Formerly known as the favourite of bloggers, WordPress is quietly but impressively crashing the mainstream. But it's not some geek trend, WordPress is being used by businesses, online news outlets, even US government departments.
In fact, in 2010 8.5% of the top million websites on the web were running WordPress. In 2011, that number jumped to 14.7% and now 22 out of every 100 new domain names registered in the US are using it, according to a recent survey by WordPress itself.
What is driving the increase in popularity?
It started with their developers' obsession with, and constant updates to, the user experience of the WordPress system itself, which has now led to the common view that updating a WordPress website is easy as editing a Word document (and who hasn't done that?).
The biggest benefit seen by most businesses though is the money and time saved in getting a website up and running. How much money exactly?
Let's say you're building a website for your online newspaper with an off-the-shelf product (potentially five or six figures on its own); plus license fees for the year and the foreseeable future; plus all the other design and development expenses. It depends on your requirements, but it's fair to say you're looking at a six figure sum ($USD).
How about doing the same project on WordPress? No buying a product (it's free), no paying huge sums for support (there's a whole community of free support out there but even if you want to pay for your support it won't cost the Earth). Your six figure project just became five figures. You still need design and development but you just made your CFO very happy.
It doesn't stop there though, WordPress has been tailored and adapted to support a whole bunch of businesses right out of the box. Say you want to start an online job board. You could code it all up from scratch but why bother? Buy JobRoller customise it with your logo and colours (someone on Elance can do that for you for less than $100). Or get a fully featured real estate agent website or a beautifully designed restaurant website with easy to update menu and table booking features?
Five figure web costs become four figure
With such head-starts, the five figure medium-sized website cost quickly becomes four. The four figure small business website cost becomes three. The home-grown sideline business goes from three figures to two (many premium WordPress themes designs are available for only $50). You can even get a WordPress website on their sister site for free. Buy a domain name for it and you're in business for just $10.
To the short-sighted web developer or designer it's the end of days. To the business owner it should be the start of getting the website they always thought they were going to get, but never quite did, for a price they can justify, and that everyone can use.
Cynics might say that free software like WordPress is nothing new and they'd be right. But few of them can lay claim to changing the economics of websites the way WordPress has done and will continue to do so.
In fact in a very crowded CMS marketplace, WordPress is rapidly emerging as the winner for most businesses. And if it's not yet filtered down to the way you do websites in your company, perhaps it's time that it did too?
Nick Davis is the founder and CEO of eSanctuary, a small company which can help you develop any kind of digital idea. Nick also writes about digital media and technology at ThereWillBeChanges.com.