
  • They typically have active, properly monitored forums where you can get help either from the theme provider or another user

There are a number of good premium theme products, provided by good people. This site is currently built on the Builder theme with the Ionic child theme by iThemes. My Des Walsh dot Com site uses the Genesis Framework with the Enterprise “Child” Theme from StudioPress.

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