Why I use WordPress for website management

Over the 15+ years I’ve been building business and community websites, I’ve used all kinds of products to develop quality content management systems. Like most long-time web developers I can hand-code websites in HTML and add advanced functionality using Javascript, DHTML, Flash and other coding languages. But more and more these days I prefer to use what the developer community is creating and maintaining for me, rather than building my own.

At one time I even wrote my own web content management system using Microsoft’s ASP language and code snippets written by the developer community … and I have to say it was pretty damn good and we even created some useful new functionality that went back into the developer community and was used by others. But those days are coming to an end too.

The evolution of WordPress as a community-generated content management system has been nothing less than stunning. These days, anyone can create a blog or website using WordPress.com and start publishing. Of course most of these (99.9% and more) will fail because the people developing them have no more idea of what they are doing than the person creating business flyers with MS Publisher and a photocopier. I’m not saying don’t do it this way, buy I am saying that if you are serious about doing business online, or building an online community, you need to do a heck of a lot more than create a WordPress blog!

Of course WordPress itself goes a long way further than the “blogger” version hosted at WordPress.com. The platform used to create that site is freely downloadable and can be used to create your own self-managed websites, even your own version of WordPress.com if that’s what you want.

Since it was first released in 2003, WordPress has become the most-used platform worldwide for self-hosted blogs – that is, websites that are created and managed by their owners. But I suspect you would be quite surprised to find that some of the world’s best websites are also built on the WordPress platform, websites like:

Nokia Conversations TechCrunch Best Buy
Pepsi Refresh Everything Blog

SModcast Internet Radio

SModcast Internet Radio

90 Days of Art

90 Days of Art

What these sites show me is that you can use WordPress as a platform to build almost any kind of website imaginable. While most people think of it as a blogging platform, developers like myself are using it to create amazing online magazines, e-commerce stores, coupon sites, product promotional websites, photography and web design showcases and much more.

One of the things that makes WordPress such a great platform to develop websites with is the huge developer community behind WordPress that is constantly creating new themes, new development frameworks and, most importantly, new plugins that extend the functionality of WordPress way beyond its original vision as a blogging platform.

I’ll write a lot more about my favorite WordPress themes and plugins in another future post, but for now I’ll just mention a few that really stand out for me as an experienced web developer – plugins that take WordPress sites way beyond what most users would ever imagine:

  • WordPress Wiki – want to build your own “Wikipedia” style website, but don’t like how complicated the idea of having to learn how MediaWiki works? You can use this plugin to turn your WordPress website into a wiki where your users can help build and refine the knowledge.
  • WP e-commerce – this adds a fully integrated shopping cart to your WordPress website where you can sell actual or virtual products of almost any kind and even add simple integration to online payment systems like Paypal, Google Checkout and more.
  • Woo Tumblog – if you’d like to build your own social sharing website like Tumblr.com, this is the plug-in that will help you do it.
  • BuddyPress – social networking in a box, helping you to create your own private or public social network.
  • Event Espresso – transforms any website into an events calendar and event management system, complete with bookings and payments.
  • WordPress Directory – if you’d like to build your own local search engine, this plugin provides the framework to create a Yellow Pages style directory in WordPress.

There are so many more plugins I could rave about here, but I think you’ll be getting the picture by now of just how powerful WordPress can be as a website development platform, rather than just a blogging platform. In fact, I enjoy exploring what can be done with WordPress so much that I’ve started developing some websites of my own that showcase the use of various template and plugin combinations, sites like:

Travel Tips Thailand – a travel blog and travel magazine that allows me an outlet for my passion of writing about my favourite travel destinations. It uses a combination of plugins and themes that links every post to Google Maps, to my Flickr photo albums for the location, and to affiliate travel companies who can book flights, accommodation and tours to these locations and fund the ongoing development of the website.

If you’d like to explore what you and I can do together to create something special using WordPress as a platform, or if you’d just like to find out how to make your existing WordPress website do what you really wanted it to do, send me an email and we’ll talk about it. My rates are very reasonable.

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