A Few Words About Wordpress
In the role of a web developer who’s worked on numerous projects involving Wordpress, and as someone whose friends and colleagues are are seeking advice on the best web framework to choose, I often express the same opinion to them. I’m not a fan of WordPress. I believe that in several cases there are options that people overlook because WordPress is such a household name, and they assume that it’s their only option.
I’ve been spending quite a bit of time lately wrestling around with WordPress. With an ever-growing competitive landscape in the web framework market, the options for your site are endless, making it difficult to choose the right one. As this isn’t my first rodeo, I’m here to help guide you into making the right decision for you and your business.
I’m going to lay out the pros and cons of WordPress, my experience with it as a developer, and broadly cover some alternative services.
Everyone Has Heard of WordPress, But What Is It?
Built back in 2003, WordPress is currently the most popular framework with around 15,886,000 websites on the web and boasting an impressive 17 posts published every second on WordPress sites worldwide. WordPress.com gets more unique visitors than Amazon (126 million per month vs. 96 million per month) and WordPress.org powers some well known, highly trafficked sites such as CNN, Spotify, and TechCrunch.
It’s important that I state that there is a big difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, here’s a great resource on explaining this further. Simply put, the .com is the fully hosted version of the framework where there is no coding required whatsoever and you can pick from a range of themes and customize the designs yourself, much like SquareSpace which I’ll mention later. You pick a theme and they handle the technical aspects for you. The .org version is the self-hosted version where you can install custom themes and plugins to get a more customized and feature rich website. In this article I’m mainly going to be talking about my experience with the .org version.
Wordpress is a Content Management System (CMS) that allows you to create, edit, and publish web content through their web interface. Out of the box, one would consider it a very useful product, offering inexhaustible numbers of themes, plugins, and options for integrations with 3rd party services such as MailChimp and contact forms. You would have everything you would need to build a basic website and the ability to create a far more advanced one if you so choose. These numerous features available to you are designed to take the whole development (i.e. coding) aspect out of your way by allowing you to create and edit content and utilize other tools on both the front end (visual aspect) and backend (data) portion of the site. An example of this could be dragging and dropping rows of text and images via tools like Visual Composer or creating, editing, and deleting blog posts that are created through your backend web interface.
Most importantly, WordPress has a huge developer community. In fact, it’s an open source platform, meaning that the core code used to power the CMS is open to anybody to use and develop. Many developers can create their own themes and plugins to share and sell with the community making it an opportune choice for people to hop on the bandwagon and contribute.
This Sounds Great, But There’s A Few Problems:
Despite its vast popularity and widespread use, someone simply uttering the word “WordPress” aloud stirs up several emotions and groans amongst developers and non-developers alike. WordPress is essentially the Regina George of CMS’s in that it’s really popular as the statistics have proven, but relies heavily on the work of the open source community, so can you really trust her? Would you reference stats from Wikipedia in a PhD thesis? You probably wouldn’t, so why develop your site on the same foundation with WordPress?
Due to the nature of having this large open source community, there is a serious saturation of themes and plugins, inevitably meaning some bad apples in the group that lack in quality. “At this point in time there are over 44,000+ WordPress plugins which are downloaded more than 1.2 billion times.” With these kinds of numbers it’s unrealistic to be able to police the creation and sale of said tools because of the size and scale of the community. What this means for users is that they really can’t feel comfortable choosing the right tool for their site, and usually have to resort to purchasing a “premium” plugin which will end up costing them extra money. Decisions… decisions… decision fatigue.
In my own recent experience working on WordPress sites for clients, I came across several speed bumps that made my development experience unpleasant. This includes, but is not limited to: broken tools, intrusive workarounds to get small customizations to work, visual bugs, and web interface bugs. WordPress is highly customizable, but has a steep learning curve and doesn’t play nice when you want to make customizations.
Ultimately I feel that WordPress would be cumbersome for those that want to launch a new business quickly and without any setbacks, but may be appropriate for those with more time on their hands and who really want to gain a better understanding of CMS’s and coding in general.
What About The Competition?
SquareSpace, Shopify, Weebly, Wix, Drupal, Joomla. No, I’m not just making noises with my mouth, these are some alternative services and web frameworks to WordPress.
These alternative services are similar to WordPress in a few ways, namely offering out of the box solutions for generating quick websites with a front end template and a database. These services don’t require any development experience and are also customizable through their web interfaces. Take SquareSpace for example, with the main difference lying in the fact that where WordPress is an open source community, SquareSpace is not, meaning that their in-house development team produces all of it’s tools specifically for it’s users. SquareSpace would be a direct competitor of the .com version of WordPress.
These services both new and old are gaining traction, especially amongst millennials that want cool looking sites with minimal time and assistance required in building. In my next post I’ll be talking more in depth about SquareSpace and my thoughts and experience using it.
Is A WordPress Site Right For Me?
The .com version would be the better choice if you’re looking for something quick and easy that you can start building right away. I think there are so many other great services nowadays that it can’t hurt to try a different one if you’re looking to build a more advanced, customized site.