WordPress Overview

by H Burke|Rivermile      posted 1.2.18, revised December 9, 2018

WordPress is 15-year old open source content management system for websites. Like many other web building professionals, I believe in its value and utility so much that I've centered my career around WordPress in recent years.

What kind of sites can you build with WordPress? Essentially, any kind. In the publishing sector of media and innovative content creation, WordPress shines particularly bright.

You can safely expect WordPress to be the ultimate platform to land on, for many types of websites.

At its core, WordPress is reasonably lean. There are only 8 or 9 key menus in the WordPress core dashboard, with very little in terms of wasted features. At its root-level base like this, WordPress is perfectly suited for blogging or very simple websites. You can write pages and posts in the editor, you can configure menus and take advantage of free or commercial themes in the marketplace.

New releases come regularly, as many as a dozen times per year, and are typically available with one click in the administrator dashboard. The version of WordPress you run should nearly always be the latest. This refines performance and provides ongoing security, while keeping you at the top of the platform's game, always.

As of this writing, WordPress is at version 5.0. The new version of core includes a brand new block-based editing tool, designed to make it easier for non-technical non-coding website owners to apply rich page designs.

Meanwhile, a lot of web designers and implementers are already using page building extensions that take hands-on content creation to new levels.

When first installed on a web server, WordPress lays in a base set of data tables within your hosting environment, tied to a WordPress file structure comprised mostly of php, css and javascript files. Together, the database and files combine to render your pages to visitors.

WordPress core is the foundational stone of a fully dynamic website that can do just about anything you can imagine in the realm of websites and digital presence.

As of late 2018, a bit more than 30% of ALL websites sit on this foundation, making WordPress far and away the most popular platform in the world. Code contributors to WordPress and its vast software ecosystem number in the tens of thousands, from countries all over the globe.

All that open source input, along with guidance from founder Matt Mulleweg's Automattic team, results in a stable, secure and consistently evolving system that is used by Fortune 500 companies, your grandmother's blog, and everything in between.

WordPress for E-Commerce

Atop WordPress, you can stack in e-commerce, and create a store, event ticketing, and other kinds of transactional events with your audience. We use WooCommerce and its ecosystem for this kind of task, although there are other options out there as well. As you can imagine, commerce has lots of moving parts: product display, pricing, shipping, taxes, cart behavior, email notifications. By bringing in a multifunction plugin and add-ons that fit your specific purposes, you can tailor your WordPress website to great detail.

But wait. Aren’t there turnkey solutions for e-commerce? Surely, and a turnkey solution like Spotify might be just the ticket for simplified and standardized stores, or when the store is the only part of the site. In some cases, there may be good reason to plugin your product directly into existing stores: Amazon, Etsy, or EBay.

But in our experience, those who take on commerce usually have a certain –shall we say– uniqueness. It might be an unusual service that doesn’t fit the same mold as someone selling tee shirts or pottery. Or perhaps a product with variables upon variables that must be gathered from your customer for appropriate pricing and delivery.

And let’s admit it, sometimes you just need a commerce system that’s going to keep you and the rest of your staff engaged in the everyday work, without too many hurdles or curve balls to muck up your well-tuned processes.

The reality is that turnkey e-commerce solutions often fall short at addressing those details that make your business unique.

With WordPress/WooCommerce, no matter your need, an add-on or functional method might well be pre-built and readily available, just a tweak or two from doing exactly what you need. That's e-commerce versatility, critical for most of the businesses we encounter.

All this said, be aware that commerce sites have deeper requirements in terms of performance and security. So more than ever, choosing the right hosting provider is key.


Gravity Forms and WordPress

There are dozens of form/feedback tools available, but we rely on the best of them: Gravity Forms plugin for WordPress. We like it so much that Gravity Forms gets installed by default on nearly every site we build.

Far more than just contact forms and their accompanying notifications, Gravity Forms enables complex, multi-page questionnaires, full featured project reports, even ways for your site visitor to build pages directly – via form entries – without granting them full login credentials.

We’ve built detailed operation workflows, both internal and public-facing, with Gravity Forms and WordPress (See our case studies at Rivermile).