WordPress’s Many Flavours

What do you mean by a WordPress site?

Far from being known only as a Content Management System for blogging, WordPress now powers over 43 per cent of the world’s websites. Famous brands using WordPress include Sony Music, the New York Post and Vogue.

WordPress can be many things. When you’re looking for a developer to work on your site, it’s important to check if they’re familiar with the flavour of WordPress you have.

The block editor

WordPress 5.0 introduced a new way of working with WordPress. The classic TinyMCE editor WordPress was known for was replaced with a block editor. In WordPress sites using the block editor (sometimes called Gutenberg), each piece of content is built with a block. Under the hood, these sites are built with WordPress’s version of React JS, a JavaScript library for building user interfaces. Thanks to Full Site Editing, WordPress sites may be built entirely with blocks. There are now block-based themes and since blocks are reusable and may be converted from one type to another, they offer more possibilities for design and content than ever before.

Classic PHP themes

“Classic” WordPress themes were and continue to be built with PHP. Some developers also use the Advanced Custom Fields plugin for layouts so that it acts like a page builder.

Page builders for WordPress include WP Bakery or Visual Composer, Divi, Beaver Builder, Elementor, Oxygen and more.

Headless WordPress & the WordPress REST API

In “headless” sites the back end (content management) part of the site is WordPress and the front end of the site is something different, such as Gatsby, Next JS or Vue JS. WP Engine, a WordPress hosting company, created Atlas, a Node hosting platform, as a solution for headless sites.

WordPress’s REST API can be used to build websites. You may see it in PHP sites but it’s referenced more as a choice for headless WordPress sites and React Native apps.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

If you have a WordPress.com site, your site is not self-hosted (hosted by you). Instead it’s hosted by WordPress.com, a service that offers WordPress on managed hosting. Depending on the plan you have with WordPress.com, you may not be able to customize your site quite the way you can when your site is self-hosted.

Whether you choose self-hosted WordPress or WordPress.com really depends on where you are with WordPress and how much you can afford to invest in WordPress, especially in terms of site maintenance and security. For some, WordPress.com makes life a lot easier because everything is taken care of for you. But hiring a WordPress professional to manage updates on your self-hosted WordPress site may be even more cost-effective.

WordPress.org is an open source project run by volunteers. WordPress.com is owned by Automattic and its name is a play on the first name of Matt Mullenweg, a founding developer of WordPress, and the word automatic.

Choose the WordPress tools that work for you

I’ve worked with custom PHP themes that use Advanced Custom Fields but also the REST API. I have experience with WP Bakery and Divi but even more with the Elementor page builder. I know how to use the Block Editor and have some knowledge of Full Site Editing. I’m currently learning how to build WordPress blocks in React JS. I have used Kadence Pro themes and blocks.

My favourite WordPress theme is GeneratePress, which I use with GeneratePress Premium and GenerateBlocks. I’m happy to use the Block Editor but if you prefer a page builder, I am fine with that too.

I see software as a tool to build a website. I believe you need to use the right tool for the job and WordPress isn’t for everyone. You should use tools that make your life easier.