When starting an online business one of the very first questions is what platform to use. One of the most popular choices is starting and online business with WordPress.
You may have heard the name WordPress being bandied around but may be unsure about what exactly it is. Not a problem! In this article we’ll have a look at what exactly WordPress is and how best to build an online business with WordPress.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a content management system or CMS.
Ugh! An acronym right out of the gate. Sorry!
Also, what on earth is a content management system? I admit – it’s a pretty crappy definition. Doesn’t mean much really.
WordPress has their own definition to try to help people “get” what they actually do. They refer to WordPress as a factory that makes webpages. Pretty cool definition I think.
Think of WordPress as the “behind the scenes” workings of a website. It’s where you can make webpages like a Homepage or blog articles like the one you are reading right now.You can also use WordPress to build more advanced functions like eCommerce which is basically an online shop.
The great thing about WordPress is that is does a lot of the heavy lifting for you. It deals with a lot of the technical issues that are involved in building a website.
Ever heard about HTML? That’s how websites used to get made. By writing line by line what the website should contain.
This is by the way a massive oversimplification. But still useful.
A tool like WordPress instead allows a non-techie to build and maintain a good looking website without ever having to touch a line of code.
You can get into the code of WordPress. But you don’t have to. Instead it’s all a lot more intuitive. In fact if you’ve ever writing a document in a tool like Word then you can write and publish a blog article in WordPress no problem.
Careful! WordPress.com versus WordPress.org
A common pitfall when getting set up with WordPress is the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org
If you type WordPress into Google they both come up. And they have the same name. But they are entirely different – pretty dumb!
WordPress.com is a blogging platform. It’s like Tumblr or Blogger or Medium.
You can use wordpress.com to host a blog that you can easily update and never have to worry about anything technical. You might have seen websites with addresses like mygreatblog.wordpress.com. These are blogs hosted on WordPress.com
WordPress.org on the other hand is the “factory that makes websites” that we discussed above. WordPress.org is what we really mean when we talk about WordPress.
Whenever we talk about running an online business with WordPress we mean WordPress.org and NOT WordPress.com.
If you’ve fallen into this confusion you aren’t the first.
And you won’t be the last!
Squarespace for online business
What about Squarespace? Or Wix? Or Weebly?
“Shouldn’t I use Squarespace for my online business? I heard about them on my favourite podcast and they sound pretty good!”
We hear this a lot. And with good reason. Squarespace is a really good tool for building a website. It’s a really good tool for certain online businesses too.
However, it doesn’t have the flexibility of a tool like WordPress when it comes to running an online business.
A lot of work we’ve done in the past as a digital marketing agency or just working with students and friends has been getting them off Squarespace onto a proper website for an online business.
Squarespace (and the other page builders) are really great for starting out. But you will hit limitations pretty quickly.
It’ll go a little something like this:
“Hey I’ve got a great site on Squarespace. People love it. It’s easy to use. Looks great. But…..I need to add a way for customers to do ABC”
“Well….Squarespace doesn’t support doing ABC. So…we can find a workaround maybe?”
“Cool great that worked perfectly. Now that’s up and running we need to make sure that they can XYZ”
“Ah…again, Squarespace isn’t built for that and anything we do will be a bit of a hack job. Here’s how to do it though.”
“Oh no it was all going so well until ABC started to conflict with XYZ! Why is this happening? I thought Squarespace did all of this!!!”
Basic platforms like Squarespace are excellent for basic pages but as soon as you start adding anything customised to your business you’ll get into a world of hurt.
Because of this when we take clients we flat out refused to do any work that relied on or built of these sort of pages. Instead we’d tell the client that they needed a scalable site in place otherwise doing the marketing work we need to do we need a proper professional infrastructure.
Listen – we get it. If you are technologically illiterate it’s very understandable that you want the minimum of fuss. Two issues here: i) if you want an online business you’re going to have to learn the basics of, you know, “online stuff” and ii) by making the wrong decision now you are opening yourself up to a FAR more technical headaches in the future.
Think starting an online business on a certain platform is hard?
Try MIGRATING an online business from one platform to another!
If you are starting out and have any expectations of growth (and you should!) it makes sense to start with something that can grow with you.
Now, normally someone would tell you this if they were trying to sell you a more advanced (and pricey!) solution.
But here’s the kicker: WordPress is FREE.
In fact – if I wanted to make money I’d be suggesting you use Squarespace. By referring you there I’d get a % of your payment each month. Why’d you think your favourite podcast talks about Squarespace so much huh?
Online business with WordPress – wrap up
In another article I’ll go through all the (many) benefits of building your online business using WordPress.
The long and short of it though is that it’s simply going to be (for the vast majority of you) the best choice of platform. Not wordpress.com (careful) and not a page builder like Squarespace. WordPress is used by the majority of the online businesses you visit already and for good reason.
In fact: here’s a fun test. Think of your favourite and most visited blogs and businesses online.
Grab their web addresses and throw them into https://builtwith.com/. This tool spits out a lot of information.
Look specifically for this section on Content Management System:
A lot of the time this will be WordPress. Now this won’t work with an Amazon.com or a Newyorktimes.com but remember these guys spend millions (or in Amazon’s case billions with a B) on custom web infrastucture. So scale down a little from them and you’ll start seeing it’s all WordPress.
Want to get REAL sneaky? Head to https://whatwpthemeisthat.com/ and you’ll be able to see what specific WordPress tools they are using. Specifically you can find out their WordPress theme and discover their plugins. If you want to emulate an existing site this gives you a huge leg up.
Right now though just go dig around and prove to yourself that a LOT of other sites are using WordPress. Hopefully this will help you realise that building your online business with WordPress is a good call.