Wordpress Websites

History of WordPress

It’s always good to start from the beginning and know where you came from, or, in this case, where your new website came from. WordPress was first released on May 27, 2003. As of January 2015, it was used by more than 23.3% of the top 10 million websites – impressive numbers, which is to say, it is a mature product.

It is an open source platform – the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge, so a large community of developers contributes to it. Which is to say, it is free and it keeps getting better.

Although it shared the same basic characteristics of a Content Management System (CMS) such as Drupal (released in 2001) or Joomla (released in 2005), it was designed as a blogging platform, not as a platform for more general purpose websites like Joomla and Drupal.

It was also easier to use and focused on regular users rather than skilled developers, so it was a natural evolution that it was adapted for general purpose websites.

Yesterday vs Today

As a template-based, general purpose platform for websites, WordPress certainly had its problems. It was slow, it didn’t do well with SEO (Search Engine Optimization), it was insecure and hard to customize much past its blog look and feel. Although it was relatively easy to use if you wanted to setup a simple blog, it wasn’t so user-friendly if you were trying to build a full-featured website. That is unless you wanted your website to pretty much look like any other WordPress website and have limited features. It was behind when it came to utilizing the latest web technologies, so out of the starting gate it quickly looked old and outdated compared to modern custom coded HTML/CSS/Javascript websites. It was free and custom websites could be expensive, but you got what you paid for.

As it grew in complexity along with customer demand for more distinctive, full-featured websites, a whole cottage industry was spawned of “website designers”. Typically these were graphic designers or others who learned WordPress. The true web designers that knew how to code and how to use advanced web technologies of the day, and search optimization techniques didn’t touch WordPress. They were all off building custom HTML/CSS websites that used the latest technology. They performed better on every level, had a fresh, modern, innovated look and they ran circles around WordPress websites when it came to SEO. To be honest, for a period of time, trying to make WordPress produce a competitive website was like putting whipped cream on a meadow muffin.

That was then, and today WordPress has corrected its deficiencies in all areas. However, in doing so, it has become quite complex. On the one hand, there is a plugin for just about every feature or function you can imagine, and this can be a positive. On the other hand, this has created a great many moving parts and thousands upon thousands of files for even the most simple WordPress website.

Don’t Try this at Home

With all of the nearly endless possibilities, but with the complexity that brings, WordPress has brought the techies back into the fold. To achieve good performance, security, search optimization, and distinctive customization requires the technical skills that were typically learned building custom websites. At the very least, a WordPress designer needs to know the nature of the beast and the tricks of the trade to ensure an optimum website that meets business objectives.

At the very least, a WordPress designer needs to know the nature of the beast and the tricks of the trade to ensure an attractive, well-performing, secure website that meets business objectives.

Once that is achieved, the keys are handed over to you and WordPress is once again an easy-to-use platform that you can operate as a content management system to add, edit, update the content that needs to be there to serve your customers.

Keys to an Optimum WordPress website

1) Theme: A well-written, SEO-friendly theme. Do not use an unsupported free theme for a business. Only use a paid theme, and preferably one that has been tested. Our website analysis tool can be used on any paid theme’s demo version to check for issues. Also important is to check their support and comments page to ensure responsiveness and also their version history to see if there are regular updates and improvements.

2) Plugins: The same applies to plugins, although there are many high-quality free plugins for basic tasks. The reviews, support and revision history, number of downloads and whether it has been tested with your WordPress version is the key to selecting good plugins. Again, a website audit can determine if they are poorly written or causing issues. In general, the fewer plugins the better because they all add overhead to your website which can negatively impact performance. Poor performance negatively affects users experience and SEO.

3) Hosting: Economy hosting services are not recommended. They have limitations that impact WordPress performance, higher incidence of security issues (hacking), and often very poor support. Read more about hosting services.

Hybrid Website

In some situations, it is well worth the added cost to build a hybrid website. This is a combination of custom coding and off-the-shelf WordPress components.

For example, instead of buying a general purpose theme that does it all, it makes sense to build a custom theme to your exact specifications. In addition to getting exactly what you want, there is a lot less overhead by eliminating all those pieces you don’t need.

Another example is a custom plugin. Sometimes you just can’t find one that does exactly what you want, or if it does, it is of such poor quality and not supported well, that it is better to build it yourself.

A hybrid website can not only meet your exact specifications but will tend to perform better with the fat removed.

WordPress Training

One of the biggest advantages of WordPress is the ability to manage your own website without having to call someone every time you want to make a change or an addition.

Why is this so important? Well, other than time and money savings, the simple truth is that the act of picking up the phone or sending an email to explain things can be enough of an obstacle that the website goes stale, or an important feature that requires regular updates never gets added. It is much more convenient to make small changes when you think of them, or adds some content when the urge hits you than playing telephone tag to get it done or even explain what you want.

You can still farm this work out for convenience, and a maintenance plan is good for that, but having the ability to make your own changes, upload a photo or two, is still a good idea.

Imagineer Design offers WordPress training in all areas for both new and existing websites.