This article was originally posted in September 2014. It’s been updated and republished.
WordPress had humble beginnings as a blog platform—indeed some people still know it as just that. However it’s really grown up over the years thanks to a robust developer community. It’s now one of the foremost content management systems (CMS). In fact, you can build a website on WordPress and not even have a blog. Here are the top 10 reasons we develop client websites on WordPress:
1. Easy Site Editing
This is why we got into WordPress in the beginning. All clients want to edit their own sites. This used to be an expensive add-on but we’ve made the choice, along with many in our industry, that this is an absolute basic to every modern web project. It’s so basic that it’s built into the fabric of all websites now—at no additional cost.
The old model was that clients had to pay their developer to make every small change. Now that has vanished. There will still be some sections of your website that you will need a developer to handle for you, generally these are changes to the theme and won’t need to be changed more than a handful of times over the life of your site. There will still be areas that you may need to be careful with. For example, if you have a horizontal navigation that is built to handle eight page titles and you add three more, it’s going to mess up the look of your site. This generally isn’t a problem though because sites are built with this in mind. If you have a site that could grow to an ever larger number of pages you will have a different navigation solution.
We will meet a few clients that don’t have the time or inclination to edit their own content. We still love WordPress for their sites. Even as people that can write code backwards and forwards we prefer to make content edits in WordPress. That’s why even our own website is built on WordPress.
With WordPress security and logins there is also a third option for editing site content—clients can hire a freelancer to do it for them. With their own logins and permissions you can invite others to work on your site without handing over the keys to the kingdom.
2. Non Proprietary
You’ll notice in the last section I mentioned needing *a* developer to handle certain things. I didn’t say it had to be us—and this is important to a client. We always hope that you’ll come to us with all of your site needs during the life of your site and even the next one and the one after that. We also understand that any of us may choose to work with someone else for a variety of reasons. We believe that once we build a site for you it’s yours. You own it. You owning your site means you aren’t tied to to some proprietary platform that you pay for year over year or that locks up your content.
You can throw a rock and hit a WordPress developer. It is a popular, well-understood system and you can find people to work on it at a variety of levels of expertise and hourly rates. We’ve brought on other developers to help solve problems and we’ve helped out on issues with other websites. We’ve even been hired solely to fix a massive, elusive problem for a company that found us online and called us to help in an emergency.
3. Free to Install / Free Functionality via Plugins
There is always a point where I’m talking through WordPress and all the wonderful things that it does where I can see the question forming, “great, but what does it cost?”. It’s free. I’m not joking—the entire base install of WordPress is free.
And then, staying on the free train, you can get a plugin to solve any number of problems and many of those are free as well. Within the last week alone I found and installed free plugins to: choose which image always shows up on Facebook when someone shares an article; display the 10 most popular pages and posts this week; install AdSense throughout a website with an easy point and click interface; randomly and smoothly rotate testimonials through a site; estimate the reading time on each article. The list goes on and on.
To give you an example of how profound this is, if you asked me five years ago to build you a section of your website where your users could log in and create a profile for themselves to show up in the forums we’d be looking at $8-10,000 minimum and about 2 months of work. I could hand that to you, today, for free in about 30 minutes.
We love it when clients don’t have to pay for all the fiddly bits and can put their money into something more interesting.
4. Custom Plugin Development
There are thousands of plugins—these are bundles of code that add a specific functionality—already out there for free (like we talked about in the last section). But what if you can’t find the exact thing that does what you want? Or it almost does what you want but it doesn’t fit the design of the site? That’s where our hardcore development backgrounds start to come in.
We’ve developed many custom plugins for clients to solve a specific problem. The ability to take an idea, define and understand that idea, and then put it into code that is easy for a client to use is one of the ways that set us apart from other WordPress developers.
5. Good for Little Sites and Big Sites
There are not many solutions that will be as applicable to a local woman that makes chicken coops and an international mining company. But, you guessed it, WordPress is the solution for both of these clients. It is a system that is flexible enough to not be overkill for a small site that is mostly informational, but scales enough to hold hundreds of pages, a lot of custom functionality and a completely responsive design. So many of these systems are overly bloated for a smaller site while others cut out at the high end. When you use a solid platform and then can add infinite functionality you really have something.
This can be an especially great solution for a site that is going through a growth cycle, which leads me to my next point…
6. Easy(ish) to Launch a Redesign
WordPress keeps your content separate from your theme (your theme is all of the design and most of the functionality of a site, more on this below). This means when you are ready for a site redesign you can apply the new design to your existing content without a costly content migration project.
I will always give it to you straight—that’s why this is easy(ish). Yes, the functionality is 100% there to swap a theme and move content but there is also the reality that you will need to review your top level pages carefully after this is complete to make sure everything looks good in the new site. It’s not really one click and you are done—however you also don’t need to comb through everything. When we did the redesign on our own site I reviewed our most popular blog posts to make sure they all looked good, but I didn’t need to review the other 200 or so posts.
There are hundreds of WordPress Themes out there. You can get some for free or you can buy them and sometimes—even though we are a design firm as well as a development firm—this is the way to go. When a budget or timeline won’t allow for custom design a theme can be the answer. We work with clients to customize a theme which often produces a result that is nothing like it’s base install.
A theme is more than the design though—it’s also a set of functionality. A theme will often be responsive or will solve a particular issue like eCommerce.
8. Custom Design
Most of our projects don’t start out as themes—most of them are completely custom design following a standard website design and build process. WordPress has the flexibility, and we have the experience, to design and build the perfect thing for each client.
There is absolutely ZERO impact to what we can design when we are building on WordPress—and don’t let anyone tell you anything different. Yes, if you go with a purchased theme you will be limited to what that theme does, but if you design it from scratch the sky (and time and budget) is the limit.
9. Great SEO
Great search engine optimization (SEO), period. When we first started building websites we had a 150 point SEO/build checklist we followed—WordPress solved 80% of the issues on that list. While we still have a launch list, it’s considerably shorter (again, this means clients aren’t paying for the fiddly bits).
We have a client that likes to change his SEO targeting almost daily—and he does it all himself without touching code. There are so many great plugins to help with your SEO, our current favorite is Yoast SEO.
Whether you do just the basics or you are in there all the time make tweaks, the returns on a search engine optimized WordPress website can’t be beat.
10. Better Security
If your business has an online presence, you need to keep security in mind. Active updates from a large WordPress community make for secure websites.
Having multiple clients on WordPress means if there is every a security concern we can address it proactively for multiple clients. It’s not uncommon for us to go in and make upgrades and catch security flaws for one client and then apply that for all of our managed hosting clients. You let us worry about your site—you go do what you are good at.
There are many, many reasons to choose to build your website on WordPress. If we are outside of a potential client’s budget I’ll often urge them to start with a WordPress site and a free theme, get their online presence moving and then call us when they are ready for the next step.
We’ve been building websites from scratch for more than 10 years—I’ve been doing it long enough to still know how to code a site in tables (that’s about 15 years ago is you are counting).
Ever since we started Sawaya Consulting we’ve looked for the most efficient, elegant solutions—not just for end-result, but also for working effectively with clients and finding budget-friendly ways to get the most out of every project. We have spent countless hours grinding out hand-written code, we’ve tried various content management systems and we’ve found WordPress to be the ideal solution for most of our clients.
While we’re not strictly a WordPress shop (web apps, platform tools, and other projects are not generally a good fit for WordPress) we do recommend it for externally facing websites.
Do you have an existing WordPress site that needs some help or are you ready to start a new project? Contact us, we’d be happy to talk about it with you.
Also published on Medium.