Previously on the CogitActive saga:
All it takes to create a self-hosted website are a domain name, a hosting provider and a platform.
Just to remind you,a platform . . . is the software you install in your hosting account to build your website1.
some platforms . . . only work on certain types of hosting1, it is important to decide which one you are going to use before you can pick a hosting plan. Hence, I am starting with the platform; the web host and the domain name will come next.
Choosing the right platform to build a website is an important consideration. As explained in the previous post (A self-hosted website), I have opted for a content management system (CMS) platform. Of course, CMSs come in all shapes and sizes, each with its own set of features and benefits. Some are ideally suited for blogging. Other might be better for eCommerce stores. Using a CMS for a situation, for which it is not suited, is not the proper way to go and might lead to issues down the road. On the other hand, getting the right one also means getting one that fit to your constraints. So, which CMS is best for my podcasting needs?
That is it! Hearing the same brand name over and over has definitively influenced my decision. Even though I did some quick research to know which one would be better suited to my needs, to be honest, it was not up to CogitActive standards (see my mea culpa below). Allow me to make amends – amende honorable.
Are there any other CMSs?
Keep in mind, that any hosted platform is out of the question2
Yes, there are. Actually, there are a sheer number of options available from popular to less known CMSs; the choice is not limited to WordPress. Nevertheless, I will just talk about two of them: Joomla and Drupal. Why these two? Because they are the most widely used CMSs with 5.7 % and 3.7 % of CMSs’ market share3, respectively – after WordPress, which has a 59.4 % market share!
Apparently, Joomla is the
middle-ground CMS4: technically more advanced than WordPress, but not as advanced as Drupal. Websites created with Joomla
generally perform better4 than those created with WordPress. In addition, Joomla has enterprise-level security. It offers a great deal of options when it comes to user managements; probably the reason why Joomla is mainly used for Social Networking sites.
Drupal is renowned for its scalability and security and, actually,
experienced web developers attest that Drupal is the most powerful CMS4. It is built for performance and it offers a lot out of the box. It can even handle multilingual sites (out of the box) – something of potential interest. Another of Drupal’s selling points is its powerful taxonomy and ability to organize complex content; this makes it more appropriate for sites that require a highly customized and flexible data organization.
Would Drupal have been a better choice then? I don’t know. Since Drupal is
the most technically advanced CMS of the [three]5, the answer could have been YES.
However, as stated at the beginning of this post, I did not cogitate before to decide actively on WordPress. WordPress was so clearly imprinted on my mind that I didn’t even bother to think this over. I didn’t even know about the existence of Drupal, or Joomla for that matter. I am not proud of that.
Drupal features a steep learning curve. Moreover,
you need to get your hands dirty and learn the basics of coding4 to successfully build a complete website. However, as I have already explained6, this would have not influenced my decision.
On the other hand, the availability of resources could have been a contributing factor in favor of WordPress over Drupal. Indeed, the fact that the latter is not a favorite amongst beginners has evident repercussions on its presence on the web. As you can imagine, it is not promoted as much as WordPress, especially in how-to-build-a-website-for-beginners kind of articles. The difference in market share might also explained why WordPress is so overwhelmingly advocated, or vice versa.
Was WordPress a bad choice? I don’t think so. Note that I can’t semantically7 refer to my decision as a “choice”, though, as I didn’t ponder the question of what CMS to use. Keep reading if you want to know why it was most probably a good decision, anyway.
WordPress pros (and cons)
Before to go through the strengths and limitations of WordPress, let me start with WordPress own saying:
Beautiful designs, powerful features, and the freedom to build anything you want. WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.
Just a reminder, WordPress is thedominating force5 with an impressive CMS market share of 59.4 %3; this includes websites hosted on the free WordPress.com (see box below), though.
Surprisingly, ease of use – the feature that is ubiquitously advocated on the web – is not even mentioned. Nevertheless, being beginner-friendly, WordPress allows you to get started quickly. Simplicity (for users) is actually one of the biggest strengths of WordPress and perhaps the main reason for its success. Creating a website with WordPress is indeed straightforward; technical or coding knowledge is not necessary. Yet, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a learning curve involved.
.com vs .org
Quite confusingly, there are two versions of WordPress:
- The hosted service at WordPress.com
- The self-hosted software available at WordPress.org
There are not the same! They may share a name (WordPress) and have a similar logo (.com is blue and .org is grey), but they differ greatly.
The two are officially separate entities. WordPress.com is a
for-profit business owned by Automattic8. WordPress (.org) is
an open source software managed by the non-profit WordPress Foundation8.
They are two different platforms as well. WordPress.com is a hosted service that is built on a custom, easy-to-pick-up version of the WordPress software. WordPress.org is the site where you can find the actual self-hosted WordPress software.
Thus, the main thing that separates both platforms is hosting. The .com version, which is a hosted solution, is not the recommended one2. This post covers the self-hosted version, which offers more freedom and flexibility.
You can start using WordPress right out-the-box with
customizable designs and
responsive mobile sites. WordPress comes bundled with a default theme, but you can choose among thousands of themes ready for specific type of features. They also come with built-in customization modules allowing you to make (limited) design changes. WordPress comes with such a level of customization that there are
limitless possibilities, keeping with WordPress’ saying.
WordPress already comes packed full of features, but you can also add new ones. When it comes to adding functionality, WordPress relies on plugins (add-ons). Whichever change you have in mind,
there is a plugin for that9. They are easy to implement, and contribute greatly to WordPress’ extensibility. However, each plugin comes at a performance price. In addition, quality varies and it can be time-consuming to choose the right one.
For most, the flexibility provided by themes and plugins is more than enough to make their website do exactly what they want. However, if you don’t want to rely on themes or plugins to tailor your website to your own tastes and needs, WordPress is a good solution as well. You can adjust just about anything; in-depth customization requires coding knowledge, though. Indeed, advanced level users can tweak things even more by making changes to the code. As your skills improve, WordPress will not become a hindrance; it is a real, professional-grade software.
In fact, WordPress has a very high ceiling when it comes to what you can do. Flexibility is probably one of its most attractive feature: you can create any type of website you want, even a network of websites! Its
roots are in blogging5, granted – and
it does this part extremely well5 – but it has grown far beyond that point. WordPress is not limited to blogging anymore: it has evolved into a
full-featured [CMS] that includes all the tools and features you need to publish a complete website9.
Now, performance is often cited as one of the weak spots of WordPress as a CMS. WordPress might not be built for high-performance (as compared to Drupal), yet,
it can still power large-scale websites with sub-second page loading time5. WordPress being a self-hosted platform, you need to know what you are doing. Opting for a cheap hosting provider, for instance, just invites poor performance. Slow site speed can also be associated with poorly coded plugins, among other things. As with everything, it all comes down to making informed choices.
Luckily, you don’t have to be a web developer; you can benefit from WordPress huge community. It is truly incredible how many resources there are for learning about WordPress or having quick development questions answered. From the official documentation (WordPress Codex) to the plethora of articles or books published on any WordPress-related topic, support is all around!
Unfortunately, due to its popularity, WordPress offers a bigger target for hackers. It attracts more attacks just because of sheer volume, not because it is prone to security breaches. WordPress as a software is extremely secure; yet, plugins are a security risk that can’t be ignored. Indeed,
security problems are most often related to third-party plugins5. Not tested by WordPress developers, they can compromise the integrity of your website. Moreover, they may contain security vulnerabilities, or even
malware, viruses, and other unwanted executables9. Just be aware, though, security issues are also the price of not implementing basic security practices. As a matter of fact,
one of the biggest spots for WordPress security is the user5. Insecure login information, outdated WordPress installation, as well as themes or plugins, are the usual culprits.
Last, but not least, WordPress is free10 and open source – something in common with Joomla and Drupal! There are numerous advantages of using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) – beyond the cost – and this has become my way to go.
Self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org)
To recap, WordPress was first and foremost a blogging platform. However, it is now a fully featured CMS capable of powering any kind of website. Likely due to its powerful features, scalability and ease of use, WordPress is the most popular CMS platform. Keeping in mind that my website is primarily intended for my podcast, the strongest argument in favor of WordPress may be this one from Blubrry11:
Because podcasting is nothing more than an extension to blogging, using WordPress also comes natural for the podcast publishing process.
In fact, WordPress is
by far one of the cleanest, fastest ways to write and publish blog posts, and that’s all included right from the start12. In addition, from the same author:
nothing currently compares to the power, elegance, and advanced tools you find in the WordPress blogging engine.
As spoiled at the beginning of this post, I have decided to use WordPress as my CMS platform. Again, I want to emphasize that this was not a choice over other CMSs. In keeping with this semantic issue, as well as my mea culpa, here is an archetypal advice (on that matter) from a podcasting guiding tutorial11:
There are many website platforms to pick from, including WordPress, Joomla, Drupal . . . Luckily, the decision is easy, use WordPress.
1 Peter Pollock (2013) Web Hosting For Dummies. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. ^
2 See A self-hosted website ^
3 W3Techs (2018) Usage of content management systems for websites. (last checked: 10/04/18) ^
4 Jerry Low (2018) Three Easy Ways to Create a Website: Step-by-step Beginner Guide. Web Hosting Secret Revealed. ^
5 Robert Mening (2018) WordPress vs Joomla vs Drupal (Comparison). WebsiteSetup. ^
6 See The CogitActive Saga ^
7 According to Oxford Dictionary of English, a choice is an act of choosing between two or more possibilities. ^
8 Brian Jackson (2018) WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – What’s The Difference? Kinsta. ^
9 Lisa Sabin-Wilson (2017) WordPress All-in-One For Dummies – Third Edition. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. ^
10 Yet, several premium plugins, themes, and extensions are not! ^
11 Blubrry (2018) Your Podcast Website. ^
12 Brian Jackson (2018) Why Use WordPress? A Deep Dive Into 10 Good Reasons. Kinsta. ^