When we started Sumy Designs in 2006, we were mostly doing static, HTML sites. One of those early sites wanted a blog, so we added WordPress to it. After trying out WordPress, we started trying out some other CMS options. We tried several out, made a few Joomla sites for clients and even had our own site using Joomla for a while.
What we learned was that most of these options were too complicated for clients to manage on their own. Around that time, WordPress was evolving from a blogging tool to a full-functioning CMS. It was easy to edit pages and posts. If you could use Word, you could use WordPress. Hooray! We found our solution. And we now only make WordPress sites.
We choose WordPress because it’s easy. But it’s not really easy. Is that confusing? What do I mean? WordPress is easy to manage. It’s easy to add a page, add content to a page, upload images, write blog posts. All that stuff is easy. It even boasts a “famous 5-minute install.”
But that’s pretty much where easy ends. If you’re trying to push content out, it’s easy. If you are trying to create a new site, it’s not going to be as easy as some of the click and build DIY programs available right now. You have to make a lot of choices on your WordPress site, and if you don’t know how WordPress works, how the themes and plugins work together, what plugins to use, or if you need something more advanced, it’s really not that easy.
If you are a DIYer and you come to me for advice, I will likely not recommend a self-hosted WordPress site. Which is odd because I love WordPress. It’s the most popular content management system in the world for a reason.
Styling a WordPress Site
The first thing most people want to do with their site is to make it look pretty. Fair enough. So you have to pick a theme. And already it’s getting hard. We custom design themes using the Genesis Framework, but if you aren’t a designer or developer, this probably isn’t a viable option for you. You’ll need to start with a theme. But how do you know where to start? How do you know what’s good?
Picking a theme is more than just finding one that you like the look of. There are a lot of other questions you need to ask. Is it supported? When was it last updated? Can I install it easily? Are there a lot of configuration options? I have strong opinions about WordPress themes. Not all of them are created equal. Some are bloated, some are not supported and some are easily hacked. The last time I used a theme a client found and bought for $40, their sites (they used the theme on two sites) both got hacked. Oof!
What if the theme doesn’t look exactly how you want it and you need to make some tweaks. Did you know that if you edit the theme files themselves, that those changes will be overwritten when the theme gets updated. I have heard countless tales of woe from people who have spent hours customizing their theme only to lose all those changes on an update. Most people creating their first website haven’t even heard the term child theme or have any idea what it means.
That’s a lot to consider for just how your site is going to look.
Let’s say you do find a great theme and get it looking how you want, you might need to add some functionality. Want a contact form? You need a plugin. Want a photo gallery? You need a plugin. Want an event calendar? You need a plugin. Want to stop spam? You need a plugin.
But how do you know which plugins to use? Which ones are good? Which ones are bad? Which ones are easy or difficult to configure? Because I have been working with WordPress for over ten years, I have a lot of experience with plugins and have a lot of opinions, but if you are trying to make your first website, you don’t have this info, you don’t know what’s good or not, and you probably haven’t even realized there are premium plugins that you can pay for that do even more.
Say you want to add a contact form plugin. You go to the WordPress Repository and type in “contact form” and get over 3,500 results. How do you know which one to pick? How do you know which one is any good? How to configure and use it? How to make sure you’re getting those emails?
It’s just not as easy as people say it is.
Yes, WordPress is easy… to use. It’s not easy to set up and create. That’s why I recommend having a pro create your site and then learning to manage it on your own.