WordPress is a type of software that falls into the category of content management systems, often referred to as a CMS. These are software solutions that, as their names imply, help manage the content displayed on websites. The benefits of WordPress and other CMS solutions is that they help keep all the technical aspects of managing a website better organized so you can focus on creating content.

Benefits of Content Management Systems

WordPress is by far the most popular CMS solution on the market today—thought to account for more than 20% of all websites. Still, there are many other available CMS solutions out there that are worth mentioning, such as Joomla, Drupal, Magento, Medium, Shopify, Blogger, Wix, Squarespace, and even Tumblr. All these types of CMS products have different approaches and specializations for doing the same thing—managing content! Shopify specializes in eCommerce needs, Blogger caters to simple blog sites, and Wix is marketed towards small businesses without the resources to create their own websites. All of these products have gone through evolutions in their designs throughout the years. Knowing which solution is best for you require an understanding of the goals you have for your website.

A quality content management system will let you focus on creating content first and website design second.

Having a CMS is regarded as a critical step in getting any website off the ground. It allows for you to focus on the creation of your content and connection to your audience. Without a CMS, you’d be forced to hand-code every piece of unique content on your website. That means you’d need to know html, css, php, JavaScript, and maybe even some server languages like Apache from time to time. That’s a lot to keep rattling around in your head, and CMS solutions like WordPress can help alleviate that burden. When you’re first starting a website it’s essential to get things up and running before you refine the underlying features. Just like operating a local business—if you can’t get the product on the shelves and open the front doors you aren’t going to make any sells. When starting a new blog—if you can’t get your content onto your website and allow others to access it you’re not going to have any readers! A quality content management system will let you focus on creating content first and website design second.

Cost Effective Strategy: WordPress and similar CMS solutions help you develop a website on top of an existing framework—avoiding the bulk of development cost. For many websites and businesses this benefit of cost far outweighs the downside of missing a few bells and whistles.

Getting to Know WordPress

To say that WordPress is a CMS is a very large understatement. While true in the infancy of its design, WordPress has evolved to a multi-use web framework able to address the needs of many different types of websites. WordPress holds an impressive 60% share of the Content Management System market. That’s to say; of all the CMS options on the market people choose WordPress 60% of the time! The next closest competitor is Joomla, which holds roughly 6.5%—nearly 10 times less a share. WordPress is like the Amazon of the CMS marketplace and has very few competitors. Having this gigantic share of the market means several things for new websites and small businesses. Firstly, the popularity of WordPress has created a huge support base for its core features. Whenever you run into a problem you can find a solution by searching on Google, or the WordPress forums. This saves money on hiring developers throughout the creation of your website and can also help speed up your website’s development pace. Another tremendous advantage of WordPress’ behemoth market share is the demand it has created for 3rd party features, such as plugins and themes, which help to extend core features to address more specific needs for different types of websites.

The WordPress Core

WordPress has evolved from humble origins as a solution for personal blogs. The initial software was created to help manage very simple features, such as drop quotes, embedded images, and categorization. The WordPress of today has the ability to address nearly every type of website demand and is used by some of the largest websites in the world to serve their content. WordPress uses a computer programming language known as PHP for adding tags, sending emails, advertising, managing users, or creating new products with WooCommerce. The majority of these actions happen on a server-level behind the scenes. You might click a button to add a new category, but the actual creation of that category and insertion into the database happens behind the scenes. All this is done through the computer code which is referred to as the WordPress Core. These are a serious of files that are considered to be essential to the operation of WordPress and get updated with every new release. Your website visitors won’t have any interaction with this code-level of WordPress , or even the content management parts of WordPress —often referred to as the ‘back end’.

WordPress Themes

Visitors will interact with your website by reading content that is served by WordPress as articles, videos, images, and maybe even interactive JavaScript elements. All of these elements are referred to as the ‘front end’ of your website. The backend of a website is like the engine, brake lines, and cooling system of a car and the front end is like the steering wheel, gas pedal, and body. It’s important to have a good backend but people will often respond to your website more positively if it has a good front-end as well. WordPress has a lot of backend functionality built into it out of the box, but lacks somewhat in the front-end department. Fortunately, it uses a system called Themes to extend the front end features—similar to how it uses plugins to extend functionality. Drawing the line between themes and plugins isn’t always a tidy process. Some themes add functionality to WordPress websites and some plugins add front end aesthetics. As a general rule though, Themes will help control how your website looks and plugins will help control how your website acts. When used together, WordPress Themes and Plugins are capable of creating a solution for the vast majority of website needs. The market for each of these is tremendous, and not all products are created equally.

WordPress Plugins

WordPress plugins are kind of like apps for smart phones in that they allow the basic WordPress software to provide you with additional features without having to modify the code. One of the best examples of such extensibility is the free WordPress plugin named WooCommerce. This plugin (arguably a CMS itself) is an eCommerce extension for WordPress that allows one to integrate shopping carts, payment processing, transactional emailing, and even subscriptions services with little to no additional development cost. For small businesses and websites without large development budgets this plugin is often regarded as a Godsend. It has evolved over the years to offer functionality that is on-par with other eCommerce-first CMS solutions like Shopify or Magento. WooCommerce can handle 10’s of thousands of products if needed, though is generally still regarded as a solution for smaller retailers. Through WordPress ‘ unique ecosystem of plugins you’ll be able to save a tremendous amount of money on development costs as you get your website launched. In addition to plugins, there are other extension options known as Themes, which allow you to easily customize how your website looks and behaves.

Getting Familiar With Themes & Plugins

With every install of WordPress, one gains access to the official WordPress .org plugin repository. Plugins found in this marketplace can be downloaded through the WordPress software installed on your website. Anyone can list a plugin on this marketplace though all plugins must have a free version. This dissuades many developers from making products to list here since they can’t receive any direct sales. To circumnavigate this issue, many developers have deployed a freemium business model in which they offer a minimal feature version of their premium product. Products like the Yoast SEO package or WordPress ‘ own JetPack have a robust degree of functionality within their free versions. By contrast, there are also plugins that offer little more than an advertisement in their free versions. To help understand which plugins are high quality it’s important to pay attention to three attributes—the number of ratings, the average rating, and the last update date.

Finding WordPress Themes & Plugins

Each WordPress plugin in the official WordPress repository can have a rating added by those that download it. This is done by giving a 1-5 star rating, with the option of leaving feedback. Plugins that have thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of ratings are likely to be very well coded and integrate seamlessly with your WordPress installation. Plugins that have fewer than a thousand reviews are suspect, though if the majority of reviews are positive you’re likely to be fine. Likewise, each plugin is required to maintain a record of when it was last updated and if it has been tested with the latest version of WordPress. Sometimes updates aren’t necessary but during major version changes ( moving from WordPress 3 to WordPress 4 ) there are often aspects of plugin functionality that would break without being adapted to the new versions requirements.

Plugin & Theme Conflicts

Themes and plugins can demand things of your website that often come into conflict with one another. It’s like two cooks trying to share a kitchen and make a meal using the same ingredients. If one cook is working on the entre and the other is working on the desert—there’s probably not going to be too much of an issue in sharing ingredients or kitchen equipment. If, on the other hand, both cooks are trying to create the main course there could be some issues. This would be like a WordPress theme built for the display of social media posts trying to integrate with a plugin designed to embed Instagram pictures. The theme and plugin might end up requesting the same resources, loading the same computer code, or even throwing the same errors. While this typically only results in an inefficiency it can sometimes result in your website breaking entirely. That’s to say; installing the wrong plugin can ruin your website and make it unavailable for visitors. As WordPress ‘ core code gets updated, themes and plugins that used to work flawlessly can start to break things as well if they aren’t updated in cadence with WordPress. For this reason, relying on themes and plugins that are top-sellers and actively maintained is essential. Even this still runs the risk of breaking part of your website and the only true way to know how installing a plugin or changing a theme will affect your website is to do it. There are many ways one can do this safely, such as local development copies or live staging environments.

Where to Buy Themes & Plugins

Many of the more popular WordPress themes see upwards of 10,000 copes being sold. That’s nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in revenue—which can justify a serious commitment to code quality. What this also means is that through the purchase of a popular $59 WordPress theme you’re getting access to an enterprise level solution for your website. These developers code with the interests of the masses in mind, and will often add features that you’ll likely never use. Nonetheless, many offer a tremendously high quality and well-evolved product that you’d spend tens of thousands of dollars to create on your own—and then have to keep up-to-date with every new version of WordPress . Plugins exist in much the same way, though typically most premium plugins don’t see nearly the sales volume of WordPress themes. As the market becomes more saturated with developers catering to very niche theme solutions, many often build in features natively to the themes that once only plugins could offer. This unique market of themes and plugins allows for a tremendous advantage for small business and new websites. However, for every high quality theme and plugin on the market there are 10 that are low-quality and difficult to manage. Knowing where to buy themes and plugins and how to spot quality can help your website thrive and keep your attention focused on content—not website development. For a deeper dive into where to buy these types of products check out our article on Where to Buy Wordpres Themes & Plugins.

The Power of Extensibility

WordPress is a free CMS solution and many of the themes and plugins for it are free as well. Contrary to how many products exist on the market, WordPress doesn’t really sell its own themes or plugins—these products are created by third parties. This means if you ever run into an issue with a theme or plugin that you’ll have to contact the author of that product, rather than contacting WordPress. This might seem a bit burdensome at first, but in practice it has created a rich and vibrant ecosystem of options to choose from. If you’re starting a Real Estate company—there’s Real Estate WordPress Themes; if you’re starting a cooking blog—there’s recipe management plugins; if you’re starting a support forum—there’s forum plugins and themes! No one company could conceivably manage all these interest-based solutions. WordPress ‘ huge market share percentage has created a huge incentive for third party developers to create these types of solutions. With so much demand, third parties are able to devote insane amounts of development resources into products and feel confident they’ll turn a profit. For example, a typical WordPress theme sells for $59.

Final Considerations

Content Management Systems (CMS) are among the most-essential aspects of any modern website. They allow the easy manipulation of content for your website in such a way that negates much of the need to fiddle with backend code. Even the largest, most well-financed websites in the world integrate some form of CMS to help team members interact with it. WordPress ‘ stature within the CMS market is nothing short of legendary. It’s thought that more than 20% of all websites on the Internet today are built on WordPress. This insane adoption rate has created a robust and plentiful marketplace of WordPress Themes and Plugins that allow the easy extension of the WordPress Core in such a way as to address the needs of nearly any website. There are several great places to buy WordPress Themes and Plugins online but all should be approach with careful consideration. Third party products don’t always play well with one another and poorly-coded plugins and themes can often cause an entire website to grind to a halt. Knowing which authors to trust, learning how to discern quality products, and restraining yourself from adding too many plugins can help ensure your website’s success. If you’re planning on starting a blog, an affiliate website, an eCommerce website, or any number of other websites—WordPress offers a powerful solution capable of addressing the needs of almost every use case.