March 9, 2017 | Sarah Danks
How Do Websites Get Built, Anyway?
If you’re interested in building a website — or hiring a company to do it for you — you probably already know there are two ways to build sites:
Back in the day (let’s not ask how far back that is, ok?) pretty much all websites were static. That is, they were built in code editors and then transferred to the web host.
Any and all changes a webmaster wanted to make to a static site — no matter how simple — had to be done via the code editor, after ensuring you were working on the most current version of the local files, making your changes, then uploading the updated files to the “online version,” etc. etc. etc.
With dynamic sites, however, the code editor is built right into the website itself. Most commonly referred to as a content management system (CMS): you log in, edit whatever it is you want to update, hit “publish” and voilà — the website is updated!
No need to work off local files vs. online; no muss, no fuss.
To put it in simpler terms, you can choose to build a website the hard way (static website) or you can take the much easier road (dynamic website).
Really, the easy way is just taking a website and putting it on a platform that allows people who aren’t code-savvy (read: most of the human race) to make edits quickly and easily.
Here’s the deal, a little over half the websites online today (~53%) don’t use any CMS, but back in 2011, 76.4% of websites weren’t using them (source). So the world wide web has come a long way in terms of efficiency.
Choosing a Content Management System
Content management systems are the obvious choice for building a website.
Now the question is: which CMS should you choose to power your website?
There are a myriad of content management options from which to choose — so it basically boils down to a few questions you need to answer:
- What functionalities do you want your CMS to have?
- Does it need to be easy for anyone to use?
- How much are you willing to pay?
- How customizable is it?
- Is it well supported?
Unless you’re willing to pay for a robust content management system — or have someone build one for you — we suggest going the free route. There are a lot of options when it comes to free CMS platforms, but our favorite is WordPress.
Why do we use WordPress here at ThinkSEM? Because it does everything we need it to. It wasn’t always this way — for a while we were using the PageLime content management system — but once we switched over to WordPress we’ve never looked back.
WordPress: It’s Not Just For Blogs Anymore
I remember starting my first (personal) blog waaaaaaaaay back in the year 2005 A.D. Not sure which platform I wanted to use, I started blogs on both Blogger and WordPress.
Why did I choose those two platforms? Because they were blogging platforms, of course!
When WordPress first started out, it wasn’t as easy to use as Blogger (IMO), but over the years they made many improvements so I didn’t feel I had to be an IT geek in order to use it.
But in spite of said improvements, many website developers still didn’t consider WordPress to be custom website building material, so it pretty much stayed within the realm of bloggers.
Fast forward many years and here we are at ThinkSEM, using solely WordPress to build custom websites and themes for our clients. We’ve been doing so since 2013…
…why? Like I said, it does everything we need it to.
But we’re not the only ones who think this CMS is the bomb — check out this nifty statistic from W3Techs:
“WordPress is used by 58.8% of all the websites whose content management system we know.
This is 27.6% of all websites.”
It would seem that WordPress is by far and away the content management system of choice. That’s one of the (many) reasons we like it; not because it’s popular, but because it’s well supported.
According to Built With data, here are CMS usage stats as of March 2017:
Pretty cool, huh?
But before you download the latest version and switch your website over, better take a look at the pros and cons — just because it’s the most popular CMS on the web today doesn’t mean it’s necessarily for you.
WordPress Pros & Cons
There’s an easy way to decide whether or not you like something: get a piece of paper and a writing utensil (there’s nothing QUITE like a freshly sharpened pencil and a blank sheet of paper, amirite?), draw a line down the middle and list all the pros on one side and the cons on the other.
You can use the same method to decide whether WordPress is the CMS for you. Take a look:
Directly from our designer/developer’s mouth (that’s Dave; for those of you who don’t know he’s extremely good at what he does), here’s why we choose to build all our websites and Themes plus designs using WordPress:
- highly supported by the community
- don’t have to be a developer to use it
- choose from pre-existing templates/themes
- OR build a fully custom website from scratch
- quickly and easily make updates
- myriad of platform-specific plug-ins to do the “hard work” for you
- many hosting options that specialize solely in WordPress
But, as with anything in life, nothing is all positive — you know there’ve gotta be some cons.
- plug-ins (either the wrong ones or too many) can crash your website
- un-supported plug-ins can cause you to get hacked
- not keeping up-to-date with the latest WordPress version can cause issues
- if login information isn’t secure, your site can get hacked
- large, e-commerce websites might not be ideal for this platform
- WordPress themes contain FAR too much excess code; this causes your site to bog down & load slowly
For us, the pros far outweigh the cons — especially since we don’t use pre-existing templates, only install well-supported plugins, and keep up-to-date on the latest version of WordPress itself.
Why Should You Choose WordPress?
Building websites in content management systems isn’t a trend, and WordPress definitely isn’t, either. If you want to build sites designed to last, that are secure and easy to update, then you should get on board with WordPress.
- it’s open source (free + you can do whatever you want with it)
- very popular CMS, therefore highly supported by the community
- WordPress-specific hosting options to improve site performance
- allows for the creation of most any website type
- makes it easy to edit/maintain a lot of websites at once
WordPress is currently the most supported CMS on the planet (and possibly in other, parallel universes too). There are so many plugins that can accommodate almost any functionality, so you don’t have to be a coding wiz to add “extras” to enhance your site.
It’s extremely easy to make updates — whether you’re an agency or a client — so there’s no need to field email requests when the client wants this-or-that changed. Plus, the WordPress Managed hosting environments dramatically speed up your website and also have some plugin/WordPress core update automation functionality.
Maybe WordPress isn’t the best content management system for your website — but odds are it is.
We only ever use WordPress. We know it works well, we like the price (ahem, that’s nothing), and our developer can get it to do anything we need it to — whether we’re building out a brand-new website, performing a re-design, adding a new customizable theme for our library or working on a client’s PPC landing page.