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CMS, a Swiss-army-knife of WebDev: WordPress guide for SMB

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WordPress is currently the most popular content management system (CMS) on the Internet. According to W3Techs, WordPress powers 40% of all the websites on the Internet, including those without a content management system or with a custom-coded CMS. WordPress first appeared in 2003, when the founder of the system, Matt Mullenweg, forked the then-existing blogging engine called b2/Cafelog (a fork is when you take the code program and use it as the foundation for creating another program). With the help of Mike Little, Matt made the first version of the WordPress system, which was released on May 27, 2003. At the time, they had no idea how much their blogging engine would evolve in the future.

Since that first release in 2003, the WordPress platform has come a long way - from a blogging tool to a complete content management system used to create almost any type of website, from simple blogs to online portfolios for photographers and designers. By now you can create a full-fledged commercial site for the sale of real or digital goods, markets, auctions, catalogs, and corporate sites for large companies. There are thousands of themes that allow you to change the look of your site and many thousands of plugins to add and extend functionality. And all this can be downloaded and installed for free.

 

Difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

The first question that newbies who come across WordPress usually have is where to locate your site? You can take one of two options: set up your own standalone WordPress site, or register with WordPress.com - here, you can host your WordPress site for free.

WordPress.com: WordPress.com is a site owned by WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg, who runs Automattic. Essentially, a website is a free service that allows you to easily create and host your WordPress site without worrying about paying for hosting, domain, etc. You can create content without getting too technical.

Automattic makes money on WordPress.com by displaying text ads on your site and charging fees for additional services such as backups, premium themes, and plugins. You get at your disposal a free subdomain for your site in the format http://your-name.wordpress.com. You can always purchase a separate domain name and link it to your site.

PROS

CONS

Free service. It is enough to register, and you can use your website.

You have to pay to use your domain.

Ease of use. It is effortless for beginners to figure it out. There is no need to plunge into the technical jungle.

Limited choice of themes and charging fees to change them

Safety. The site is hosted on secure servers managed by Automattic.

A limited selection of plugins

Free service. The company itself keeps everything up to date.

You cannot monetize your site until you reach 25k views per month, after which you will need to use their Ad Control program.

Availability of support.

If you need more than 3 GB of free space, you will have to pay.

 

You have to pay to use your domain.

 

Limited choice of themes and charging fees to change them

 

WordPress.org: WordPress.org is a site where you can download the latest version of WordPress to install on your hosting. This version is completely free and distributed under the GPL license, i.e., you can do whatever you want with the system. You can use WordPress to create any number of sites, customize the design however you want - you can even rename the system and make your fork if you wish. This is the beauty of the GPL license.

If you decide to use this version of WordPress, there are some additional details you need to take into account. First of all, you will need to register your domain name and purchase hosting from a suitable hosting company. Also, you will have to install the script yourself, which may scare off some newbies. Fortunately, many modern web hosts offer the ability to install WordPress with a single click.

PROS

CONS

Free to download and use

Need to pay for a domain name and hosting

Complete control over your website

You need to keep track of site updates and security

Installing any themes and plugins

You need to regularly back up the site

Monetization by any means

Steeper learning curve

 

Support not included

 

Need to pay for a domain name and hosting

   

 

A few words about choosing WordPress hosting: If you have decided to choose hosting yourself, then, in this case, you will need to do it correctly. After all, hosting depends on how well your site will work. If you choose poor hosting, you can face slow website speeds, poor user support, and a host of other issues.

 

WordPress for business small and medium

Free, open-source, and comparative ease of mastering CMS WordPress has led to tremendous growth in its popularity among users of all social categories and strata. All the advantages of this content management system could not go unnoticed by the business owners. Gradually, the WordPress community cultivated the practice of using it as a marketplace and online store. Let's consider the prominent use cases of WordPress for business, give recommendations for optimizing it for the needs of a specific industry and field of activity.

 

WordPress for online stores

The sale of goods and services over the Internet is evolving every day. Though many financiers still recall with a shudder the "dot-com crisis" in the late 90s. Then, due to excessive greed, many companies that went online lost touch with reality and eventually went bankrupt, unable to withstand the competition with more efficient enterprises. Only strong players remained on the market, pragmatically assessing the possibilities of the Internet and following its trends.

Creating an online store in WordPress is quite simple. To do this, you need to install and configure as required one of the many plugins: WP Shop, WooCommerce, WP eCommerce, eShop, Quick Shop, Shopp, YAK for WordPress, MarketPress, etc. Some plugins are paid, but the most powerful ones (mentioned WP Shop, eCommerce WooCommerce) are free, and WP Shop is also optimized to fit users' needs. This is a handy property for those businesses that are gradually expanding and need additional "authority" with consumers.

In addition to the existing catalog of goods and tools for their automatic purchase, WordPress is also convenient for creating individual orders. This is more relevant for those business categories that offer not tangible goods but works and services. It is pretty apparent that it is impossible to sell "apartment renovation," but it is easy to order the masters to make these repairs spectacularly. Using extensions and plugins of feedback, forms for sending applications for the calculation of estimates, etc., you can create a convenient website for advertising services on the Internet. In general, we can say that most plugins allow you to create your online store quickly, but its success will largely depend on the filling of goods and promotion.

 

Online media on WordPress

Information is one of the most expensive commodities, and therefore the media makes huge profits every year by trading news, business intelligence, and other data. To create news resources in WordPress, you can use all existing plugins, and at the initial stage, you will need separate "news" templates optimized in such a way as to be as comfortable as possible for users. The creation of online media based on WordPress allows you to use the resource in the future to sell advertising spaces in almost unlimited quantities. True, in this case, the central part of the success is not assigned to the engine but the high-quality content of the site and its promotion.

 

WordPress message boards

One of the least obvious use cases for this CMS is setting up a full-fledged message board. For these needs, a lot of themes (templates) have been developed, containing the necessary widgets and plugins inside themselves:

  • Classic message boards - flatads, Classipress, Ads-WordPress
  • Bulletin boards for real estate - Javo Directory, WP Residence,
  • Catalogs-reference books of enterprises with the possibility of placing points on the map - Directory, Vantage,
  • Bulletin Boards for Selling / Giving Discount Coupons - Clipper, couponpress
  • Job exchanges - Jobroller, WordPress Micro Jobs, Nine to Five, Jobify, Jobmonster, hirebee, jobpress, jobboard (convenient for posting job offers and searching for them by job seekers), Jobseek (tailored to the needs of job seekers)

After describing the tools for creating a business, we will also consider options for further promotion and maintaining its popularity on the Internet.

Tools of interaction with clients. This category includes plugins for WordPress that help to inform existing and potential customers about new products/services, promotions, and special offers. You can combine these features under the general term CRM systems (Customer Relations Management.) CMS implies the use of:

  • Email newsletters:  Mailgun, MailChimp, Newsletter, MailPress, Mail Poet Newsletter, Subscribe 2, UniSender Integration, and others. It is impossible not to mention the powerful plugin for sending letters to social network users - BuddyPress;
  • Creation of feedback forms. The list of plugins for creating forms on WordPress should include Contact Form 7, Contact Form Plugin by vCita, Fast Secure Contact Form, Gravity Forms, Ninja Forms, Formidable Forms, Breezing Forms, Form Maker, Contact Form Manager, and others;
  • The creation of a request system is easiest to organize with the help of plugins Multisite Ticket System, WP Ticket, WordPress Advanced Ticket System (WATS), WP Support Plus, Sola Support Tickets, and similar ones.

Plugins for assessing user behavior - the so-called "heat" maps. They allow you to identify weaknesses in the site interface and make the necessary adjustments to increase conversion - that is, turn visitors (potential) into actual customers of services and buyers of goods. Sitemaps unfold after installing WP Super Heatmap, Heatmap Plugin, heatmap for WordPress, Heatmap UserHeat, Ptengine, Slim Stat Analytics, and others.

Creation of "closed zones." Information nowadays is worth its weight in gold. Therefore sometimes it makes sense to stimulate site visitors to join a kind of club of regular customers - to deny access to specific articles to unregistered users. For these purposes, WordPress provides plugins Paid Memberships Pro, Ultimate Member, Simple Membership, WP User Manager, Restrict Content, Membership 2, WP Hide Dashboard, WP Private Content Plus, and others. The names of some plugins also indicate that, if necessary, it will be possible to restrict access to the content to those users who have not paid for the subscription.

In a separate category, it is worth highlighting those plugins for WordPress that are aimed at analyzing conversion - the ratio of the number of "valuable" actions (buying goods, subscribing, etc.) to the total number of visitors and their behavior. These plugins work at the intersection of SEO categories, tools for interacting with site users, and assessing their behavior. These plugins include SumoMe, Icegram, Optin Forms, and one of the most influential and sophisticated tools - OptinMonster. It is also worth noting that if the site was developed primarily as an online store or a business card site for an offline company, it needs constant development and updating. In general, it allows you to attract customers to purchase goods and inform them about the enterprise's activities.

But if the site is considered a source of income through advertising, it is essential to work with it correctly and efficiently. For these purposes, WordPress provides the ability to install plugins to manage: 

  • Contextual advertising - Google AdSense (an official plugin developed and maintained by Google programmers), Easy Plugin for AdSense, AdSense Integration WP QUADS, Google AdSense by BestWebSoft, Ad Injection, Ad Inserter, Insert Post Ads, and others;
  • Banner advertising - Useful Banner Manager, Image / Banner Widget, Custom Banners, Floating Banner Ad Rotator with Tracking and others
  • Pop-up ads - Popup Maker, Popups, Popup by Supsystic, ITRO Popup Plugin, Popup, PopupAlly, WP Super Popup, and others.

 

Is it easy to make a website on WordPress?

Yes, just for those who have already gone through this procedure many times, it will only take time for those who already have knowledge and experience. And for those who have no experience, it will take a very long time. "Simple, but very long" automatically turns into "difficult." See for yourself. The page “Where to start” of the official WordPress help is quite voluminous. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Installation phase
  2. Buy hosting.
  3. Install WordPress on the server.
  4. Buy a domain.
  5. Configure a domain on hosting.
  6. Find and install a theme (template for the site's appearance, there are free and paid options).

If we draw an analogy with building a house, at this stage, we have laid the foundation and made a "box" that has no external or internal finishing, not to mention furniture. Setup phase:

  1. Customize the look of the site.
  2. Internal WordPress settings.
  3. Installing and configuring additional modules.

Even if you find a suitable template, you will need to adapt it to your needs. This applies, for example, to the location and number of menu items, graphic and functional blocks (banners, sliders, buttons, forms). The list of tasks that can be solved using the basic functionality of WP is minimal. Its capabilities are expanded by installing plugins.

 

Why should business customize their WordPress-powered site?

The development of a unique website is quite an expensive pleasure, not available to every company, not to mention novice business people. The development itself and the programming of unique modules will not be cheap at all. According to Goal Europe, the cost of one hour of development in America is about $ 40-60. In addition to developers, you also need at least a UI/UX designer. The cost of a professional UI/UX design is comparable to that of a skilled developer. Each designer has his style: someone loves clean and light interfaces, some try to dilute a functional website with all kinds of graphics as much as possible.

Considering the number of websites for business created with WordPress, Sooner or later, many are asking questions about customizing WordPress themes. One of the safest ways is developing and using what is called "Child Theme". Similar to how in Photoshop you modify an image using adjustment layers, you can use the same concept by customizing WordPress themes without affecting its original version. The good thing about reversible changes is that you can return to the original files that are in their original form at any time. The best way to make the "template-based" website "your own" (not mentioning the need for a business site to stand out and be memorable) is to hire professionals.

 

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