What IS WordPress?

WordPress is an open source Content Management System. “WordPress is software designed for everyone, emphasizing accessibility, performance, security, and ease of use”1, according to the mission statement on WordPress.org. As a flexible CMS, it is designed to work for wide variety of uses and designed to be extended for even more uses.

WordPress is Open Source

According to opensource.com, “Open source software is software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance.”2 Opensource.com also suggests that people prefer using open source software for increased control of their content3, availability of training and resources to learn4, improved security and response time5, and stability2.

WordPress is not the only open source software you might use. You might also use the Firefox browser, GIMP (graphics), or OpenOffice (office suite). Even if you’re not using one of these open source projects, you are using programs that use them. The software that brings you the Internet (through whatever browser you use), relies on open source software to transmit the data (like this blog) to your device.

Who Uses WordPress

W3Tech, who surveys the top 10 million sites by traffic according to Alexa, suggests that WordPress is in use on 31.7% of these websites, as of September 5, 2018. That’s over 3 million sites! And it doesn’t include sites with less traffic.

Here are some sites you may recognize that use WordPress6:

  • Microsoft News Center
  • Time, Inc.
  • Facebook Newsroom
  • The New York Times Co.
  • Inside BlackBerry
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Wall Street Journal Law Blog

All these sites look very different; all these sites are powered by WordPress.

Themes and Plugins

You can find Themes and Plugins in the official WordPress Repository. There are also numerous themes and plugins available for purchase.

When you’re looking for a theme or plugin, there are several things to consider.

  1. Is it well reviewed?

By using the reviews in the WordPress Repository for those themes and plugins, you can gain some idea about how well the theme or plugin works. This does not guarantee that it will work for you but gives a good indication.

For themes and plugins you’re planning on purchasing, search for reviews for your theme or plugin (click the links and add the theme or plugin name to the search term). There may be reviews on the author’s website or from 3rd party review sites.

  1. Is it well supported?

Themes and plugins in the WordPress Repository have user reviews, support threads, and the plugin update history. This information can help you decide if a theme or plugin is still being actively supported (e.g. Is someone responding to problems users report? Has the theme or plugin been updated recently?).

Paid themes and plugins often come with support included during a subscription or for a set amount of time following their purchase, like 1 year. This may mean that after the support period is up, you’ll want to repurchase the theme or plugin for continued support.

  1. Is it appropriate for your use case?

This can include considering the design elements of the theme or plugin, as well as any legal considerations (if you’re not sure, please ask a lawyer). This can also include appropriateness for your target audience, the accessibility of the design, how well it integrates with the systems you’re already using, and much more.

Updates and Maintenance

Keep WordPress Up-to-Date! WordPress core (the actual WordPress files), themes, and plugins can all get updates. You’ll see these in the dashboard, under the ‘Dashboard’ menu item.

The Dashboard menu in WordPress. Updates is the bottom sub-menu item.

Since WordPress 3.7, WordPress core minor updates happen automatically for most installs. You’ll still need to do manual updates for major releases (e.g. going from the last 3.x version – 3.9.25 to the first 4.x version – 4.0).

Themes and plugins aren’t not automatically updated and must be manually updated when a new version is released.

Keeping all these up-to-date is pivotal as many of the updates include security patches and bug fixes, that if left unfixed could allow malicious activity on your site.

One other key to WordPress maintenance is back-ups. There are several back-up plugins available, which can save both on-site and off-site back-ups, and some which can restore back-ups back to a live site.

If you’re using a back-up solution that only saves on-site back-ups, make sure you save copies off-site frequently. These back-ups will be useful in the event your site crashes or is hacked.

Troubleshooting

Typically, you must switch one of the default themes and disable plugins to identify issues your site is having. Luckily, WordPress has a Health Check plugin that allows you to troubleshoot your own site without disabling your theme and plugins for your site visitors. You can find more information on how to use this tool here.

Unfortunately, not all problems can be solved this way. Some errors will cause the dreaded ‘White-screen-of-death’ or various other errors, where nothing shows up and you can’t get to the WordPress dashboard. If this happens to you, depending on your coding abilities, it may be time to reach out to someone else for support. Make sure you provide them with as much information about the error (a screenshot of the problem or error code here is helpful).

 

In conclusion, WordPress, themes, and plugins are tools. And when you choose the right tools to build your website, it can help you achieve your business goals. The key is all about choosing the tools that will best accomplish your goals, including costs, time-investment, customer acquisition, etc.

Hopefully this blog has brought some new considerations to mind and given you the tools to sort through the colossal number of themes and plugins online.

If you’re already using WordPress, we’re hosting our ‘Intro to WordPress’ workshop. Bring all your questions about WordPress to this 2-hour hands on workshop. You can get tickets here.

We also host WordPress sites and you can contact me directly if you need WordPress support and would like to find out more.

 

  1. WordPress.org. (n.d.). Retrieved September 5, 2018, from https://wordpress.org/about/
  2. What is open source? (n.d.). Retrieved September 5, 2018, from https://opensource.com/resources/what-open-source
  3. Behrenshausen, B. (2013, May 28). A lesson from Tumblr: Who’s in control? Retrieved September 5, 2018, from https://opensource.com/life/13/5/tumblr-open-publishing
  4. Behrenshausen, B. (2013, June 17). Learning to program, the open source way. Retrieved September 5, 2018, from https://opensource.com/life/13/6/learning-program-open-source-way
  5. Ibanez, L. (2013, March 13). Fix a bug every 8.7 minutes. Retrieved September 5, 2018, from https://opensource.com/government/13/2/bug-fix-day
  6. Balkhi, S. (2018, April 10). 40 Most Notable Big Name Brands that are Using WordPress. Retrieved September 5, 2018, from https://www.wpbeginner.com/showcase/40-most-notable-big-name-brands-that-are-using-wordpress/
  7. WordPress.org. (n.d.). WordPress Themes. Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://wordpress.org/themes
  8. WordPress.org. (n.d.). WordPress Plugins. Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://wordpress.org/plugins
  9. WordPress Theme Reviews Search Results from DuckDuckGo. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://duckduckgo.com/?q=wordpress+theme+reviews
  10. WordPress Plugin Reviews Search Results from DuckDuckGo. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://duckduckgo.com/?q=wordpress+plugin+reviews
  11. WordPress.org community. (n.d.). Health Check & Troubleshooting. Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://wordpress.org/plugins/health-check/
  12. WordPress.org. (2018, January 04). Troubleshooting using the Health Check. Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://make.wordpress.org/support/handbook/appendix/troubleshooting-using-the-health-check/#troubleshooting