The three big content management systems (CMS) today are as follows:
This article is about WordPress, one of those big three. WordPress used to be just a blog but has quickly evolved into a full featured content management system due to the endless plug-in capabilities, and the fact that its open source and developers all over the world are creating CMS-capabilities that plug right into WordPress very easily, including what I call “name brand plug-ins” like Google Analytics and Amazon Associates. There’s also the ability to automatically update one’s Twitter and Facebook account directly from WordPress by installing the right plug-in(s). And as of September 2010, there’s WordPress apps for the IPhone and IPad to boot!
Two Kinds of WordPress Websites
First of all, there are two kinds of WordPress websites. There’s the website you can create for free at www.wordpress.com. These type of WordPress sites are hosted by WordPress, and you don’t have full control over what plug-ins you can install, and the template selections are limited. You also cannot upload your own templates, and there’s no FTP access. Despite this, wordpress.com is a great solution if you just need a very simple website, particularly if all you need is a blog.
Then there is the type of WordPress website like the website you’re on right now, that has its own hosting environment, where the WordPress application is installed into that space. When your WordPress website is setup this way, you can install endless templates and plug-ins for your website, easily found by searching the World Wide Web. All plug-ins I’ve seen to-date are FREE (although many developers allow you to give an optional donation to thank them for their hard work but this is not necessary to download or install the plug-in). And there are tons of FREE templates for WordPress too. Some of the more “premium” templates will cost you money, but usually under $100. And most templates are easily customizable.
The template itself is the main graphic layout and images for the website. So for example if you need a caterer and desire a food-oriented template just do a Google search for “WordPress template food” and many results should come up and you can pick and choose different ones to try out. What is cool about WordPress, which is true with most CMS solutions, is that you can change your template as often as desired without affecting the content that has been entered. This site is using what is commonly referred to as a “magazine template.” But you can find daycare school templates, computer services templates, church templates, etc. Just about anything you can imagine is out there, no matter what type of site you are building. A great template and great plug-ins are perfect matches for the most effective WordPress websites (and don’t forget good content, too).
Plug-ins seamlessly extend the functionality of the WordPress website; the visitor to the website can not tell what plug-ins are installed or being used to supercharge your website. (I’ll have to do a whole separate blog on my favorite plug-ins with links to each one.) To install templates or plug-ins, there’s often an “install” link that will automatically install the desired item right into your WordPress hosted site, as long as you’re already logged into WordPress. Or you can download the template or plug-in, then “upload” and install it. This is all easy and painless and there are a number of tutorials on You Tube that can show you how to do this step by step. If you are a caterer, for example, you might be interested in the plug-in that allows you to create a dynamic and searchable recipe database on your site.
Your Total Cost Can Be Under $100 Per Year
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. First, you need a Host where you can install WordPress. And this is the ONLY COST you have to pay, folks. I recommend Bluehost by the mere fact that the official WordPress website also recommends Bluehost (among other hosts). Bluehost is only $87 per YEAR. (If you signup for Bluehost, please use my special affiliate link so that I get credit for referring you). Again, that’s the ONLY COST you have to pay, besides your domain name, which is usually just $10 or $15 bucks per year. I figure go with a host that WordPress recommends, instead of any generic host, since Bluehost will probably always support the very latest/recent versions of WordPress and be quicker to help resolve WordPress-related problems and glitches since it’s recommended by them. And you can even recoup the hosting and registrar fees by charging for ad space.
If you go with Bluehost, all you do is log into the Bluehost control panel and install WORDPRESS from there. Easy as pie. If you need help in any way, just call Bluehost’s free technical support or enter a support ticket through their website. What also is cool with using a web host where you install WordPress into your own space is that you can have as many websites on that one space as you want, each with their own domain names. That’s right. As many websites as you care to build, each with their own domain name, all with their own set of templates and plug-ins and content, all for $87 a year. Now that’s affordable! And no, they don’t even charge extra for multiple domain name pointers or aliases the way some webhosts try to charge you for this. Both the Bluehost and WordPress control panels are intuitive and easy to use, even for someone not good on the computer. Droopal and Joomla seems to be more difficult for end-users to use, in comparison.
Sometimes there might be a need for a more custom solution. For example, I recently launched a website for an author/speaker where we created his WordPress template created from scratch—just for him. So you can do that also. Have a graphic designer/artist design your website template in Adobe PhotoShop (.PSD), then have that designer (or find a programmer) to “acclimate” or configure your template to “become” a WordPress template so that it installs into a WordPress website so that you will have all of wonderful WordPress CMS capabilities. With CSS and PHP, you can custom rig just about anything in WordPress. And with plug-ins, you can make just about any functionality possible!
So that’s the big scoop! Goodbye are the days of expensive websites, or websites that boast CMS tools that you must pay lofty monthly fees for. I’ve seen some church CMS solutions charge up to $150 a month if you have over 500 church members! And even smaller church CMS solutions charge $35 a month. It’s simply too much money to pay these days. It’s not needed. You can have your website be just as “spectacular” (with flash and everything else, if that’s the kind of thing you want) using WordPress. I will be creating a few other websites for friends and acquaintances using WordPress and will link to them to illustrate that WordPress is a pretty powerful CMS-rich tool. It wasn’t when it very first came out, but now it is shining bright and rightly deserves the label CMS and deserves to be listed with the other popular “industry standard” CMS solutions: Joomla and Droopal.
So that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. Hope this post helps someone out there in cyberland. Feel free to comment below. Also see my related blog on “Free Website Tools.” It’s a recession, people. Stop paying too much (unnecessarily) for website solutions.