• Quick Summary: WordPress is the most popular platform in the world to create content for your business website. It's a powerful free piece of software that can be used effectively to bolster your online presence. In this article we're going to reflect on our years of experience as a theme provider. And from that experience we're going to draw valuable lessons on how to business owners should look at and use WordPress when building and maintaining their own business website.

  • A little background

    Let's start with the reason why we started using WordPress for our business before we delve into the nitty-gritty of how you should implement it for your business website.

    Back in 2008 I was working for a small IT company. They didn't do anything with web design, but they did have a company website as did the client whom they we're building software for. I wanted to be a web designer. I wanted to make websites. And when a colleague took on the job of refreshing the company's website and failed I stepped in. I didn't know anything about web design at the time so I had to learn the basics very, very quickly if I didn't want to be seen as a good-for-nothing fraud.

    In between the other stuff I did for the company, I learned what was necessary to be able to build a site and coded it by hand using a program called Dreamweaver. Now, I can tell you upfront, this is not the way you want to build any website and it wasn't the way back in 2009. But that's the way you learn stuff. Besides Dreamweaver I also had to learn basic scripting languages used on the web (HTML and CSS).

    What I did was that after working hours I would continue honing my budding web design skills with the help of video tutorials from lynda.com. With everything I learned I could further improve my skills during working hours. The only thing I needed to do was to learn it quickly enough to provide results: a fresh looking site.

    While working on the site I came across a much better way of building and maintaining a website. It was called a " content management system" (CMS). A CMS is a much more powerful way to create content than through handcoding. So after I learned the web programming basics I moved over to learning to build a website for a CMS. The first tool at the time I learned was not WordPress but Joomla. I not only learned how to use the tool but how to program a Joomla template in PHP: the coding language to write it.

    But after learning Joomla and building a site using my own Joomla template I came across WordPress, which is also a CMS. Even back then WordPress was seen as better and more user friendly than Joomla, so I decided to also learn how to build a website template in WordPress. I looked up the WordPress course and according to the date it must have been 2010. I learned two of them by the same author Chris Coyier from CSS Tricks. Thanks Chris, your courses we're awesome.

    Learning WordPress was indeed a very good choice. And I'm very glad that after so many courses I took yet another one about WordPress. It was easier to use than Joomla, both in building a website coding a theme and using the tool itself to create web content.

    When I started my own business for which we needed a website I ushered in WordPress as our go-to tool of choice. We we're working with Microsoft's .NET but that was a true disaster for me to build a website. It felt so much more technical and complex than the low-threshold WordPress CMS.

    So that's how I learned about WordPress and how I made it my own. Obviously I would go forward and create an entire wordpress theme business around the tool. Fast forward another 7 years and I have a lot of experience with WordPress and thousands upon thousands of support questions related to WordPress (and what can go wrong). And from all of those questions I'm going to give you the lessons learned how you, a business owner, should use WordPress for your own business website.

    What's WordPress?

    You've heard me talking about WordPress. But what is WordPress exactly. WordPress, as stated earlier, is a content management system. It's a way, well..., to manage content. Content necessary to flesh out a website. And what's website content. The majority will be text and images. You can throw in videos and audio in the mix, although for the average business website they occur less likely.

    What are the benefits of using WordPress?

    The WordPress interface let's you create new pages, using a basic text editor, reflecting something you'd probably seen before in Microsoft Word. So headings, making text bold or italic, adding images, that sort of basic text editing stuff is the meat and potatoes of WordPress.

    A website obviously isn't just a bunch of webpages thrown together. So with the help of a WordPress themes you can add an overall layout and design to your website, structuring the pages. You might have a section about your services, another section containing you blogs or news, an about page, a contact section. These are all pages you create with WordPress and shape and structure with the help of a theme (that contains your main navigation, header, sidebar an or footer).

    There's a lot of functionality that can be added to a WordPress website. Things you can think off are forms, social share buttons, slideshows, image galleries, Facebook and Twitter and Instagram feeds, signup forms, promotional popups and the list goes on and on. Adding this type of functionality can be achieved with WordPress plugins. The WordPress plugin repository holds tens of thousands of different plugins from different authors and it's not uncommon to be using ten, twenty or even more plugins (whether that's a good thing is something else).

    Is WordPress free to use?

    WordPress is free to download and use, provided you have a hosting account that provides a web server to install it on. Most hosting companies, if not all nowadays, have hosting packages that include WordPress pre-installed to save you the trouble and technical headache of doing this yourself.

    From within WordPress you can view, download and use (free) WordPress themes. You can also upload fresh themes from your computer. Themes, like ours, also come in premium version, usually around the range of forty to sixty USD, depending on what other types of services are added in the mix.

    The same goes for WordPress plugins, meaning they can be viewed and downloaded for free from the WordPress backend. They can be uploaded and there are premium versions available. The dollar range of a plugin differs immensely because of the diversity of what they try to achieve in your website. A social sharing button plugin is something different from a multilanguage plugin (the latter is much more complex).

    What is the difference between WordPress and a website?

    You cannot build a website with WordPress alone. As I stated before you also need a theme to structure the content you create with WordPress. You'll also need hosting to make sure you're site is online and available to reach 24/7. Technically you could do this yourself by installing WordPress on a computer and letting it run all day everyday, and people (e.g. we) have done this a long time ago, but that's definitely not the way to be operating today.

    You have hosting for about 10 USD a month including WordPress (read more about hosting prices in the article " The Hidden Costs Of Hosting. After that the only thing left that's absolutely required is a domain name. Usually the one where you host the website is also the company where you register your domain name. All hosting providers will offer package deals with first year discounted prices including the domain name. After the first year, on average, a domain name will set you back around 10 USD per year.

    So all in all, having all the tools necessary to build a site is very cheap. With hosting and a domain name you're looking at a 100 to 150 USD per year (if you also opt for a free theme; plugins aren't required). That's everything you need to build a WordPress business website.

    Is WordPress easy to use?

    If you want to build a non-ecommerce business website I'd say that overall WordPress is pretty straightforward. As with all things, the more bells and whistles you add, the more complex it becomes.

    Just compare it with a bike. It's easier to operate and maintain a bike without shifters, than it is with them. Shifters require specialized knowledge to setup and maintain. You could argue that even using shifters is something you don't know right of the bat, no matter how they are advertised. It is an addon that adds complexity from multiple perspectives.

    The same goes for a WordPress website. You can have a fantastic looking website for very cheap that'll do exactly what you want it to do: promote your business. The s#!t usually hits the fan when business owners move into the direction of wanting to become web designers, which is going to be our next topic.

    Is Wordpress safe to use?

    Safety can mean a lot of things in the online world. Usually people are afraid there site might be hacked and unwanted access is gained by people with ill intentions. WordPress does not exist in isolation. Many things are used for you to be able to show a certain website on the internet. All of the underlying components can have safety risks. From ill-developed out-of-date plugins to weak WordPress passwords. Even other sites might cause unwanted access to the same server on which your website resides, thus in turn compromising the security of your website.

    That being said, an up-to-date WordPress site, hosted at a reputable provider, with up-to-date plugins from web developers with trackrecord behind a login with strong credentials will not easily be compromised. There are just much easier targets than such a strongly secured site. And security is not just about prevention, it's also about having a backup plan in place when something does go wrong.

    Is WordPress good for SEO?

    There are about 200 factors contributing to a certain page having a certain ranking in the search engines. WordPress as a tool does very little in terms of helping you rank high, because WordPress doesn't help you create appealing content; the content creator does this. Based upon quality keyword research that focuses on low competition keywords that are monetizable and relevant for the services for which you want to be paid.

    Yes, from a technical perspective WordPress has got their act together and cleanly presents your content to the search engines, but that's about it. SEO is so much more than simply relying on tool to do the work for you. And website owners wanting to rank their content will find that out very quickly.

    What's the biggest challenge business owners face when using WordPress?

    There are two big issues that business owners face when they're looking to build their own business website: content and compatiblity risks.

    1. Creating content

    Hosting and a domain name is cheap. WordPress is free and advertised everywhere as the go-to DIY tool for building the best website possible. There are tons of articles about the huge benefits of using Wordpress, touting everything from the previously mentioned "easy to use" to "built-in blog" and "SEO friendly". And they are all true. WordPress is easy-to-use, has a built-in blog and is SEO friendly (using the proper SEO basics). But a great website business website doesn't just fall out of the sky and the skills necessary for you to know how to operate WordPress correctly aren't learned overnight. Both of these things take time and that's where business owners get into trouble.

    For the majority of business owners a website is seen as something they must at least have. It's seen as a sort of windowdressing. If you don't have a website your business will be seen as less professional. But many business owners see a website as part of their marketing and sales department. It's not on their mind like the day-to-day operations of their business, because it isn't part of their day-to-day operations. So what's the first thing to go if a business owner feels he or she is short on time? Exactly, it's the website. Since building and maintaining a website takes time, this means a lot of websites that get started are doomed from the beginning. They never get finished and we've got the numbers to back this up (we do hosting).

    You're a business owner and you're already short on time. Maybe you've got a family on the side, kids to go school, groceries to buy, relationship to maintain, whatever. If that's all on your plate, what is the most important thing when building your own business website using WordPress. Is it having a clear focus, stripping it down to the bare essentials and building what's necessary to go online. Or is it getting bogged down in trivial stuff that doesn't really add to your overall goal and focusing more on design than on actual writing the stuff that needs to go online?

    The answer is the latter. People building sites are much more focused on its design than they are on the actual content that will drive sales. People mistakenly believe that design makes a big difference for website visitors in choosing whether they will go for your service or somebody else's. I was one of them and I've learned the hard way that it's not true.

    Business owners (and web designers) building a site focus way too much time on the design. New business owners are heavily inclined to spend an inordinate amount of time on a their business logo, which will do absolutely nothing in terms of marketing and sales. They will spend tens if not hundreds of dollars making just the right logo and printing it everywhere. I don't necessarily say this is wrong. However, if the number one reason business owners fail with their website is because they don't finish it, you can bet your ass that a great portion of those failing business owners have spend precious time and money on a logo they will now never upload to a non-existing website.

    And in part because WordPress give people the chance to fool around with their website, so many valuable time get's wasted detracting people from the main goal of finishing their website. And it's not just business owners. Web designers fall into this trap just as well. Even more so, we get many support questions from web designers, because they, not their clients, decided include some design element that now breaks the entire website, asking us to fix it.

    I hope the point I'm trying to make here is clear. What's your focus? Is it design or content? Focus on content people, finish the damn site!

    2. Compatibility issues

    When you use WordPress it doesn't exist in its own cocoon. You need other things for the entire website to function: hosting, theme and optionally, a set of plugins. Each added element adds to the risk of running into compatibility issues.

    Example. The latest couple of months hosting providers decided to upgrade their servers. Servers on which websites are running. I won't go into the reasoning behind the server update. What I will tell you is that this caused many sites to go completely blank because of compatiblity issues with (old and out-of-date) WordPress themes. Since the average business owner never updates any of the underlying elements of their sites, this kind of detrimental stuff to websites is bound to happen as time goes along.

    The same goes for plugins. I've seen many support tickets coming in detailing that "suddenly" a website is out of whack for some unknown reason. A lot of times this happens because of compatibility issues with plugins. Either because they are out-of-date or, the exact opposite, they have been updated.

    And since business owners have the ability to include all kinds of plugins for absolutely free, and since business owners are naturally inclined to experiment and tinker with their websites, a lot of websites, if not all of them, will break sooner or later. Usually within on to three years.

    Bad stuff happening isn't the worst. You simply cannot prevent these things from occurring. And as with a lot of things it's not about what happens but what you do when they happen. Unfortunately a lot of issues, neither you, your web designer or your hosting provider can or will want to fix.

    If you contrast WordPress with online website builders they do give you much more flexibility. But this flexibility comes with the price of ownership and responsibility to clean up your own mess when things go wrong. And that's something no business owner realizes before they start with WordPress and everything else needed to get online.

    How do I get started with Wordpress; some guidelines

    If you're a business owner, it might sound like you're stepping into a snake pit if you're building your site on top of WordPress. It doesn't have to be. Let me wrap up this article with the following easy to follow guidelines.

    - Make sure you have a website backup
    - Make sure you're backups works
    - Have a goal for your website
    - Make creating content more important than tweaking design
    - Make sure that if something goes wrong with your website you know who to contact
    - Make sure you have the proper support for hosting
    - Make sure you have the proper support for WordPress
    - Make sure you have the proper support for every single WordPress plugin you use
    - Make sure you have the proper support for the theme
    - Don't trust your web designer to be able to help you out, I've seen too many asking me for support for things they're being paid to know

    Looking to build your site? We've got you covered

    It will come as no surprise that in our business we've implemented every guideline from the previous paragraph. Meaning that if you decide to host your website with us we've got you covered and will make sure that from a technical perspective you never have to worry. Hosting, backups, the theme and their accompanying support, we're there to help for a price that blows our competion away. Interested, take a look at our themes and start building your own business website today.

  • About the Author

    Johan van Seijen

    Co-founder

    Johan van Seijen is co-founder of Nexus Themes and our lead designer. After gaining a Master's Degree in Information Science he decided to try his luck in the illustration industry, working for clients as Avantgarde, Cosmopolitan and Glamour. With the return to the software industry grew the desire to create something to be truly proud of and which could spearhead his ambition of having his own company. And this company is what followed. He lives with his wife and daughter in Amsterdam.