What is WordPress? Everything you need to know
WordPress is a simple and flexible platform for creating a website, and the most popular content management system out there. For companies looking to develop professional websites, WordPress provides extensive functionality and customization in an intuitive, accessible package.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is more than just a website builder—it’s a content management system, or CMS. A CMS is a tool that allows users to create, manage, and publish digital content without any programming experience.
WordPress combines the user-friendly interface of simpler website builders with a wide range of plugins, themes, and extensions for customization, allowing you to create a professional and flexible website without learning to code. It’s also the most popular CMS available—43% of all websites use WordPress (W3Techs, 2023).
For seasoned web designers, WordPress offers an open-source platform that’s free to download, modify, and share. The software is licensed under the GNU GPLv2 and written in PHP. WordPress takes just 5 minutes to install, and once set up, it only needs a hosting service to operate.
Which kinds of websites can you develop with WordPress?
Because WordPress is so popular, its large community has experience building all kinds of websites using the platform—there are plenty of tutorials, blogs, and forums to answer any questions you may have.
Although WordPress isn’t the best for a small subset of niche applications, its flexibility makes it a great choice for the majority of website types. With plugins like WooCommerce, a WordPress website can even run an online store—20% of all WordPress websites use WooCommerce (W3Techs, 2023). You might use WordPress for applications like:
- Business websites
- Landing pages
- News sites
- Online stores and eCommerce
- E-learning sites
- Membership sites
- Portfolio sites
- Multilingual sites
WordPress.org and WordPress.com: What’s the difference?
WordPress is an open-source platform, meaning anyone can view, modify, and share its software for free. While this is great for developers, not everyone is willing to learn web development to set up their website.
WordPress.com is WordPress’ solution to this problem. This platform uses a freemium business model, allowing users to set up a simple website or blog for free, much like a website builder. WordPress provides the hosting and offers a few simple options for functionality and customization.
On the free plan, WordPress.com is fairly limited. A free user’s website will have wordpress in its URL and at the bottom of each page, and most of the features of WordPress aren’t available. Users can pay for subscriptions that give them access to more of the features of the CMS, such as the ability to install other plugins or host a custom URL through WordPress—but these subscriptions can be expensive.
For users who want functionality for free, WordPress.org is the better option. This site allows you to download WordPress for free and set it up yourself, including customizing it with whatever plugins, themes, and extensions you want. Although it’s less straightforward, this option offers all of the user-friendly and versatile customization options of WordPress for free.
If you choose to use the open-source software available for download on WordPress.org, you’ll need to learn the basics of the programming side of the platform or work with a developer. When building a website using WordPress.org, you’ll also need to purchase your own hosting.
History and making of WordPress
In 2003, Michel Valdrighi created an open-source blog hosting platform called b2/cafelog, written in PHP. This platform, also known as b2, would go on to become the base for WordPress.
Web developers Matthew Mullenweg and Mike Little came together to rebuild b2 as a CMS and released the first stable version of WordPress in 2004. From the beginning, their aim was for the platform to be easy to use, flexible, and customizable.
After the licensing terms for competing platform Movable Type were changed in 2004, many major websites migrated to WordPress. As the platform grew, Matt Mullenweg founded the company Automattic and launched WordPress.com in 2005.
Since then, WordPress has continued to grow, dominating the CMS market.
Who uses WordPress?
With 43% of all websites in the world using the platform, WordPress is popular with users from small businesses to major corporations. High-profile sites that are built on WordPress include:
- microsoft.com, the corporate page of industry giant Microsoft.
- life.com, the website of LIFE Magazine, run by the publishing giant Dotdash Meredith.
- mozilla.org, home of the popular internet browser Firefox.
- whitehouse.gov, the official website of the U.S. White House.
- techcruch.com, a major technology news site.
WordPress’ global market share
WordPress has been the most popular CMS available for over a decade. In 2012, 54.3% of all websites using a CMS chose WordPress (W3Techs, 2023), a figure that has risen to an impressive 63.1% of all CMS websites in 2023 (ibid.).
Back in 2012, WordPress’ closest competitor was Joomla, which was used on 9.5% of all CMS websites (ibid.). Today, the closest competitor, Shopify, is even further behind with just 5.8% (ibid.). WordPress remains the clear leader in the global CMS market.
WordPress market share in Germany
Among German websites, WordPress still leads in CMS market share, but not by quite as much. This is largely due to the continued use of Typo3, a popular CMS in European and German-speaking markets.
While for some decision makers, Typo3 still has the reputation of being slightly more secure and handling higher data loads, WordPress tends to be less expensive, more flexible, and better supported, as well as compatible with more useful plugins for SEO and eCommerce. For these reasons, WordPress is becoming increasingly popular in Germany.
WordPress websites in practice
Thanks to its versatility, WordPress supports projects from sleek corporate webpages to blogs and forums. The WordPress websites built for svaerm clients showcase the wide range of applications that are possible with the platform.
WordPress: Is it worth it?
WordPress offers an accessible and flexible platform for almost any website, but it still has its downsides. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using WordPress.
Advantages of WordPress
As a free, open-source platform with millions of users, WordPress offers a wide variety of plugins and a thriving community, and is suitable for almost any kind of website. When managing a WordPress site, you’ll find no shortage of professionals who can help you with your project—and your design goals may often be easily accomplished with an existing plugin or theme.
WordPress also makes content management simple. Through its accessible user interface, anyone without programming skills can manage and publish content and create professional, functional webpages. This allows you to manage large parts of your website independently, without needing external support for every minor correction or update. Through plugins like WooCommerce, WordPress can also make setting up an online store just as easy.
Disadvantages of WordPress
One of the alleged potential downsides of using WordPress is lower security. Since the platform is so popular, more cybercriminals specialize in attacking WordPress sites, leading some website operators to consider them more vulnerable. But WordPress sites are not really less secure—their popularity also means that there are many more developers working to close security gaps and patch vulnerabilities, often before they are ever exploited. The size of the community also means that if something does go wrong, you’re more likely to find a quick fix than you would with a smaller CMS.
Although it can handle all of the content that the majority of websites will need to host, WordPress also isn’t always suited to processing large amounts of data. For example, advanced filter logics with multiple interdependent options require sophisticated plugins to set up in WordPress. If your application requires capabilities like these, you may want to consider another, more specialized CMS that can meet your needs more efficiently.
So, is WordPress worth it?
Between its user-friendly platform, adaptable nature, and huge community, it’s easy to see why WordPress is the CMS of choice for the majority of websites. For most applications, WordPress is worth it (link coming soon).
WordPress agency svaerm
At the svaerm WordPress agency, we have been designing WordPress websites since 2014. We are confident in our ability to build anything from a sleek landing page to an enterprise-level company site, including online shops through WooCommerce, login systems, and SEO-optimized blogs.
Our services include project management of your website from concept to completed design, SEO inbound marketing, specialist editors and copywriters, handcrafted images and graphics, and more—all from svaerm. When you work with us, your WordPress website will be developed with organic visibility in mind and feature mobile-responsive design, high usability, and the maximum possible degree of customization.
In addition to building WordPress sites, we offer many other specialized services such as website migration from non-WordPress pages, custom WordPress Themes, backup solutions, and more. If you have a complex interface or application in mind, we are ready to take on the challenge.
WordPress website relaunch
For established websites, svaerm offers a variety of website relaunch services. We take your old website and upgrade it in WordPress, building you a custom theme to fit your needs and adding organic SEO viability, modern design and mobile compatibility, content marketing, and more.
Beyond holistic relaunches, we offer specialized services for your individual needs, including content relaunches, SEO relaunches, and mobile design relaunches.
Contact for business
Interested in relaunching an outdated WordPress website or building a new one? Get in touch with our team at svaerm through the contact form below to learn more about our WordPress services.