Why Did You Start Using WordPress?

Winding dirt road that goals uphill in a desert area.  At the beginning, "START" is painted on the roadway.

If there was a question that ever made me start feeling old, it might be this one. Last week, Marcel Bootsman asked via Twitter, “Why did you start to use WordPress?”

WordPress community members chimed in with all sorts of reasons for hopping aboard, and Jeff Chandler of WP Mainline shared his journey on his site. These are the sort of discussions of nostalgia that I live for. What follows is my story.

I began blogging in 2003. A friend had introduced me to a now-defunct service called Expage. We mostly used it similarly to the early Myspace craze, adding things such as shout-outs to friends, random GIFs, scrolling marquee text, and midi files that blared as soon as a visitor landed on the page. But, I soon began learning how to link together multiple “Expages” (you only got one page), eventually building something of a journal.

After realizing the limitations of creating multiple accounts and passwords for different pages, I found Yahoo! GeoCities. After a short-lived stint with the service and being stifled by its roadblocks, I soon upgraded to a web hosting plan offered by Yahoo! with full PHP support. That meant I could do dynamic things like having multiple text files to store my blog post entries.

Thus, began my journey into building my own blogging system. Over the next couple of years, I kept my online journal open to the world with what felt like duct tape and old-fashioned grit. I tried WordPress at some point along the way and took a dive into PHP-Nuke and a couple of others. I then jumped back to my own system. I knew just enough PHP to be a flashing beacon for hacker-bots to push those little blue pills if they had ever bothered looking in my direction. Of course, my blog was so obscure that its glaring security holes did not register on any radar.

It was a week after I turned 21. On May 8, 2005, I had decided to get serious — yet again — about fixing my digital playground of a website. I would ditch any efforts of moving everything over to WordPress or another CMS. I was a lone wolf and was going to trek into the world wild web with nothing but my existing knowledge and instincts.

It was a fun era on the web for me. I was also a college student with an ever-changing list of interests, often varying by the day. Building a custom blogging system has never been an easy feat, and managing it all through plain text files had become a burden.

A mere five days later, I caved on my dream of managing a custom platform, but I needed to do so for my own sanity.

I simply began using WordPress because it made it easy to manage blog posts.

There were no special features like the editor, custom post types, or anything else that has brought so many others to the project. It was simply having a nicely organized posts management screen and the output of those posts on the front end. Relative to other systems at the time, it was also easy to install.

At the time, I probably did not think much of it. It was just another project in a line of others that I had tested, but I am happy I took the leap. WordPress has given me a career and, often, a purpose in life. It allowed me to grow as a developer, designer, and writer.

It may be blasphemy to say such things in WordPress circles, but my personal blog no longer runs on our beloved platform. After all these years, I have come full circle. My original goal was to build a flat-file blogging system, even though I did not know there was a name for such a thing back in the early-to-mid 2000s. I also did not have the requisite knowledge to build it at the time. However, in 2018, I coded my own system from scratch, and I loved every minute of that initial build. In part, I had a new project to tinker with, but it also carried a bit of the nostalgic factor of re-pioneering my early foray into the web.

While a custom blogging platform works for my own purposes, it makes me appreciate WordPress even more. It is hard to understand how much work goes into something as seemingly simple as the front-end architecture until you build it from the ground up. And, let us just skip over any talk of creating a secure and accessible admin interface that is user-friendly.

For any serious endeavor, WordPress is still my go-to solution — my personal site is a playground where I can afford to break things, after all. After our 16-year relationship, I do not see that changing at any point soon. As always, something exciting is around the corner. The platform keeps me on my toes, and I cannot imagine a world without it.

How or why did you begin using WordPress?


38 responses to “Why Did You Start Using WordPress?”

  1. The first time I tried to dive into WordPress, I said “Why would anyone use this over Movable Type?” to give you an idea of when that was.

    I took a long hiatus from building sites, but once I found a personal project that interested me, in 2016, that’s when I reached for WordPress, and it’s been all up from there. A long journey from a starter theme to building fully custom themes, and I’m finally diving into plugins and custom blocks (thanks in large part to what I’ve read on WP Tavern).

    • Just what you said (Michael Pate). I miss MT as it was far superior, in my honest opinion. Movable Type was absolutely stupid what they did!! So, enter, WordPress. At the time, I was also heavy into Joomla too–still am actually, but I knew I had to start getting into WP as well.

    • The Movable Type folk should write a book on how to kill your own platform in one easy step.

      When I first started out, I remember a lot of people recommending it instead of WordPress. But it looked pretty clear back then that they were doing a lot to hurt their own platform/business. I never thought they would completely kill it like they have though.

      They weren’t the only platform to practically destroy themselves though. I really liked the SMF community back then, but it shot itself clear in the face multiple times, and is now just a shadow of it’s former self.

      The WordPress community has made plenty of oopsies over the years, but they’ve always been kept well on track IMO. I think Matt Mullenweg has done an excellent job of keeping the basic project loosely direction heading in a coherent direction. Without that guidance I think it could easily have plowed off a cliff like some of these other platforms did.

  2. I was using blogger.com and switched sometime around 2005. Don’t actually remember why, but I seem to recall something changed that made it insufficient for my purposes. Perhaps something to do with the Google purchase of that company.

    I created a custom theme for WordPress that matched the theme I had in blogger.com, and am still using it today, lol.

  3. I usually used to use Blogger. In the past, Blogger was always an always go for me.

    Until I started to worry about whether Blogger would be closed as Google closed several other services, especially when I saw the Blogger android app which was not active (this was before Blogger started updating again in 2020).

    I switched to WordPress because I saw WordPress as having active development and having a lively community.

  4. I had built my own news handling systems via the SMF forum software. But that program was never intended for the purpose of handling news, and the interface for it was very awkward.

    I saw recommendations online for using various bits of software for this. The most common recommendation was for Joomla. But WordPress looked much simpler to work with and was growing in popularity, whereas Joomla looked like it was on a downward trajectory. Apparently I picked the winning horse in that race :) Then the popularity of WordPress exploded and I’ve been riding that wave ever since.

    WordPress 2.2 was the first one I installed. I installed it on my personal site when version 2.3 came out and it’s been running on it ever since.

    I probably would have moved all my personal stuff off of WordPress a while back. I’d prefer to custom build my own stuff now, as I can make it do exactly what I need it to do and nothing else. But I keep using WordPress since it’s what I use in my professional life and it’s useful to demo that I use the product myself as well as work with it for a living.

  5. I began in 1998 with a HTML site I created to show my artist work. I found it was a pain to update (all these internal links to modify for each entry) so I searched for a selfhosted solution and adopted Dotclear. It was a clean and fast program but I read so much things about WordPress I decided to take a look. I was not very impressed -much heavier than Dotclear – but it managed thumbnails and featured posts and so much shiny themes. As my site was about comics and illustrations, WP won the battle. I’m quite bored with the evolution of WP but all the sites I manage are under WP, I created some WooCommerce shops and even began to play with Gutenberg as page builder. So I suppose there is no chance I quit WP in the next future.

  6. I’ve managed a portfolio of static websites for a small company. As the company business has grown, the demands for publishing platform grew too. The company hold for the static website model because of page speed and SEO considerations. However, WordPress combined with CDN and fast database infrastructure offered a good compromise of powerful publishing platform with a reasonable page speed. Once we switched to WordPress nobody wanted ever again to deal with a mess of static website platforms. As a publishing platform WordPress is unbeatable in flexibility, easy learning, design and publishing capabilities, user management, etc. Switch to block editor was also epiphany of customising sites on a fly.

  7. I had background from creating B2B database driven web applications in 1999.

    I started trying out some simple blogging scripts 2002-2004, changed them to my needs and preference – until I discovered both Moveable Type and WordPress. As WordPress was so easy to install on the only server I had full access to then, a Windows Server, once I got MySQL and PHP working on it.

    The fun part started when I started to extend and modify themes, and got engaged in community driven blog with a lot of users.

    With custom plugins I could even change admin and create completely new functionality. Completely hooked.

    Went to my first WordCamp in San Francisco 2011 and was overwhelmed with the community and the spirit, with people from all over the globe.

    Created blogs for friends and friends of friends, for free. Then for non profits, ok paid, and then for some businesses, better paid. Made a work hours logging system for a health care company, and it still pays off monthly.

    Started small code contributing, learning, more learning, and contribute translations to Norwegian.

  8. I started with Blogger back in about 2005, then moved on to TypePad. When I wanted to go the self-hosted route I looked at Expression Engine then Movable Type and had just about settled on MT when the great “shot in the foot” happened so WordPress it was! I still have “WordPress 3.0 for Dummies” in my office as a memento.

  9. I do miss those days, when “social media” was chat services, and bloggers sharing and commenting on each others’ blogs. It was simpler, the rules were clearer. I might also just be a bit nostalgic for it. I really believe that social media, in it’s current form, has ruined the internet, but it was inevitable I suppose.

  10. Okay, I just have to bite at this one.

    I owned and ran a marketing/design company for 17 years (starting in 1993) before my deep dive into WordPress. I spent several years creating hideous HTML sites for clients and dreaded every moment as I came from the world of print. So by 2007 I was desperate for a better and easier solution.

    Having had a growing interest in blogging since 2005, when I hit that pinnacle, it was WordPress that I landed on. At the same time I realized that I could create decent looking sites for clients without knowing code. Sweet. That led to creating the BobWP brand in 2010 and as they say, the rest is history.

  11. We built a bespoke CMS which we used for all our clients, but versioning was hell. Any time we’d fix a bug on our latest version we’d have to revisit all the clients on lower versions and manually add the fixes. Around 2007 / 2008 we realised that using WP as a framework meant we could extend it with whatever we needed and the update of core would take care of a lot of our donkey work. Add to that there were lots of handy functions and docs for the tasks we’d often perform, sanitisation, user-meta, uploads, etc.

  12. I regret to use WordPress from 10 years ago. I like bbpress forum but it is purchased by WordPress. And I have been looking for a stable cms system and wanna to use WordPress to be the role. But in 10 years, it changes a lot but still a personal blog system. Many may say there are a lot of plugins but Gutenberg is another way to personal website not for a business website. I regret to use WordPress. If 10 years ago, I would use another cms system, now I would have a business websites just by myself. but it is regret that still need theme development and many things. Gutenberg? I often ask myself: I am good at MS word and why to use Gutenberg? I choose WordPress just for another MS word editor? I need a business website not a page of Gutenberg like word editor works.

  13. I started using WordPress in February 2005. The Blog I created ist still existing, the old “Default” Theme exists still in the Themes Folder. With one Excption, all Updates worked fine and thats absolutely amazing! Thank you, WordPress. I started blogging because I wanted a solution to quickly publish texts and images. Before WordPress, i used vi to create HTML Files, but not JPEG :-) In my oppinion, WordPress is a fantastic Success Story. Thanks again.

  14. I started 2007 with a small blog. It only got interesting when I found a new plugin called Members by a guy called Justin Tadlock. I used it daily to communicate with my team of remote workers. Our own little intranet. That grew to include other teams.

    My office, a part of the UK Government, was not pleased, but being slightly obstinate I would not take it down without good reason. Eventually, the office decided to roll it out nationally. Sadly they changed the CMS.

  15. When I was learning web development, we didn’t really get into specific CMS platforms in class. I interned at an agency that had a few Joomla sites and some WordPress sites and that was my first exposure of it. Just ran with WordPress from there.

  16. I started my blogging experience with Blogger, but soon realised that the site looked like anybody else’s site. I found WordPress by accident after seeing another blog that had “Powered by WordPress” in the footer. Did a bit of research and discovered that I could get a bit creative with WordPress. I used the free version for a couple of years, bore getting my own domain name and upgraded to a Personal Plan, which suited my purpose better.

  17. . . . because FrontPage was finally dead (for static, non-blogging, infomercial sites)
    I will never understand why MS did that, as their tool wasn’t bad, especially if you knew HTML and Javascript . . . and folks were starting to build add-ons for it

  18. Great story – awesome answers and discussion – it is a great pleasure to see this here.

    I started in 2012 after using PHPNuke, PostNuke (untill 2004) and then Joomla for a long time.

    i love the global wordpress community – it is so awesome.

  19. To be honest, it all started for me with getting a position as a copywriter. Because the topics I wrote about were actually part of my hobby (esports) I was able to roll out a good writing piece every one or two days. The content was pouring in so quickly I was asked if I would like to be the one responsible for the entire blog section of a website. The rest is history.

  20. I started with perl and cgi. Got lazy and did some movable type when it came out. Was sorry to see how that ended. I saw today where a gutenberg template got compromised. I was waiting for that. All in all great tool though I miss my old Indy and Sparc.

  21. Thanks for sharing your story, Justin! It was great to hear that.

    I was introduced to WordPress in 2009 when I asked a friend of mine how I should spin up an online store. It was fun because I didn’t know about themes at all. I just followed the route my friend was going which was creating an entire theme from scratch for every client website he built.

    That’s how I got into theme development. I remember how overwhelming it was but also how great it felt when things started to work as I had imagined.

  22. A bit of slightly off-topic background – I was working an unskilled job I hated, wanted a way out, started learning HTML/PHP/MySQL, read about affilliate marketing (urgh!), had an idea, followed some tutorials, built an AM membership website as a path to teach myself some skills, sold it to a competitor for a sweet sum. Was purchased for the user base only and not the site’s minimally functional admin!

    Result of this was a bit of breathing space allowing me to quit my job, and while thinking about what else I could actually do, I came across WordPress. Had heard of it before but thought it was just a blogging platform, which I had no interest in. I dislike writing and the idea of blogging my thoughts out to the world fills me with dread!

    Looking into WordPress some more, and others such as Joomla, Drupal etc, I started to realise more and more what WP was capable of. This was 2012, and the exact reason why I started with WordPress escapes me, but it did seem to me at the time there was WordPress and then there was “the rest”.

  23. Thanks for sharing your story, Justin. It’s great that you’ve been able to develop your own system after all these years. I still hope, one day, to be able to launch a WP plugin.

    My first thought when I saw the title of this article was: Love how it’s taken so many years for someone to finally ask the question (a few too many but who’s counting?) but like others, I wandered through Geocities, Angelfire and Tripod, before starting on a more dynamic journey with CuteNews (flat file), Mambo, Joomla etc. before stumbling upon WordPress. It was easy to work with and had lots of functionality out of the box that could get a site up-and-running quickly but leave lots of room for tinkering, not to mention all the plugins and themes, even then!

    The fact that Justin and Jeff are still active in the WordPress sphere is testament also to its community (I’m almost certain I saw an article about Brian Gardner on this site?). I still recall how Jeff had his Jeffro2pto site and how excited I was to get a response from Lorelle.

    Sadly I’ve not been able to use WordPress as much as I would have liked nowadays compared to before, but will have to start visiting WPTavern more in future to keep up with the latest WP developments.

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