If you’ve ever wondered what market domination looked like, here it is:
- 60.4 percent of all the current websites online built using site builders were built using WordPress.
- 23.8 percent of all the current websites online were built using WordPress.
- The numbers for second place – 2.8 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively.
Given these statistics, you may draw the conclusion that WordPress is the best thing since sliced bread. However, is WordPress really the best site builder for small business? Let’s find out.
In the Beginning
Built for blogging, WordPress has remained true to its roots. The functions and features of a new WordPress site all support one purpose: a well designed, search engine-friendly blogging platform complete with content categorization and tagging, link management, and comments.
WordPress has always been, and continues to be, an open source product, a fact that leads to two results: it’s mostly free and a diverse set of talented developers can contribute code to enhance the features, functionality, and design of the solution.
And contribute they have. Over time, WordPress plugins have added everything from eCommerce to communities and online support to the platform while themes created by award-winning graphic artists have catapulted the site builder to the forefront of design.
Yes, WordPress is the bomb, and we haven’t even gotten to the topic that makes it the best site builder for small business.
WordPress Gives Small Businesses Room to Grow
WordPress comes in two flavors, hosted and self-hosted. Both versions have their advantages and disadvantages. However, taken together they offer small small businesses a platform that can grow as their needs do. Let’s take a look at how this works.
Hosted WordPress — The Place for Small Business to Start
When a small business is launched, getting a website up-and-running is just one of the many, many tasks on the to-do list. Unless the business depends on site sales for its income (in which case, move on to the “Self-Hosted” section below), the website will likely serve as a marketing tool and not require much beyond the out-of-the-box WordPress blogging functionality.
That’s why the ideal site builder for a small business to start with is the hosted version of WordPress over at wordpress.com. Not only is a hosted WordPress site free, its technical side is completely managed by the WordPress team, removing all the headaches of maintaining your own website.
All you need to do is select a design and add content. That’s easy to do with the hosted version of WordPress’ useful set of features:
When it’s time to boost the design and functionality of your site, or if you want to do it right out of the box, you can retain your hassle-free hosted website by upgrading to one of two packages:
- WordPress.com Premium – This package includes a bunch of goodies such as your own “WordPress branding free” domain name, more storage, no ads and more customization options. All that is for $99 per year.
- WordPress.com Business – This $299 per year package gives you access to every feature that the hosted version of WordPress offers from the use of all their premium themes to unlimited storage, better support, and even eCommerce functionality.
At any level, the hosted version of WordPress is a great choice for small businesses simply for the peace-of-mind provided by the fact that a trusted partner is managing the technical end of their website. Many small businesses continue to use the hosted version of WordPress forever and as long as it meets their needs, that’s just fine.
For other small businesses however, the hosted version of WordPress is too restrictive, either from the start or as the business grows. You see, while it’s handy to have the technical end of your website managed by someone else, it means that you can’t touch that side of your site:
- You can’t use an outside theme or play directly with the look and feel of your website.
- You can’t add functionality to your website using a plugin that’s not part of the very limited collection available to you at wordpress.com.
- You can’t create customized functionality unique to your site by changing any of, or adding to, the code that runs your website.
If the hosted version of WordPress becomes too restrictive, or if it is from the get-go, then it’s time for the self-hosted version to come into play.
Self-Hosted WordPress — Complete Freedom (for a price)
The self-hosted version of WordPress is available for free over at wordpress.org. Most website hosting companies offer the tools that make installing a self-hosted version of WordPress just as easy as it is over at wordpress.com.
More importantly, if your website has outgrown the hosted version of WordPress, the solution itself has tools that will help you migrate to your new self-hosted version. That makes the decision to move, as well as the work itself, much easier.
When you build your site using the self-hosted version of WordPress, there are very few limits to what you can do. You can:
- Spruce up your site using one of the thousands of premium WordPress themes available online,
- Add oodles of features and functionality using one of the more than 36,000 plugins available over at wordpress.org, and
- Add and modify the code any way you want as long as you follow the guidelines.
Unfortunately, with great power comes great responsibility. When you build your site using the self-hosted version of WordPress, there’s no trusted partner in place to manage the technical side of your website from troubleshooting any problems that may arise to the frequent WordPress updates, individual plugin updates and WordPress backups.
If you’re planning to hire someone, whether internally or externally, to help you manage the technical side of a self-hosted WordPress site, you may end up spending more than you’d like.
If you’re not planning to hire someone to help, the price you pay is the steep learning curve ahead of you. WordPress may be user-friendly and there may be many useful free resources online, but there’s still a lot to learn if you want to take the self-hosted version route, especially if you’re planning to manage most of the technical side of your site yourself.
Thanks to its flexibility and low price, WordPress is really the best site builder for small business. That said, there are other options and in certain circumstances, they can be a better choice when building your site.
Other Content Management Systems
At its core, WordPress is a content management system, one of many available for building your website. Unlike it’s closest competitors Joomla, Drupal and Blogger however, WordPress developers seem to have mastered the critical balance between powerful functionality and ease-of-use.
And that applies not just to developers who maintain and upgrade the software itself. It also applies to the independent developers who create the many plug-ins and other enhancements made possible with the platform’s open source design. The robust developer community is a testament that the folks behind WordPress are committed to the open source values of contribution and inclusion, values that have paid off for the platform many times over.
Specialty Site Builders
While the flexibility of WordPress enables a small business to build any type of website, sometimes the time and effort is not worth the end result.
One example is large eCommerce websites. If you’re building a site that will serve as a storefront with many, many products and product categories, you’re probably better off going with a robust eCommerce solution such as Bigcommerce or Volusion rather than pulling a site together using WordPress and an eCommerce plugin.
Other feature-rich industry-specific site builders that may have WordPress beat for their particular niche are Big Cartel for artists, Happytables for restaurants and Hotel Genius for hotels.
But when it comes to selecting a feature-rich, affordable site builder for most small business, WordPress is one of the best choices you can make.
Learning to make the most of WordPress can be challenging. So make sure you know all the facts before you make your decision.
WordPress Photo via Shutterstock