I'll be the first to say, I love WordPress. I think it's an amazing tool and platform. I personally got my start in web development on WordPress, and that experience opened up a lot of doors for me in my career. So, this is not a diss post for WordPress. However, I do think aspiring bloggers may jump on the WordPress hype train a little too fast without having enough background information.
Benefits of Using WordPress for Blogs
WordPress, compared to many other platforms available for blogging is relatively simple for such a robust tool. The key word here is relative. When you use WordPress, the child locks are off. You can host your own e-commerce store, have your own blog, and run as many advertisements as your heart desires.
For educational purposes, here is a list of all the things you might want on your personal blog:
- Your own domain name (not yourblog.wordpress.com)
- Website Hosting (you'll need this if you have your own domain)
- Mobile responsive design
- SEO Optimized Site Structure
- Blog Pages and Posts
- Blog Filtering
- Dynamic/personalized home page showcasing different types of blog topics
- eCommerce store
- Affiliate Marketing embeds
- Display Ads from Google
- Custom Branding on your site
- Subscriber popups
- Built-in Email tools for collecting email addresses
- This list goes on...
Now, looking at this list it's easy to imagine implementing all of these features as a single person who just wants to start a simple blog can take months.
What I'm getting at here is that to start a blog on WordPress you essentially have to be a developer, and at the very least tech savvy.
Misconceptions about WordPress
WordPress is Free
WordPress as a platform is free, but that free platform has to be hosted somewhere.
Hosting is not free, however, and hosting is not built into WordPress like some other platforms. When I first started using WordPress I was recommended BlueHost as a hosting provider. At $2.95 a month, that sounded like a great deal. What I did not know, however, was that it was $2.95 a year with a multi-year contract charged upfront...for one site.
Going with WordPress and your own hosting company probably is one of the cheapest ways to go if you're not a developer, but it's not without cost. There are upcharges for hosting, such as if you want SSL encryption which is standard on all websites. If you want anything beyond a basic WordPress theme, those too can range from $50 - $200+. If you want subdomains or if people commonly misspell your brand name and you want to purchase another domain that points to your main domain, there's an upcharge for that.
Don't want your personal information sold and to live in peace from spam calls? That's gonna be at least $9.95 a month with Bluehost. Don't believe me? It's right on their pricing page. HostGator is slightly better, although to host WordPress sites it's at least $5.95 a month, and domain privacy protection is $14.95 a year. But still, do we really need to pay to not have our information sold? Am I slightly bitter about this? ...Maybe.
$5.95 a month may seem like a good deal, and it is. However, when you can pay $10 a month for a service like Ghost or $16 a month for Wix where a lot of the minutia is already taken care of, it puts things in perspective.
WordPress is Easy to Use
Again, relatively easy to use. Relative compared to coding your own blog and building a server in your bedroom, yes it is easier to use. As consumers in the tech age, we're very spoiled when it comes to the polish of the web. Features that are challenging to implement are seen as universal standards, and even simple things can be frustrating to implement on your own site.
This is not to discourage you, but to let you know that when you run into inevitable errors with your site that it is all part of the process and completely normal.
I see it over and over again how frustrated clients are when they come to me with website issues thinking that it's supposed to be easy. Can you learn how to do it? Absolutely. One great thing about WordPress is that there is a lot of support and no shortage of YouTube tutorials and support forums. The question is really, what would you rather spend your time doing?
So...Who Should Use WordPress?
Now, at this point, it may seem like I am anti-WordPress. I am not, I do think WordPress is great.
I do think that if you're a blogger, you're going to want to spend your time blogging instead of learning how to become a web developer to maintain your site. Since there is going to be some obligatory cost if you want your own domain name, there are cleaner, faster, better options out there that don't require you to be as tech-savvy.
So, who should use WordPress?
If you have a small budget but you have a lot of time and are willing to learn, WordPress is a great option. You can build entire e-commerce stores, dynamic webpages that are personalized to each of your users, login portals, and blogs with WordPress.
Without development skills, it is the cheapest option, but keep in mind that you could be paying for hosting and other services for 6 months before you launch a single blog post. The greatest benefit to WordPress is its versatility and scalability. Is there a learning curve? Absolutely. However, once you're past the hump the sky is the limit, and you can implement incredibly complicated features for free or very cheap.
In summary, if you're just looking to have a simple-ish blog with the basics and standards covered, it's probably not worth the hassle to build a WordPress blog. If you're looking to scale, add e-commerce options and other functionality to your site, it's a great way to go if you're willing to invest the time and energy into the platform.