Starting a website can be daunting, especially if you are going it alone on your first attempt. Chances are, you’ve heard about it, but why use WordPress? Where should you start? Do you learn HTML and CSS? Should you consider other platforms? Do you choose a hosted website building platform like Wix, Weebly, Shopify, Ecwid, Squarespace, or WordPress.com? Or do you go the self-hosted route with a content management system like WordPress.org, Drupal or Joomla?
There are so many choices out there, the list truly is endless, and chances are, someone has given you a recommendation of some kind! Then of course, once you pick a platform, do you choose the free route or do you go with the paid option to get extra features?
Free or paid?
Free often seems like the best approach, after all, free doesn’t cost you anything, and that can be a big deal in the non-profit space. However, the trade-off to free is always going to be limitations. Generally speaking, free versions will have reduced or no control over the appearance of your website, and the functionality will be cut back. As for paid options, which works out the best for you? It’s a tough one, I’ll be honest. All of the platforms I mentioned at the start of this article are great, in their own ways. Each one has pros and cons.
In this article, I’m going to focus in on WordPress. I’ve used pretty much every content management system out there over the years, and keep coming back to WordPress using the self-hosted route from WordPress.org. In my opinion, WordPress is the best blogging platform in the world (and 35% of websites on the internet are using it) and is an excellent platform to build a non-profit website on.
A self-hosted WordPress website is a website that you own and you can do whatever you want with. There are no limitations. There are plenty of free and paid themes and plugins to help you achieve everything you need to, and if you need more, you can hire a designer and developer to build out your own custom designs and functionality.
WordPress itself is free. It’s an open-source platform that anyone can build upon. You do have to pay for hosting with your chosen hosting provider, though. Our top recommendation for speed in Australia is Kinsta (our speed test here) or Cloudways (our speed test here) for a balance of speed vs cost. There are also many cheaper options to get you started, like Hostgator.
Our website is built on WordPress, and it is the platform we use and recommend for all of our clients.
The longer that I’ve been working with clients on their digital needs, the more I find businesses and non-profits that have a website built on other platforms. Often, they want to do something with their website that hosted platforms don’t allow, or aren’t capable of.
Being a self-hosted platform, it is true that WordPress is a little bit more complicated to get set up, and because of the many advanced capabilities it has, it can take a bit longer to completely learn, but, you can do anything you want with it. That trade-off is worth it in the long run. That capability means that as your non-profit grows and expands, your website can grow and expand with you. Most of the time, you don’t need to rebuild it from scratch or migrate to a new system. That saves you thousands in the long-run.
It is true that all of the platforms I mentioned at the start do have their own methods of customising their appearance and extending functionality. App Markets, Partner Directories, Theme Stores are all ways of building your website out with more capabilities and customised designs. However, you still have to work within the constraints of these systems. That may not be a bad thing if they do everything you need.
However, with WordPress, if someone can code it, it can almost certainly be done. There really aren’t any limitations.
That’s why you don’t often see big companies or massive blogs running on hosted platforms. You do see them on other self-hosted systems like Drupal or Joomla, and enterprise proprietary platforms, but for the most part, they are using WordPress. Why? Because WordPress lets you achieve anything and everything you need to both now and in the future.
Yep, if you go it alone, you most likely will have to learn some basic code and understand how WordPress works. And, when something breaks, figure out why – that can definitely be a pain. However, it is the easiest blog platform and definitely one of the easier self-hosted content management systems.
Unless you pay an agency or developer to be your helpdesk, you don’t get the ability to go lodge a ticket where someone else solves the problem for you as you do on hosted systems, but that is part of the trade-off. Hosted platforms like Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, Shopify, Ecwid and even WordPress.com are excellent platforms that are designed to make your life easier. To be honest, they are easier to use than a self-hosted WordPress website, and they come with lots of templates to help you get up and running. So, that is something to keep in mind. If you are only planning on having a couple of pages on your website with simple functionality, then they could be the right option for you.
However, the way digital marketing has evolved, you need to be delving into content marketing, and that means a solid home base. Where is your home base? Your website.
To truly succeed in content marketing, you need a blog that you can use to generate relevant traffic, and you need to be able to build out your website as you grow. These areas are where WordPress truly shines.
Blogs are not simple websites that are just telling people who you are. Blogs grow, and can become massive behemoths with tonnes of content, photos, videos, podcasts, recipes, and just about anything else you can think of that is relevant to your audience. There is a lot of competition for donations in the non-profit space, so why be limited by what you can do with your website?
That’s the main reason that I suggest using WordPress for your non-profit instead of hosted platforms. Hosted site-building platforms are not bad services, but non-profits need something more agile that allows them to do exactly what they need to do as they need to do it.
That is why I recommend you choose to use WordPress.
More resources and comparisons
- Squarespace vs WordPress (external link)
- Weebly vs WordPress (external link)
- Wix vs WordPress (external link)
- Shopify vs Woocommerce/WordPress (external link)
- Ecwid vs Woocommerce (external link)
- Ecwid for WordPress (external link)
- WordPress.com vs WordPress.org (external link)
- Drupal vs WordPress (external link)
- Joomla vs WordPress (external link)