WordPress Dashboard Screenshot

Why WordPress? 3 Reasons (It’s All About the Community)

This weekend I read an article from our colleagues over at WordPress for Church.org. They offer 4 reasons to consider using WordPress for your church website: Reliability, Price, Customizability, and Ease of Use. Those are all great selling points for the WordPress platform, but what makes each of those features possible and really drives the success of WordPress is the incredible community that has built up around it. For churches, nonprofits, and other mission driven organizations considering what platform they should use to create their website, understanding the power of this community is key to understanding why WordPress is a great choice. So I want to offer three reasons the WordPress community should make you consider WordPress for your church or nonprofit website:

#1: The WordPress Community Offers Strength in Numbers

Notepad From A WordPress Community Event: What Does WordPress Mean to You (In One Word?)

From A WordPress Community Event

The sheer size of the WordPress community is HUGE! Almost a quarter of a million people participate in WordPress community events each year. And on GitHub, a popular site for sharing open source code, nearly 4,000 people have “forked” the WordPress code base, which is an informal way of estimating the number of people helping to make improvements to WordPress itself (in reality, this number is probably way too low because WordPress doesn’t actually use GitHub as its primary development platform). Since Automattic, the parent company which owns WordPress and operates wordpress.com, only has 460 employees as of May 2016, the vast majority of this very active WordPress community are not in-house employees but members of the broader “open source” community that has built up around WordPress.

Not only is this community huge, its output is pretty incredible: over 44,000 plugins adding extra features to WordPress are located in the open source plugin repository (making them freely available to all WordPress users). Over 15 million websites actively use WordPress, including around 25% of the top 1 million most visited websites on the internet! And about 17 posts are published using WordPress every second!

The strength of the WordPress community has clearly driven it to be one of the most successful software products in production today. Among all the available website builders, or Content Management Systems, nothing else even comes close to its market share. Other popular open source solutions like Drupal or Joomla pull around 3-4% of the top 1 million websites while popular commercial drag-and-drop website builders average less than 1% each.

There is a lot of strength in those numbers. The active WordPress community means that there are a huge number of resources and tutorials available online for learning how to do anything on WordPress, that there is strong active support in the WordPress support forums when questions arise, and that if you can think of something you want added to WordPress, there’s a very good chance someone has already built the plugin you’re looking for. All of this makes WordPress an excellent choice for any use case, but I think it’s especially appealing to churches and nonprofit websites because it opens up a huge world of possibilities without requiring extra technical know-how or significant increases to your budget.

#2: The WordPress Community Ensures that WordPress Doesn’t Go Stale

With such an active community constantly working to improve WordPress, you can rest assured that you’re website software will never go stale.

There are a lot of companies out there offering proprietary website builders, often with the claim that they are “specifically tailored” for churches, nonprofits, or small businesses. The critical difference between a proprietary system and an open source solution, aside from the usual difference in price point, is that a proprietary system is being developed and updated only by people working for the company that owns it. On the other hand, anyone who knows how to code can help contribute to updating and developing WordPress. That’s not just a theoretical opportunity, either: as we’ve already seen a huge number of people are engaged in constant development work to improve WordPress itself or to add additional features through plugins you can easily install with the click of a button.

Coding a WordPress Theme

Screenshot: Coding a WordPress Theme

Practically speaking, this means two things:

First, it means that more end-users of WordPress have a say in what features get included in the software. That’s a fantastic selling point in and of itself because it means that WordPress is being built to work the way that people actually using WordPress think it should work. Taking it another step: because this input is coming from so many different participants in the WordPress community, the end result is less likely to be built to follow one person’s way of thinking or doing things. Instead, it’s made to reflect a broader consensus of how a large number of people think and work. That means it’s also much more likely to make sense to new users, too!

And second, constant development on WordPress means that changes and updates are rolled out routinely and major bugs or security issues are likely to get fixed quickly. Now, I know sometimes change isn’t a great thing, and so maybe you’re tempted to say that a slower-going solution is better. But in the tech industry, slow update cycles have a major drawback: they leave open the possibility of bugs and security leaks sticking around a lot longer, making life for users more difficult and potentially more dangerous. The constantly evolving nature of the WordPress code base means that major bugs usually get fixed fast and security problems get patched quickly. And all those updates come free of charge, which is pretty nice, too.

#3: Participating in WordPress Reflects Your Community Values

Lanyards: WordPess.org, "Code is Poetry"

Screenshot: Coding a WordPress Theme

I have long felt that there is a particular resonance between the philosophy of mission-driven organizations, like churches and nonprofits, and the open source community. Both believe in the power of working together to build something larger than anyone could create individually. Both recognize the value of others’ contributions and perspectives. And both recognize that strong community relationships are the driving force behind success.

To me, this resonance in philosophy also makes a great case for why churches and nonprofits especially should use and support open source solutions like WordPress. The ethos of the WordPress community likely has a lot in common with the ethos of your community. So why not reflect your own ethos in your choice of a website platform?

That may seem a little silly at first– I mean, really, what does the choice of a website platform have to do with how our own community works? But just as many organizations are carefully considering how the way they invest their endowments or where they buy their food and office supplies reflects the kind of world they want to live in, I think your choice of the kind of technologies you use can also be seen as an extension of how your organization “lives” its own mission in the world. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that one great option for choosing to embrace the open source philosophy is also a leading, best-in-class product!

Conclusion

Ultimately, I think that the success of WordPress is all about it’s incredibly driven and active community. That community has created a world-class product that makes it incredibly easy for everyone to harness the power of their website. For churches, nonprofits, and other mission-driven organizations the ethos of this community should resonate, and I hope that you’ll consider using WordPress if you aren’t already. We here at Soren are always here to help you out, feel free to get in touch!

Posted in 21st Century Church, NonProfit Technology, Tech For Good, Technology for Public Service and tagged , , .

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