WordPress, which we've used for years, is the most popular publishing platform. However, it is not the only one and there are definitely better options, depending on one's needs.
WordPress Popularity and Complexity
One can publish at wordpress.com but even more popular is simply downloading the free, open source software and picking one of the hundreds of web hosts which can run the platform. WordPress is based on the PHP scripting language and the MySQL database (such as MariaDB), so those are needed, along with a web server (Apache and/or NGINX). Security management is also needed, and enough ram and processor power and network bandwidth to offer speedy site access.
WordPress Complexity and Cost
Unfortunately the complexity of WordPress means that it takes time and skills to manage, as well as pay for hosting. For unmanaged hosting via a VPS such as AWS Lightsail or Linode, the costs are about $10/month for an adequate server. However, unmanaged means that one has to install and configure an operating system and the various services to run WordPress. Some of this can be reduced to scripts and installers, but if something goes wrong then one has to fix things oneself or hire someone.
Managed hosting has the advantage of having the operating system and most of the services (PHP, MySQL database) supported, with only the need to configure WordPress via themes, plugins, and control panel settings, as well as content. However, most (all?) managed systems cost more money and limit access to the system (no root access) for more control and stability (for the managed hosting provider). It is a question of tradeoffs as well as which resources are more scarce (money, talent).
Usually managed hosting is the worst of possible worlds:
- More expensive
- Less effective
- Clumsy support
Things only get better (sometimes, just) when more money is used.
What is needed is higher performance managed hosting. That way the value-add of managed shines through, namely having a better optimized system. Faster and better is worth incremental pricing. If one can get higher performance and ease of operation, that saves time and delivers higher value.
High Performance Managed Web / Cloud Hosting
For standard managed shared hosting, prices are low, but performance is not very good in terms of resources. There is another managed hosting paradigm that has emerged with Cloudways such that the managed hosting sits on top of one of five different providers (Digital Ocean, Linode, AWS, Google Cloud, and Vultr). This is more expensive than cheap managed hosting, and than unmanaged vps, but one gets both the resources provided a VPS and the ease of management. We've reviewed Cloudways, a brilliant, affordable, and flexible platform.
At the lower end of website hosting, another option is to use WordPress.com but there are significant limits on supported themes and plugins. The advantage is cost savings, as using a custom domain (and no ads) costs $50/year.
WordPress.com is not necessarily the fastest option (due to theme complexity) and so if someone wants cheap and fast, Jimdo is rated the fastest in terms of SEO performance of all the site builder options (e.g., wordpress.com, wix, etc.)
Pelican (Python SSG)