Moving From WordPress to Gatsby

Improved development workflow, faster load times, and no more maintenance

Ryan Vanbelkum
Jul 23 · 4 min read
https://beautifulthemes.com/blog/how-to-create-a-wordpress-website/

WordPress is powerful. You can do a lot with it. But for some reason, I’ve always despised working with it.

This isn’t an article bashing WordPress. Its usefulness is proven in that it powers a third of the web.

I’m more so reflecting on why I decided to completely ditch WordPress as a platform of choice when working on web development projects.

As a professional web developer, I’m used to writing HTML/CSS/JS. So, why look towards WordPress when I could write the code myself? Mainly because my friends in the agency community always used WordPress (terrible reason, I know).

The question always came up: “Well, what if your client wants to update the site themselves?”

If that’s the case and your client is adamant about wanting to maintain their own site or post blog articles, sure. WordPress is a great fit. You want to do what’s best for the client. I just knew it wasn’t the solution for me.


Workflow Using WordPress

From a development standpoint, you can still write your own code with WordPress. The workflow, in my opinion, just isn’t as optimized.

It either involves writing HTML in the admin console, or changing files then FTP-ing them to the server. Hopefully, you have a better workflow than I did!

Things got better when Flywheel came out with Local by Flywheel. It was an all-in-one local environment for developing WordPress sites and then pushing them up to be hosted on Flywheel.

It had a lot of features but I was still bitter about working with WordPress.


Why I Disliked WordPress

I was putting my son to bed one night and my mind was wandering. Why did I dislike WordPress so much?.

So, I came up with a list and you may agree or disagree with any of these items. Feel free.

  • Why am I running a PHP server and MySQL instance just to serve a static website?
  • Often, my experience installing plugins leaves the site running slow or vulnerable to getting hacked.
  • I really dislike having to write HTML for pages in their admin editor and then write my CSS which I have to FTP up.
  • PHP… nothing wrong with it, just not my language of choice.
  • Keeping site changes in sync with other developers seemed challenging.
  • I can host a static website on a CDN for free, instead of paying for a WordPress host.

Turning to Gatsby

I decided to turn to my profession roots: HTML/CSS/JS.

I had also been reading up on Gatsby and decided to give it a look. I took an existing WordPress site and began to turn it into a Gatsby site. After a brief learning curve, the site was finished and hosted on the web.

If you’ve read my previous articles, you’ll know I’m also a big fan of Netlify. What were my gains here?

  • Much improved development workflow. I could write the site how I wanted to, using tooling and languages I was comfortable with. This improved my development time and will make future site enhancements easier.
  • Faster load times. The Gatsby framework statically generates your site’s HTML from JS (React). Their tagline is Fast in every way that matters. This, plus hosting on a CDN like Netlify, gives the site’s user a great experience.
  • Free. My sites typically don’t get a ton of traffic. I can host on Netlify’s free tier when I was paying $15/month/site on Flywheel.
  • No more WordPress maintenance. Once my sites are deployed, they are completely secure. It’s just static files in a folder in the cloud. Nothing to hack here!
  • I can still display blog posts or other dynamic content by pulling data from things like headless WordPress or other back-end technologies.

What About Clients Who Want Control?

I have a close friend and business owner that I have worked with on his website in the past. He had your standard WordPress site. He is also very hands-on. Posts blog articles and likes to be able to make changes on his own.

He doesn’t know HTML/CSS/JS, so making changes to a Gatsby site isn’t in the picture for him. He expressed some issues he was having with WordPress and after chatting he decided he would give Squarespace a try.

After a couple of weeks, he finally had his new site deployed. Something he had done all on his own.

There are many other site builders out there like Squarespace. That could possibly be a good fit for those users? Maybe I’ll write a case study on his experience moving from WordPress to Squarespace.


Conclusion

WordPress has its use cases. And for those that know it well, can be very powerful. It just wasn’t for me.

Instead of fighting against it, it was best to find the right solution. The goal is to find what’s right for you and your clients.

I believe I have that with Gatsby + Netlify.

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

Ryan Vanbelkum

Written by

Front end engineer @ Grubhub. JS, HTML, CSS, ect. ect. ect. ryanvanbelkum.me

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade