What is WordPress (and what can it do for your small business)?

A rare and precious thing

Your small business needs a website. Whether you sell the best hand-knit scarves this side of Tibet or the tastiest gluten-free cookies on the block, a website is how many (if not most) customers will find you. And the good news is, there’s a website building platform that is trusted by millions of small businesses across the world — WordPress. So, what is WordPress, exactly?

The function of WordPress is inherent in its name. Do you know how to write words? Can you press buttons? Then you’re practically an expert already.

So what is WordPress?

WordPress is what we call a content management system (CMS). Essentially, it allows you to write, edit, organize and distribute your content on the internet — all without writing a single line of code.

If you can write, edit and save a Word document, you can learn to publish using WordPress.

WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world and currently powers about a third of all websites. And there’s some darned good reasons why: it’s flexible, stable and has a worldwide ecosystem of thousands of developers and creators who build on top of it. Best of all, they share.

Wait, isn’t WordPress only for blogging?

What is WordPress Man on Laptop
WordPress is an excellent blogging platform. But it’s also great for building websites.

Nope. While WordPress began as a blogging tool, today it powers millions of websites that do everything from eCommerce to multimedia publishing to helping small businesses get noticed.

When you think about publishing, remember that we’re not just referring to blog posts. Any content you put on the web is published — whether it’s a restaurant menu, the list of services at a dental clinic or images of the scarves you sell. WordPress allows for simple publishing of pages, galleries, lists, contact information and anything else your business wants to share.

Of course WordPress does make blogging easier, and that can have positive implications for the visibility of your business in search engines. We call this search engine optimization, and along with choosing a .ca domain name, it is one of the best ways to ensure your business is found by Canadians online.

Can I customize a WordPress site for my brand?

One of the great things about WordPress is how easy it is to make your website look just the way you want.

Because it is the most popular publishing platform on the web, WordPress has an army of developers and designers who have built thousands of custom themes for every kind of business imaginable.

The first step in building a WordPress website is choosing the right theme.

While many of these themes are free, for only a small cost (usually less than $100) you can purchase a pre-built theme that suits your industry. The best way to start is to visit a WordPress theme site such as Envato Market and browse the categories to find one that matches your business.

Remember, while the free templates are tempting, paying a little extra for a more unique look will help differentiate your business from all the others online. If you’re really looking to make a splash, you can hire a local developer to build something completely custom.

Related: Where to find website templates and themes for an online clothing store

What’s this I hear about plug-ins?

Although every business is unique, it’s unlikely that the super-special thing your website needs hasn’t already been built by someone else.

What is WordPress Lego Army
WordPress is backed by a global army of developers who are constantly improving on it.

Which brings us to another great advantage of WordPress: the thousands of plug-ins that have been developed by the global WordPress community. Plug-ins add features to the standard platform.

Appointment scheduling? Check. eCommerce functionality? Uh huh. Photo galleries? Yup.

WordPress plug-ins are simple to manage, update and use. You can browse the list of WordPress plug-ins to see if the one you need is available (spoiler alert: it is).

Ok but what about security?

Security is essential. In Canada, if your website manages customer data, it is subject to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which means you have to take security seriously.

While no website platform is hacker-proof, WordPress has the benefit of a huge install base and millions of users around the world who are watching out for bugs and vulnerabilities. WordPress issues security patches often, and the process to upgrade your site to the latest version is as simple as clicking a button.

Having such a large online presence does make WordPress a target, but it is among the best platforms in the world at staying ahead of the hackers.

Fine, but this is going to be expensive right?

With all these wonderful features and benefits, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that there’s no way a small business could afford such a lavish platform.

WordPress is open source and free to use for anyone.

 

You will need to pay for a domain name and website hosting but if you use a free WordPress template, your monthly cost is very low.

Another hosting option is Managed WordPress, which saves you the hassle of managing server installs, backups and security updates. It also includes a free domain name, email and round-the-clock support in case you get stuck.

Related: Hosting for your WordPress website: what you need to know

What is WordPress? Amazing

What is WordPress Woman on Laptop
WordPress is not owned by a company; it belongs to the world. Crazy but true.

While you may think the majority of your customers find you just by walking down the street, research shows that people use the internet to look for options — even for local services. In fact, in the last two years, Google has seen a 500 per cent increase in “near me” searches.

Will they find your business? Make sure they do — with a WordPress website.

Image by: Eric M Martin on CC BY-NC-ND