What is WordPress
Today, there is a vast selection of tools that can be used to create a website. From simple text editors to fully automated website builders – choosing the right tool is understandably confusing for those new to website design and development. What is WordPress exactly, and why should you care?
As of today, 25 percent of all the websites in the world are developed with WordPress, according to MartechToday. Here, I will help you untangle the knot, and hopefully, help you understand what is WordPress and if it is the right tool for your next project. We at TakeOffRoom, like many other web design companies, design and develop websites for our business customers using WordPress.
Before getting to What is WordPress – The basics of website development
Before being able to answer the question what is WordPress, you need to understand what makes a website work. Once you do, it will be easier to understand the fundamental differences between the various tools.
At the very basics, a website is a piece of software. It resides on a server computer somewhere on the planet, and it is served to your computer or mobile device upon request from your web browser. In order to achieve this, the website has pieces of code that run on the server (back-end), and pieces of code that run on your client device (front-end) in order to display the website and allow you to interact with it.
No matter what tool a website is developed with, be it a simple text editor like Notepad, an advanced Integrated Development Environment software (IDE) like Netbeans, or a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, there are text files that contain the code, and there is a database (or more than one database) that store the data.
The categories of web development tools
Web development tools can be divided into three big categories: editors, content management systems, and website builders.
Editors are mainly used by developers that develop large web applications. Editors allow the ultimate control over the code of the website. Developers that work on large web applications would use IDEs because in most cases they need to integrate various programming languages and interact with various systems in order to develop a complex application designed for a specific purpose.
Content management systems are web applications on their own. They are designed to reduce the amount of work that is required to develop and maintain a website. CMSs achieve this by allowing a lot of the work to be done by visual editing instead of writing code in order to do anything. In order to achieve this, a lot of the code is pre-written by professional developers and can be integrated into a website visually. A theme in WordPress is basically a framework of a website that will give the website a certain look. A plugin in WordPress is a package of code that brings an entire working feature to a WordPress website. For example, a form plugin, such as Ninja Forms can allow you to visually create and edit forms on a WordPress website without doing any coding. This is because somebody has already written the code that is required to do the form feature and is giving it to you as a package that integrates seamlessly with WordPress. So, what is WordPress in simple words? Think of WordPress as a kit airplane – instead of designing, engineering and building the airplane from scratch, you get a kit and select the optional feature you want in your plane.
The good about CMSs, and in particular WordPress, is that it still allows all of the fundamental coding to be done by a developer. In fact, that is how new WordPress themes and plugins are constantly being developed by anyone interested in doing it. The only limit is that a developer has to stay within the programming languages that WordPress supports.It isn’t impossible to integrate other programming languages in a WordPress project, but it’s more trouble than it’s worth. The reason 25% of all the websites in the world are powered by WordPress is that in most cases, developers can do virtually anything they want with WordPress.
Web builders are the most automated way to create a website. A web developer like Wix allows you to visually build a website, much like WordPress does. The fundamental difference is that builders are designed to be used by non-developers. All you need to know in order to build a Wix website is how to use a computer and a web browser. Website builders are there to address the part of the market that doesn’t need to have full control and ownership of their website. You cannot decide to take your Wix website and put it on another server somewhere else. Once your website is designed with a builder like Wix, it is stuck in Wix forever. You also don’t get to edit the files containing the code in a Wix website, which imposes an important limitation on what can be achieved with a website builder. The only code that can be added to a website built with a website builder is whatever is allowed by the developers of the website builder. Some plugging would allow some very limited custom code to be added in order to achieve a little bit of customization.
WordPress compared to the other content management systems out there
Not that you know what is WordPress, let’s see how it compare to other CMS. WordPress is far from being the only CMS. Joomla and Drupal are the two most popular CMSs after WordPress.
According to Make A Website Hub, WordPress is by far the most used CMS of the three, with 58.4% market share going to WordPress versus 7.2% for Joomla, and 4.8% for Drupal. Because WordPress is the most popular of the three, it goes without saying that the most of the developers that develop themes and plugins develop for WordPress first. This leads to over 3,000 free themes currently available for WordPress versus 1,000 for Joomla, and 2,000 for Drupal. The same goes for plugins, with 44k free plugins for WordPress versus 26k for Drupal and 5k for Joomla. The 3 CMS systems also differ in the level of complexity from a developer’s perspective, with WordPress being the easiest to develop with and Drupal being the hardest. Drupal and Joomla, on the other hand, are better adapted for more complex web applications that require serious scalability potential.
Example use cases for WordPress
I believe I answered the question what is WordPress, but where do you use it in real life? WordPress is the ideal tool for developing any common type of website, such as corporate websites, media websites, portfolios, e-commerce websites, you name it. Unless you need to develop a web application for a very specific purpose, WordPress would do the job.
Unless you are developing a website for personal use, like a personal blog, or something that you aren’t planning to invest any money in or to keep for a long time, you most probably want to stay away from website builders like Wix. In general, companies end-up investing tens of thousands of dollars into a website indirectly after the website is developed – from SEO to collecting data about their customers, to creating content. If you have your website done with a website builder, and one day, for some reason you need to move it out – you can’t – it’s stuck in the builder (basically the company that owns the website builder owns your website). If you have another website developed from scratch, all of the investment your company has put into SEO will be lost, and transferring the data, considering the web builder is nice enough to allow it, will be a messy endeavor that will most probably not end well.
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