WordPress began life in 2003 as a rather humble blogging platform. It was instrumental in fulfilling a clear need at the time; to give people a simple, and relatively elegant platform on which to sound their thoughts to the rest of the internet. Very quickly however, new use cases emerged and people were asking much more of WordPress, and so the development community had to keep up with demand. Almost 12 years on and WordPress is now the most popular open source content management system in the world (followed by Drupal and Joomla). But why might this be?
WordPress is open source, which means it is distributed free of charge and other programmers may contribute to it’s development. This is hugely attractive to both developers and clients, because it means that there is no cost for the actual software (except perhaps a few plugins), unlike other systems which can cost a significant amount of money. It also means that WordPress developers are in abundance, building in a layer of security for clients who may wish to take their work elsewhere if the relationship with their client breaks down.
Without doubt, this is a key factor in WordPress’ popularity; but many other free open source CMS exist as well, so this is not the only factor.
WordPress is great out of the box, is pretty straightforward to theme and very expandable through plugins. This bolsters the perceived value of WordPress exponentially, because the platform appears “quick”, “simple” and “easy” to use. These words all have a strong link to cost, so many clients consider WordPress to be a financially viable option when compared to other platforms they may not be familiar with.
It must be said however, that just because WordPress is regarded “easy to use” it certainly doesn’t mean that WordPress projects should be “cheap” – it just means that the learning curve for WordPress is less than many other CMS and significantly less than programming a dynamic website from scratch. WordPress is easy to use and relatively quick to develop on, if you know how.
People are drawn to crowds, and WordPress has done a great job over the years of positioning itself as the number one content management system around. WordPress is one of the few content management systems we’ve actually had clients request, which is testament to its popularity.
Word of mouth is powerful and as clients grow and people move between organisations, it’s only natural that they will continue to recommend WordPress and its popularity is compounded.
I’ve said more times than I can remember that I love Drupal. But when I say that I’m speaking from a web developer point of view. It’s much more powerful than WordPress. But clients love WordPress and I can’t argue that from an editorial perspective it is superior to Drupal. It’s better than Joomla as well. It looks nicer, is mobile-friendly and organises content in a sensible way. Surely, if WordPress were not so easy to use, it would not enjoy the popularity that it does today.
This list would not be complete without a shout out to the WordPress community, which is responsible for providing an endless stream of useful plugins and genuine support for other users of the platform. The community is “techie” but it’s also not, with many friendly forum users happy to assist clients who are struggling with their site if a developer is not available.
Another side of the community is theme development. Marketplaces like ThemeForest exist where designer/developers sell WordPress themes which can be edited and customised. This is not something that we personally advocate because a bespoke solution is usually more solid solution but for some small businesses a WordPress theme could be handy.
It’s unlikely that WordPress usage will slow down any time soon, despite other content management systems nipping at its heels. There are minor updates on a near-monthly basis and upgrades to plugins in its ecosystem happening daily. This ensures that the platform remains a strong, and often obvious, choice for those looking for small-medium sized websites.
We use WordPress because it allows us to create relatively clean template code, it offers an unrivalled editorial experience and it’s under constant development. Unless any of these factors change, it’s hard to imagine WordPress being toppled off the number one spot for some time.
Why do you use WordPress? What are your likes and dislikes about the platform? Share your views in the comments.