Content management systems: what makes WordPress so unique

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A content management system (CMS) is used to manage the content, layout and functions of a website. By far the most popular CMS is WordPress. It is used by more than 40 percent of the websites that’s web surveyors analyze. The system is (still) the tool of choice for many blogs, but no longer only at home in this niche: WordPress is behind such huge websites as the tech magazine Techcrunch, Microsoft News or the homepage of Rolling Stone Magazine.

In 2004, the web developer Matt Mullenweg released the first stable version of WordPress, originally as a dedicated blog system. There are several reasons why the CMS is so dominant today.

Firstly, Mullenweg already had a chargeable one in 2005, i.e. relatively early on WordPress-Hosting-Dienst started, on which everyone can still set up a WordPress presence today. This also enables technical laypeople to get started easily and direct contact with customers was certainly a good guide for the further development of WordPress.

The software itself remained and remains – secondly – free and available as open source. A US non-profit foundation headed by Mullenweg is responsible for this. This WordPress Foundation operates among other things (not .com), the home of the software.

Third, WordPress has been consistently developed. In addition to the blog functions, there was support for static pages, which made classic websites possible in the first place.

Even people who are not fluent in CSS and HTML can cope with the tidy user interface of WordPress.

Fourth, the functions were designed to be user-friendly from a very early stage, making WordPress, for example, quite easy to install.

Above all, however, the range of functions of WordPress – fifth – has been expandable with plug-ins since quite early versions and the appearance has also been customizable with themes for a long time. WordPress has gradually grown into a platform with thousands upon thousands of themes and almost 60,000 plug-ins.

A huge biosphere has arisen around WordPress: You cannot find the desired function or the right look in the plug-in and theme directories? Do you have a technical problem, for example your WordPress site is too slow? No problem, there are tons of designers and developers who have specialized in WordPress for all needs and applications.

Even the big web hosts couldn’t avoid jumping on the bandwagon and offering their customers WordPress directly and as beginner-friendly as possible – even though they are competing with their own website builders.

If you are considering using such a kit for your website, you should definitely try a hosted WordPress offering first. These are available from a few euros a month and often offer more than the closed systems of individual hosters. And if you don’t like your current hoster, you can use WordPress – sixth – to take your website content with you and move it to another WordPress hoster quite easily.

WordPress does not work without training either, but thanks to the tidy user interface you can quickly get useful results. In contrast to Facebook, Instagram and other platforms, you set the rules yourself and design the appearance according to your own taste. With a focus on c’t 23/2021, we accompany your first steps with WordPress.

The profile of a theme in the WordPress directory provides a lot of meaningful basic information.

Our selection of themes, which we have put together in a separate article, can help you optimize your website. In it, we describe how you can recognize good themes and what you should pay attention to when choosing – for example, whether a theme is responsive or loads quickly enough.

By expanding WordPress with plug-ins, you can, for example, get in better contact with your visitors, optimize your site for Google’s search engine or retrofit web shop functions with an expansion module. In c’t 23/2021 we present a selection of the most important plug-ins with which you can equip WordPress for almost any purpose.

In c’t 23/21 you will learn about the hackers’ tricks. With the right tools you can crack forgotten passwords, find security gaps in your network and decrypt Word documents. We also analyze what makes WordPress so unique and help you get started and find suitable themes and plug-ins. You will find c’t 23/21 from October 22nd in Heise shop and at the well-stocked newspaper kiosk.


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