Should I Use WordPress to Create a Website?


(Photo by William Hook/Flickr)

You can create powerful, polished sites with WordPress without learning a lot of coding. Once you’re comfortable with WordPress, you can do in a week or a weekend what could take you a month or more to code from scratch. The WordPress software, once installed on a server, provides a ton of tools for building and managing great websites.

WordPress works best for certain types of sites. Personal portfolios, blogs, and brochure sites, for instance, are super-easy with WordPress. Thanks to well-developed WordPress plug-ins, you can also easily build e-commerce sites, job boards, social networks and other custom sites. More developers are even talking about using WordPress as an application framework; however, this is a less-developed use case for WordPress at the moment.

When Should I Use WordPress?

For super-simple websites, WordPress is an overkill.  It’s better to code from scratch by using a simpler CMS like Perch or a lightweight development tool like Jekyll. You can learn how to make a website from scratch on Treehouse.

For complex sites that require too much bending, tweaking and hacking to make WordPress a viable solution, you should explore building the site from the ground up, likely relying on JavaScript and back-end programming languages like PHP or Ruby.

Most website creators using WordPress today run basic sites, those with static pages, a blog or news section, some sort of custom content, and a variety of common features like slideshows, contact forms, and more. WordPress plug-ins handle those features with no problems. It has the ability to create custom content and assign them your own fields and options. This helps when your content doesn’t fit into the default title and content options that WordPress offers for blog posts and static pages. Unless your theme comes with custom content by default, you will have to activate a few plug-ins and do some template coding to include custom content on your WordPress site.

Using Themes in WordPress

Themes make it easy to pass as a professional designer from the start. Themes exists in the thousands upon thousands and so many of them are beautiful, well-supported and cover the gambit of common web industries and trends. In fact, working solely developing and selling WordPress themes is a common goal for Treehouse students taking the WordPress Development Track.

When you start building websites with WordPress, you will likely start off customizing themes that you either download for free or purchase from a theme developer or theme marketplace. To properly customize a WordPress theme to suit you or your client, you will likely create a child theme, the preferred method for customizing themes. This involves setting up a new folder in your themes folder into which you copy and paste any files from the main theme you want to customize. This can include the main style.css file or one of the theme PHP files.

When it gets to the point of creating child themes and customizing themes, someone learning to build websites with WordPress needs to come to terms with beginning to learn a little HTML, CSS and even some PHP. Luckily, unlike when building sites from scratch, knowing just a little bit of each of these languages will let you do much of what you will want to in terms of customizing a theme.  Since themes, plugins, and WordPress itself do most of the work for you, a little coding goes a long way.

If you learn the basic skills that take you from being able to use WordPress to being able to make WordPress sites from start to finish, you will find yourself in a healthy, happy, and successful marketplace. Watch our trailer for How to Make a Website with WordPress to see how easy it is to get there.

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Zac Gordon

Zac is the WordPress teacher at Treehouse. Before coming to Treehouse, Zac taught web design and development at the high school and then college level. In addition to teaching web design, he owns a web design company and teaches Yoga.


10 comments on “Should I Use WordPress to Create a Website?

  1. Hi Zach in my experience I’ve used WordPress for any sites that have needed a CMS. Some of them have been very complex websites with the of using the multisite feature, they needed to share content and overriding content on other sites. This needed to be very bespoke to the client, I could of started a website from scratch but I still think that WordPress was the right system to use. The advances you get from the helper functions, actions and filters and easy to use CMS just makes it the perfect solution for any site that needs a CMS. I’ve also explored the option of creating more complex sites in Drupal, Umbraco and Sitecore, but they haven’t been as easy to use as WordPress is. What I’m trying to say is just because a site is complex doesn’t mean you should discard WordPress.

    • I agree. I am a beginner at WordPress and Web Design overall (around 6 months into serious time commitments to learning all this stuff), and it seems that WordPress could really itch whatever scratch you would need for building a website. I could definitely see where WordPress may not be all that helpful for basic static sites (like a local shop website or something). I am nearly addicted to WordPress at the moment, but it might be overkill in some cases.

  2. WordPress is fantastic however, if my boss asks me for my opinion on CMS, we have a good budget, good timescale and we are able to complete it, I always suggest building our own CMS.

    That being said, not every team can build out the CMS due to resources, cost and timescales.

    WordPress is a tool and should be treated as one and not a Grab-It-Off-The-Shelf solution, you get what you make from it and if you understand it fully or at a comprehensive level then you can pretty much do anything with it.

    Great judgment is require though to ensure that you’re not just selecting it for convenience, if the project warrants Drupal or a custom spec … then do the work.

    RockOn WordPress!

  3. Good article! I think WordPress is a great option for small business to build a web presence, and I’ve recommended and implemented many websites built upon it in the past. Over time as business needs change, issues can arise when working within the WordPress architecture when it comes to building in functionality which only grows. The WordPress plugin community (free and paid) is very accommodating to meet your needs, however we often found it easier to move to a custom CMS and more lightweight solution. WordPress has grown up into a fully fledged and very capable CMS which is so much more attractive than Drupal or Joomla. However, a few years after I started jumping straight to WordPress to build the company website, I’m now jumping to Node.js and working with Express.js because it’s so lightweight and a lot faster than WordPress, albeit the the learning curve is a lot steeper, and there’s no code free setup (yet). Ghost is the new kid on the block from ex-Wordpress folks that presents the most credible threat to WordPress itself, and I expect to see Ghost hosting more websites as it’s capabilities grow. All that said, if a company asks were to ask me what to do, I’ll still say WordPress is great for getting started today, but keep your eye on the horizon and keep in mind their needs may change tomorrow.

  4. I’ve been using WordPress for clients for over 6 years now and have only built a few sites outside of the WordPress framework.

    The thing I like BEST about WordPress is that my clients can manage most parts of the site on their own (or I can provide video tutorials that walk them through the step-by-steps so they feel in control of their site). I’ve worked with so many clients who have used Joomla and are lost on how to change things and update the framework.

    I’m happy to recommend WordPress to almost any client looking to build a simple to semi-complex site.

  5. WordPress just keeps getting better and better. It’s far from perfect at this point but I wouldn’t dream of using anything else, for so many reasons…

  6. WordPress can be overkill for some projects, for example, a simple flower shop with only 3 different pages.

    However I’ve found that the majority of my projects require WordPress purely for the blog functionality. Which is a problem in itself since it’s so well known and used it can be hard to pursuade people to use something simpler, mainly because simpler is different.

  7. I started my initial website with WordPress and found it to be really user friendly and diverse. However, I think it’s specific to the industry that you are working in. As a photographer, I found behance and prosite to be better suited to my work as they cater to portfolio type showcasing. Interesting read nonetheless! Thanks!

    Nicole Sarah Photography