It wasn't so long ago that most websites were 'hand-coded' using HTML. This made it difficult for anyone who wanted to start a website, but was unfamiliar with HTML. Several programs became available that helped produce HTML without actually having to be familiar with it and people could then create websites as they were producing a word processing document.
It still wasn't easy though to start a website, because you had to play around with the themes and menus. If you had to change one of the menu options for instance, sometimes you had to update every page manually.
Software companies understood the problem and therefore applications were created so anyone could update a website without having to know all the code. All of the text and images were saved into databases, rather than individual files. This solved the problem of having to update individual pages, because when someone clicked on a menu on a website, the information was retrieved from a database. The menus themselves were also saved in tables in the database.
These applications are known as Conent Management Systems or CMS and are now widely used on the internet. The open source community started developing different systems, such as Mambo (now Joomla) and Drupal. These systems are free to use on individual or company websites.
Wordpress became a popular solution for blogs. Just a few years ago there were a number of competing blogging solutions such as Blogger and Moveable Type, but Wordpress has really become the default application for blogs.
Wordpress has come a long way in its development and not only it is the best tool for blogging, it is becoming more like a CMS in itself. It's ease of use also makes it useful for websites that aren't blogs. It is entirely possible to make a Wordpress run site appear not unlike a static website, with the advantage that it is extremely easy to update.
One of the problems Wordpress has faced is because of its popularity, it has become an easy target for computer hackers. People failed to keep their websites up to date with the latest version of the software and hackers can then easily compromise the website. Wordpress has worked hard to make their software more secure and also easier to update.
Wordpress has thousands of free plugins available which extend the functionality of the product. Whatever feature you think you would like on your website, you can usually find a plugin which can provide the feature you are looking for.
Search engines previously had problems reading database driven websites. Now, database driven websites differ very little from static websites in the way search engines view them. Even out of the box, Wordpress is very search engine friendly.
Wordpress might sound like it is difficult to get set up, but the fact is, it is very easy. Most webhosts such as Dreamhost, give you the ability to install Wordpress with the click of a button.
While there are hundreds if not thousands of sytems available for getting a website online, all webmasters should at least consider using Wordpress for their website. Wordpress has had problems in the past with hackers, but the security is improving. Even the most novice webmaster can get a site up and running with Wordpress in minutes.