Thursday, 23 May 2013 23:39

Should I use Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal? (Part 1 of 4)

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It depends. I’ve had clients dictate to me that I must build their website with Wordpress. I’ve had others who only want Joomla. Yet, others will swear by Drupal. There are plenty of bloggers who will tell you that one is better than the other. But, does it really matter?

Each of the big 3 CMSs have their strengths and their weaknesses. Generally speaking, these CMS platforms are relatively similar. You can build almost any type of website with these platforms. Let’s take a look at some of their strengths and weaknesses and then reconsider which is better for your purposes. In this blog post we’re going to discuss Wordpress. The other two CMSs will be discussed in subsequent blog posts.

Strengths Weaknesses
Great for blogging Sanitized HTML
User friendly Core is too lightweight
No HTML knowledge needed Susceptible to hacking
Large support community Customizing layouts can be a chore
Tons of plugins and themes  
One-click updates  
Lightweight core  

Over the last few years Wordpress’s popularity has skyrocketed. Originally Wordpress was just used for blogging, but not a very user-friendly blogging platform. So, the people over at Wordpress headquarters got to work. The improvements they made were significant. The result was a lightweight, user-friendly CMS platform that helps bloggers focus on blogging. The fan based swelled and a new army of happy bloggers and Wordpress advocates showed up at Wordpress HQ. Their hard work paid off and it’s safe to say that “Wordpress makes blogging so easy that a ____ can do it!” You don’t even need to know HTML.

Setting Up a Wordpress Site

Installing a Wordpress site can be pretty darn easy. Most hosting companies provide a one-click install feature. No need to worry about setting up the database or anything else. Once installed, you can start creating content. The back-end user interface, called the Dashboard, is designed specifically for someone who wants to blog. In the Wordpress dashboard, all the important functions are listed on the left hand side of the screen, with “Posts” at the top. If you want to add a new blog post, just hover your mouse over “Posts” and click “Add New” on the slide-out menu. On the “add new post” screen, type in the title of your post. Then, type in (or paste in) your content into the editor window. To add an image to that post, place your cursor where you want the image to appear and click the “Add Media” button. Finally, click the blue “Publish” button on the right hand side of your screen. By default Wordpress will publish that post onto the homepage of your Wordpress site. It’s as simple as that! Adding pages to your Wordpress site is just as easy. You only need to link them to a menu or use the Permalink to access the page.

Customizing your Wordpress website

Adding features and functionality to a Wordpress site is easy as well. There are a ton of Wordpress themes, widgets and plugins available that you can buy. Most are free. Installing plugins and themes are usually a one-click affair. Installing some themes with special features may require more technical knowledge. If that is the case, the theme developers will include installation instructions that are easy to follow and support via forum.

Depending on the theme you choose, you may also have a multitude of styling options and layout features available. If you want to add a feature to your site, there’s a plugin for that. The Wordpress developer community is large. They are constantly pumping out new plugins, widgets and themes on a daily basis. If you get stuck with something, you need only visit the developer’s website or do a search online and you’ll most likely find a solution. Wordpress has a very large community of aficionados who have either had your same problem and/or are simply willing to help you out of your situation.

Under the Wordpress hood

The Wordpress core, out of the box, is pretty lightweight. This means that your Wordpress site should load rather quickly, if not instantaneously. Because of Wordpress’s simple content structure, it is SEO friendly by default. A few years ago, Wordpress sites were easily outranking other CMSs on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). Other CMSs took note. That added benefit no longer exists because other CMSs adopted similar practices. Now-a-days all CMSs have equally benefited from the growth of SEO plugins. Probably the most popular SEO plugin for Wordpress is Yoast, which is free. With all the updates to HTML and Google’s search algorithm, SEO has changed so much that it is necessary to use a plugin like Yoast.

The good people over at Wordpress devised a very cool feature, the one-click update. They were pioneers in this technology. When a new security update comes out, you’ll see a message in your dashboard telling you to click the “Update Now” link to update. That’s it! To update your plugins, just visit the plugins section of your site. You’ll see update alerts. Click those links to update your plugins. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that you need to backup your site first. Usually updating produces no problems, but there is always a chance. So please backup your site AND your database before you upgrade and you’ll be fine.

Wordpress Security Concerns

Because there is also a very large hackers community, securing your Wordpress site is critical. No one is immune to malware. To protect against hacking, you need to keep your Wordpress site up to date with the latest security updates. You also need to update your plugins! The biggest source of Wordpress hacks are plugins. This is also a very big weakness of Wordpress. Because the Wordpress platform is pretty lightweight out of the box, site owners are tempted to install a gazillion plugins to add desired features and functionality to their site. Also, many site owners don’t know HTML that well, if at all. This also increases the temptation to install a plugin to do something that can be done with some HTML code. Some of these plugins are poorly developed. Others aren’t maintained on a regular basis. With so many plugin and widget developers, you can easily install a poorly developed plugin that compromises your site’s security; the end result being an infectiously contagious website and/or spam center. This is why I generally discourage website owners from installing a bunch of plugins.

Wordpress Weaknesses

It is true that one of Wordpress’s strengths is its lightweight core. The core is what you get “out of the box.” This alas is a double edged sword for it is also a weakness. Websites and their owners have evolved quite a bit over the last 10+ years. The current landscape pushes website owners to incorporate many features and functionalities into their site. These functionalities include mobile-ready (responsive) sites, blogs, online stores, portability, information gathering, social features, etc. Of course, adding more built-in functionality will make Wordpress more complex, which would turn off many of their advocates. Maybe the makers of Wordpress should create a “Commercial” version. I’m not sure of the answer, but one feature that I’d like to see in the Wordpress core is an “Offline for maintenance” type of feature.

Another weakness of the Wordpress core is its inability to have multiple layouts for multiple pages. Let’s say you want to feature a widget in the side bar of one page, but not on another. To accomplish this, you need to either buy a theme with this functionality or create a new page template. Creating a page template requires some knowledge of PHP. PHP is a programming language used for building websites. Most site owners barely know HTML! This means a Wordpress website owner must hire someone who knows PHP to do these types of things. It would be awesome if you could assign different widgets to different pages right out of the box, even with the bland default theme.

I’ve stated earlier that you don’t need to know any HTML to manage a Wordpress website. One of the reasons is that Wordpress adds HTML code for you, sometimes awkwardly. You can’t see it, but it’s there. Older versions of Wordpress featured a text button on the “Add New Post/Page” screens that would actually show you some of the HTML. The “Text” button in the latest version of Wordpress barely shows any HTML whatsoever. You don’t even see <p> tags! It’s clear to me that the developers of Wordpress are digging in their heels on making this platform simple. In that regard they are defining their core customer which may or may not be you.

The Ideal Wordpress User

In summation, Wordpress makes it easy to build a blog site without much knowledge of HTML. It’s main weakness is that it is so simple. Those of us who know HTML and have more complex needs, Wordpress could be frustrating to use. I would like to reiterate, that you can build just about any type of website with Wordpress. But in my estimation, it’s designed primarily for bloggers who want to add some extra functionality and features without getting too complicated.

I hope you found value in this post. Stay tuned for the next blog post where I’ll be reviewing Joomla’s strengths and weaknesses.

Read 20681 times Last modified on Friday, 24 May 2013 01:16
Steve Dukes | Owner/CEO - Webhosting and Beyond, LLC

Steve Dukes is the Owner/CEO of Webhosting and Beyond, LLC and has been building websites since 2007. He originally just wanted to blog, but later found himself building websites for friends and later busienss owners. After which, he started Webhosting and Beyond, offering web hosting, web design, domain registration, and eCommerce websites.

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