I commissioned this article on WordPress pros and cons for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m a big fan of using WordPress to create my sites – including this one. Secondly, I’ve been asked many times about getting started with blogging recently. In fact, in my step-by-step guide to freelance writing, I suggest starting a blog as a key part of the process.
While there are loads of “blogging for beginners” articles online, many of them forget that most people are complete technical novices when they start their first blog. These articles incorrectly assume a certain level of knowledge. That’s why I thought it a good idea to ask someone who describes herself as a “complete novice” to write this WordPress pros and cons article!
So, with that explained, I’ll hand you over to her.
Lots of HomeWorkingClub readers would love to start a blog, but find the whole idea rather daunting. Six months ago I took the plunge and began a blog of my own. I was a total novice, but I knew I wanted to write, and blogging seemed to be a good way to start. Almost immediately, I came across the question that all bloggers eventually face: Should I use WordPress? If you’re new to creating online, your next thought might very well be: WordPress? What’s that? So let’s start there.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) for websites. That means it is what you use to put content onto your site. WordPress is not the only CMS out there, but it is one of the largest. It’s also the most widely-used in the blogging world. TechCrunch, Sony and Microsoft are just a few of the big-name companies that use WordPress. WordPress is an open-source software developed by thousands of volunteers over many years, and is free for anyone to use. When it comes to WordPress pros and cons, the first of the cons is that – rather confusingly – there seem to be two names associated with WordPress:
WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
WordPress.com is a service owned by a company called Automattic. In the .com version of WordPress, you get everything you need to set up, giving your blog a “home” and an “address” on the internet as well as a way to put content onto your site. It’s a great way to get started really quickly with no existing knowledge. There is even a free version of WordPress.com which means that you can set up with no initial costs. However, your website will reflect that in its name, which will have the structure of myblogname.wordpress.com. There are also various paid options which give you more storage space and features.
WordPress.org is the same underlying CMS system. You use it when you buy your own domain from a web hosting provider. There are a huge number of those to choose from. WordPress.org is free, but you have to pay the domain company to host your website, so there are initial and ongoing costs to consider. (EDITOR’S NOTE: HomeWorkingClub.com recommends Dreamhost for this. It’s where HWC itself is located, and where I’ve hosted numerous sites for myself and for clients over the years. I particularly recommend it for its support, which is always top-notch, and particularly useful for novices. You can find Dreamhost here). I’d read complaints that WordPress is difficult to install on your own hosting. That may have been true in the past, but most hosts (including Dreamhost) offer 1-click installation. Mine certainly did, and it was easy to do. If you’re in any way serious about blogging, and hope one day to make even a little money from it, it makes FAR more sense to start with WordPress.ORG rather than WordPress.COM.
My Experience With WordPress.org
Choosing A Theme
A theme provides the template for the way your website is displayed online. WordPress provides a number of free themes as well as “Premium Themes” which you have to pay for. There are many other companies that also provide themes, both free and paid. They all have demos which often look fantastic, and are usually well-categorised. You can choose a blogging, business, or magazine-style theme for example.
One place that’s particularly worth looking at, to get an idea of what’s possible with WordPress themes, is ThemeForest. If you search for long enough, you might find the one used to create HomeWorkingClub!
WordPress Pros and Cons: Theme Woes!
One downside is that the template you get often looks nothing like the fancy demo when you install it! It usually comes as a blank canvas, with settings and limitations as to what you can and cannot do. You then have to set it up the way you want it, and, in my case, that proved to be the hardest thing for me to do. Sometimes themes do give you the ability to install all the “demo content,” but turning that into what you actually want can involve a big learning curve too! Fortunately, you can try some themes out before you commit. And even when you’ve got it all set up, those others will remain available to you should you wish to switch. It’s probably a good idea to do all your tampering early on, before you have too many things up and running which could be affected if you decide to radically change your blog design.
I tried out several WordPress free themes before going with Seventeen. It was quite easy to set up, although it has some limitations which frustrate me a bit. For example, I’ve tried – and failed – multiple times to put a newsletter or contact form into the sidebar, and I can’t put my legal pages down into the footer where they belong. Grr.
With my decision made, I was still a little confused by the setup process. However, Google is your friend when in need, so I did a search for Seventeen Theme set up and found a video that walked me through the whole process. That went well until the demonstrator started setting up his legal pages in the footer, and used something that wasn’t there in my version of the theme!
Once I finally got my theme organized, I was no longer daunted by WordPress. It doesn’t take long to find your way around the dashboard, and now that I’m used to it, I find it quite easy to use. I like the fact that you can do everything in visual mode (you type and the words come up) but can also switch formats and see all the HTML and CSS coding.
How to Get Help
One of the big plusses of WordPress is that there are a huge number of teaching articles on the web. They cover every aspect of WordPress and you can also ask questions in forums. Some themes have live help options too, where you can chat to someone in real-time or send an email. And of course there’s always Google, directing you to multiple bloggers and YouTubers who have posted content about blogging. Facebook groups can be a great help too.
And naturally, there are also plenty of courses you can take online.
Inevitable Expenses of WordPress
If you take the basic WordPress.com route then there are no real costs involved, but your website doesn’t really belong to you and your options to monetize are seriously limited. That’s why most blogging courses urge you to use WordPress.org because with that you actually own and have full control over your website. Minimum set-up costs include an annual domain registration fee, monthly or annual hosting, and the cost of any essential plugins. You’ll need a good backup plugin to make sure that you can restore your site if things go wrong, for example. Fortunately, many plugins have a free version and a premium, paid one so you can try them out for nothing and scale up if you need to.
A budget of around $100 should be enough to get you through your first year, and that’s using a decent and reliable company like Dreamhost.
WordPress is not the only CMS out there. When I asked on blogging Facebook groups about other options, people mentioned Joomla, Drupal, Weebly and Wix. Joomla and Drupal are both considerably more complicated than WordPress. The reasons people gave for using things like Weebly and Wix were that they thought WordPress seemed too complicated and took too much time to learn. While there is a lot to learn, the learning curve really isn’t that bad if you take things steadily.
Considering the WordPress Pros and Cons
It’s wise to think about your own needs and the reason you need a website. One reason there are so many alternatives is that they all serve different needs. I thought long and hard before deciding to go the WordPress.org route. In the end, it came down to thinking about my own business goals. They include working as a VA for other bloggers, and the majority of them use WordPress.org – so I needed to know my way around it.
If you just want to quickly set up a website for your business, and will not be interested in changing it or getting into the coding side of things, then a one-stop-shop like SquareSpace or Weebly may be the way to go.
However, WordPress is much more flexible and scalable and if cost is a particularly limiting factor, you can always start with a free option.
- WordPress.com is a web hosting company.
- The .com platform provides a free website option, but you won’t own that website.
- WordPress.org is a Content Management System.
- WordPress.org is the option usually recommended for bloggers wishing to make money from their blogs, either immediately or later on.
- Help is readily available: the web is awash with articles and videos on the topic.
- There are many other options available, and the more you look the more you’ll find.
It’s easy to become paralysed by all the information and options. Many people give up and never get started. The process of setting up a website can be daunting and confusing when you are new to it. However, my advice is to do a bit of research and then just decide and go for it. Remember: practice makes perfect. Whichever option you choose, once you get to know it I’m pretty sure you’ll wonder why you were ever worried. Hopefully, this account of my experiences has helped you get a good idea of the main WordPress pros and cons.
Lyn is the author of Culture Smart NZ (2022). A freelance writer and blogger from New Zealand, she specialises in content for lifestyle magazines, blogs, podcasts and virtual summits. You’ll find her blog on writing, farm life & talented New Zealanders at lynmcnamee.com