WordPress allows anyone with a little time and patience to create a website for a minimal amount of money and effort. It’s well-supported and makes ongoing management easy. A number of small business owners asked me about building a WordPress site and writing blogs at a recent Brighton Chamber of Commerce event for their Ride the Wave program, and I realised these were details worth sharing. So here’s a quick summary of my reasons why a WordPress site is a good choice for a small business, to help decide if it’s for you:
Before we begin, I should note I’m talking about WordPress.org here – WordPress.com offers quick and free tools to get a blog up and running, but WordPress.org is a piece of free web design software. You need to host a .org site yourself, but its potential for customisation is unlimited.
1. Building a WordPress site is quick and simple
You can have a professional website up and running in under an hour. All you need to do is purchase web hosting and a domain name, install the WordPress software and fill in the gaps with your personal details.
WordPress is supported by a massive number for free themes, which are prefabricated website layouts that install at the click of a button. Check out this list, and you can see that every entry on there is a possible new website design. You don’t have to change anything, they already look fantastic. But considering how easy it is to customise, you can also quickly create your own style of branding.
2. WordPress sites are easy to customise
Once you’re up and running, WordPress gives unlimited control for customisation. Using a visual layout, most design options are simple to adjust, such as colours schemes, widgets layouts and the text on the website. If there’s a more specific function you desire, it’s likely someone has already designed a plugin for it, which you can install and use as simply as the free themes.
Otherwise you have free reign over the code of the site, and the only limit is your imagination (and how much time you have). For my two websites, I use a heavily customised Coraline theme – a lot of the tweaks I’ve made are barely noticeable to the casual visitor, but I’ve made the sites look unique through my own branding. Even between Copywrite Now and Write Right Now (which I designed independently, despite their very similar appearances), you can see a number of subtle differences that set them apart.
3. WordPress sites are easy to manage
A crucial aspect of running a business website is being able to update it, for instance if you want to post offers, change your details or entice more visitors with new content. The Content Management System for WordPress is intuitive, it’s clear where everything is and the visual layout means you don’t need to muck about with code. You can see from the screenshot at the top of this article how simple the menu is. If you want to add new posts to your blog, or pages to your site, you can do so in two or three clicks, and enter your text with the simplicity of using a word processor. Here’s a pic showing what it looked like for me writing this very post:
This easy to use interface is important for businesses who don’t want to have to hire a web designer every time they want to make changes to their site, or who don’t have the time to wait for someone else to do such things. A lot of small business owners I know have great difficulty managing their own websites, which is not the way it should be. WordPress gives you complete control over your site, even if you didn’t design it yourself. If I were to build a WordPress site for someone, I could hand over the controls to the owner with only the briefest of instructions and they would find it easy to use from there.
4. WordPress is highly optimised for SEO
Search Engine Optimisation is possible with a few careful tweaks of a WordPress site. There are plugins, such as WordPress SEO by Yoast, which give you a few easy to use boxes to fill in that do all the SEO work for you. They even rearrange the URLs of your pages for maximum effect, with no effort from you. Once you’re set up, you don’t need to hire experts to fill in your keywords and meta data when adding new content. (Naturally building an SEO marketing campaign is another matter, I don’t want to detract from the amount of work SEO professionals do – but WordPress makes it possible to make sure anything you upload yourself is immediately optimised.) SEO is also bolstered by how easy it is to add new content through the blog options, and how easy it is to share this content thanks to the wealth of social media support.
5. WordPress loves social media
A quick look over my site will give a brief idea as to how well WordPress supports social media. You can put sharing buttons on all your content, to all your favourite networking sites. And the format of blog comments allows visitors to directly engage with you and your content through the site. If you want to get noticed on the internet, you have to be social, and WordPress knows it.
6. WordPress is well supported
Anything you want to do with a WordPress site has probably been done before. This is a good thing – because if you encounter any problems, a quick Google search should produce the answer. The WordPress community is incredibly helpful. I only ever had one question about my site design that I couldn’t answer through searching – I posted on the WordPress forum and had a solution in a matter of minutes. I don’t know how this kind-hearted community of forum members came to be, but they’re there and they’re happy to tell you everything you need to know to do everything you want to do. It’s beautiful.
7. Building a WordPress site costs nothing but time
There are three hidden costs you need to consider when building a WordPress site. Firstly you need to have your own webspace, which you can get for about £10 a year. Second you need to have your own domain, which you can get for as little as £2.50 a year. Thirdly, you need the time to put the site together. Otherwise, it is entirely free.
I put this point last because I think it detracts from the positive points about WordPress that make it so quick and easy to build and manage a site. The cost is an added bonus, not the main selling point. You do need time to make a site your own though, and it can become very addictive to tweak your site (I’ve spent whole mornings making minor design adjustments, like hyphen positioning, that I’ve later rejected). All given, though they both looked great after a day or so each, it took about two months to take me from a free template to the two unique sites I now manage. This included a fair amount of time designing web graphics and fiddling with the code to change things like how wide the header image is and how my comments are formatted. It also included writing and adding content for the site, which is another matter. I could do it again in a matter of days, but that was how long it took to really learn WordPress.
It was important for me to learn how to build my WordPress sites because I wanted to know how the ins and outs of SEO worked, and I wanted to be able to manage my own web presence. Now I have that knowledge, I could build similar sites in a fraction of the time, but that course of action isn’t for everyone. Even if you don’t perform all the design-work yourself, though, you’ll certainly see the benefits of using the simple and highly-optimised interface of a WordPress site once it’s running. And if you need more convincing of the uses of a blog, please download my free eBook here.