WordPress has achieved a pretty huge amount of market domination, but should small business owners use WordPress? The numbers tell the story:
- 60.4 percent: the proportion of current websites online built using WordPress-based site builders
- 23.8 percent: the proportion of current websites online built using WordPress itself
- 7.2 and 2.8 percent: the competition
Just because everybody is using it, though, does that make WordPress the best site builder for small businesses? After all, our mothers always asked us, “If your friends jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you?” Let’s look at the facts around WordPress, then, and figure out why small business owners should use WordPress.
In the beginning, there was the blog
WordPress was built for blogging, and it’s remained true to those roots since its inception. All of the tools built into the WordPress project and all of the many functions and features of a new WordPress site support the primary purpose of crafting a well-designed, search engine-friendly platform for blogging. You’ve got your content categorization tools, the ability to use custom tags, functions to manage links, and a method of dealing with comments, all included in the same open source product.
Being open source means that WordPress is, for the most part, free to use. It also means there are a ton of developers out there who can contribute to WordPress and make it even more powerful, with enhancements to existing features and even new functionalities. What does this mean for you, the small business owner? It means that without even looking at the topic that makes WordPress the best possible site builder for small business, we’ve already got a tool that can be used to do just about anything an entrpeneur or corporation could need to do.
WordPress gives you room to grow
You can start off with WordPress in either the hosted version or the self-hosted variant. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but when you look at them side by side, you see a platform that can grow as your business needs expand. You aren’t ever locked into just one variant, because migrating from hosted to self-hosted is quick and painless for your developer. Let’s look at the two options.
Hosted WordPress – A great starting point
When you first launch your business, there’s a lot to do. Getting your web page online is just one of the countless tasks you have to complete before launch, so it’s important to keep this step as simple as possible. Unless your business is going to depend on site sales for its income, your web page will probably be used mostly for marketing, and won’t require too much beyond the blogging functionality that WordPress offers out-of-the-box.
The hosted version of WordPress is often the best site builder to start with. It’s free, the technical details are all handled by the WordPress team, and you don’t have any of the headaches involved in maintaining your own Web page. You just choose your design, add your content, and boom! You’re online.
Once it’s time to boost your design and functionality, offering more features, you can stick with the same hassle-free hosted web page, but upgrade to either WordPress.com Premium ($99 per year) or WordPress.com Business ($299 per year.) Premium offers you your own domain name, more storage, an ad-free experience, and more customization options. The Business plan gives you all of that, along with access to all of WordPress’s premium themes, unlimited storage, better customer and technical support, and even eCommerce functionality.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? It is great, and the hosted version of WordPress is a fantastic tool for small businesses, but there are some drawbacks.
- You can’t install outside themes or make direct modifications to the look and feel of your Web page.
- You’re not able to use plugins that aren’t part of the limited collection available within WordPress’s service.
- You can’t change or add to the code that runs your Web page, so you can’t create unique, customized functionality.
If you can’t live under those restrictions, that doesn’t mean WordPress is wrong for you. It means that you need to move on to self-hosted WordPress.
Self-hosted WordPress – more freedom for your dollar
Most website hosting companies offer the tools that will make it easy for you to install a self-hosted version of WordPress, so that problem is out of the way. There are also tools that help you migrate your old site to your new, self-hosted version.
When you build your site on a self-hosted WordPress solution, all of the restrictions of the hosted WordPress fade away. You can still use premium WordPress themes, but now you can use them from any source, not just WordPress. You can add plenty of features and functions, with more than 36,000 plugins available to choose from. Finally, you can add and modify your code any way you want, as long as you follow the guidelines.
So what are the drawbacks? The main one is that you lose a trusted partner to manage the technical side of your website. You won’t have an easy path to troubleshoot problems that arise because of the frequent WordPress updates, individual plugin updates, or WordPress backups. If you hire someone to manage your site for you, you might find yourself spending more than you really want to. If you are planning on managing the technical side of things yourself, you’ll have a steep learning curve ahead of you, because even though WordPress is user-friendly and there are plenty of free resources online, the platform is still a very complex machine that you’ll have to learn the innards of. It can be done, but it won’t be easy.
What about the competition?
Basically, WordPress is a content management system, and it’s just one of many available for building your web page. Other competitors, though, like Joomla, Drupal, and Blogger, don’t enjoy the host of developers that have kept WordPress easy to use while still being insanely powerful. For this reason, and this reason alone, WordPress is very well suited to be the best site builder around for small business.
The verdict is in
Yes, WordPress has its drawbacks. If you stick with the hosted version and enjoy having the technical side of things taken care of for you, you have to suffer through some pretty stringent restrictions. If you eschew these restrictions and go self-hosted, you have to either hire someone to take care of the technical details, or learn how to do them yourself. Even so, the wealth of developers out there modifying and extending WordPress’s functionality, compared to the competition, makes for an excellent reason for why small business owners should use WordPress.