WordPress is popular as a whole website solution for many reasons. We will highlight why WP makes sense for the vast majority as a platform in this article.
Plenty of marketing experts will tell you that WordPress doesn’t make sense, especially if you’re trying to stand out from the crowd. Any developer will have strong opinions about the platform, too, whether they are strongly for (it’s easier to make money developing WP), or strongly against it (PHP has an awkward security track record, WP is ubiquitous and all over the place, etc.).
Here’s the thing though – WP powers more than 45% of the internet for a reason – it makes sense on a lot of levels. In the below article, we will talk about why we rarely dissuade a client who already uses WP from continuing on the platform; why we like it (but don’t always love it), and why, despite being disadvantaged in several aspects, it’s so popular and can easily be used as a single solution for a vast majority of the internet. It still has room to grow.
With the introduction of the true drag and drop builders on the internet and the massive budgets that push them on every Super Bowl ad slot, WordPress is not nearly as pitiful as Squarespace and Wix and other subscription model website solutions when it comes to granular control, especially when it comes to structuring technical architecture and pushing an aggressive SEO slant. You can do a lot more with the WP CMS than you can with Wix, Squarespace and others in that tier, and even though Shopify has some distinct advantages over WP (not necessarily in SEO), especially when it comes to ease of running an E-Commerce site, WP still offers more to those who don’t need a dedicated E-Comm play. When you factor in the costs of maintaining or modding a vanilla install of Magento, or some of the other dedicated e-commerce solutions, WooCommerce, with all it’s flaws starts to look pretty good.
When you look at the jumbled mess that Joomla continues to be, prior to any further integration, WP offers surprisingly hassle-free development outlines.
There are some cool headless options right now, but the market, and the marketing of these platforms are in their infancy. Ecwid and Snipcart and headless Shopify are all very interesting, especially for really big enterprises, or companies with a dev team that prioritizes really fast, really agile web experiences.
Then there is the very important fact: you don’t completely own everything on all of these platforms. You don’t control downtime. You don’t control speed under load like you can with well-built instances of WP. Again – Shopify is starting to get very compelling on a lot of these points, but they own the hardware. They own the customer data. They own the merchant processing. With WP you can own all or a large part of every aspect of your customer journey, your customer data, your own content, your own custom code and as an open source software, it’ well maintained by an army of devs that have passion beyond a paycheck. If you look at what happened to Adobe Flash and its end of life debacle, you can see why corporate whims can ruin otherwise interesting projects over time as they become less and less interesting to shareholders.
Some of the main reasons a company would choose WordPress even today with a proliferation of incredible technologies and a ton of talent in the front-end development space are as follows. WordPress is easy to understand, the community is robust and the available tools and pre-fabricated assets are plentiful. WordPress is a blogging format at it’s core rather than an all-inclusive CMS (content management system), but content still reigns supreme in the world of SEO. You’re going to be able to more approachably build a corner of the internet that your client or potential client can easily use for less development cost, with faster timelines and the things you give up aren’t going to bother you as much as the ongoing cost of development that comes with other options. WordPress isn’t perfect but it’s pretty good if you find the right team to help you understand it.
Those aren’t the only reasons WordPress makes sense though; here are some other benefits of the platform
The plugin community is ridiculously large, and the plugin timeline is simple for the administrative assistant in every office. It’s not always necessary to call a dev to get a few new features. you can find bulletproof plugins and crazy loyalty from underpaid developers that love seeing their project in play in the broader community. And by the time the best plugin becomes obsolete for a given task, WordPress core has either implemented the functionality into the shipped themes, or you can get a newer, more sophisticated solution via a third party cloud provider, or with a better, easier to use bundled plugin from a larger company.
It handles media pretty well (most often you’ll be pushing out to CDN’s, AWS, YouTube, and the like, anyways); and it isn’t slow natively unless you make it slow by utilizing poor structures, bad plugins, or bad discipline. The looks are infinitely adjustable. The cost to spin up a relatively decent server and customize a theme are a pittance compared to custom coded solutions, and here is the big one: basically a tiny fraction of the world needs more than what WP can handle natively. Sure, Netflix is built on a hybrid stack of technology that makes it super cool and complex, but awesome for UX. And Amazon is a giant mass of composite structures that showcase development nirvana if one dreams of adding code from every major library and somehow making it all work together.
But how many small and medium sized businesses need to be able to dynamically serve content based on geographic location while ensuring that the google page speed score is above 90. Wait – you can do that with WordPress now. That’s kind of the point. You aren’t building a search engine on WP; and you aren’t trying to compete as one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world on it. But it has a lot of ways for you to reach customers and treat them properly – because it’s more than just a blogging platform anymore. This site is simple. It’s built on WordPress. and we have a crazy talented dev team at our disposal. We have over 60 branded websites, and something like 90% of them run exclusively on WP. Our maintenance budget it tiny in comparison to the 10% that doesn’t run on WP.
In fact, the headless architecture, static serving, super fast websites that have a 99+ google pagespeed insights score that run an awesome UX for mobile users cost on average twice what it costs us to run a WP installation. That’s insane, because headless, static, html driven sites are so easy and simple an cheap to run. But it’s true. The entire internet seems to favor running all but the most complex websites on a CMS like WordPress.
Yeah, but it’s not all rainbows and butterflies in the world of WordPress, right?
Yes. It’s true. WordPress is far from perfect.
But let’s preface that by saying: we don’t recommend trying to use anything else for many of our clients because they will spend more, have more headaches, and accomplish less net benefit by fighting against the system. Sure, it’s not for everyone, especially those that need legitimate proprietary solutions for hard real-world problems.
So what are some of the drawbacks to WP as a standalone solution for a business website all-in-one?
- It can be slow if not optimized
- It can be relatively easy to hack if not properly secured, or if using poorly engineered plugins
- Shared hosting sucks – but that’s not a WP core issue
- WP is marketed as an all-in-one, but it does not fit all
- Not everyone is going to pick up the nuances easily, especially if they have no experience working with websites
- To do anything really cool, you will need a web developer, or at least a very good WP handyperson
- Email and forms leave a lot to be desired
Now let’s talk about what’s truly abysmal when working with WordPress
- Search is brutal. If you have a search intensive website, you will struggle using WP as a standalone all-in-one
- SEO is generally pretty good, but you can have problems if you don’t know what you are doing – use a good plugin like RankMath, etc.
- Legitimately integrated forms, calendaring and scheduling are bad
- If you have a ton of assets or don’t optimize well from the beginning, you’re going to cause yourself big headaches.
- WordPress is table and DB heavy, and not in a good way. Sometimes you will have 5 different entries in multiple DB’s for things like pictures that size dynamically. Not very dynamic
- If you need hardcore user access, or users need to be able to manipulate the site with their actions WP doesn’t have very good scalable solutions. Even the best membership plugins’ premium versions are lackluster at best for really intensive customer support needs on the backend
If you produce content, but don’t need specialty customer interaction WP can be a very solid solution
Not all companies need to be able to interact digitally at the highest level with their client base. Not all businesses need robust customer relationship management capabilities. Not all businesses will use all of their day-to-day tools on their corporate website. With the advent of third party solutions to scheduling and protected data solutions, as well as payment gateways, it pushes WP to the top of a very short list for businesses that are serious about being able to game the SEO factors, but still serve realistic UX. For the vast majority of business users, WordPress is the absolute first line all-in-one solution for their main corporate public facing domain. Very few exceptions exist.
The long and short of why WordPress makes sense for a lot of agency clients
In fairness, many agencies won’t hide the facts about WP – it’s easier to meet timelines, and cheaper to maintain websites with WordPress. The client rarely needs more than what it can offer, especially with new, leaner code builder themes, and more polished new bundled free themes from core WP.
The plugins make modifications pretty easy. Data integrity is a bigger picture item, but can be reasonably accomplished with the right mindset, protocols and tools – if businesses adhere to realistic, but slightly stricter protocols.
Redesign is fast, easy and simple thanks to agencies having good systems in place. Ultimately most businesses are pretty easy to please if the agency is educating them on what is most important and how to get the best ROI.
There are a lot of bad agencies. People pop up on Reddit all the time talking about how they are ready to start their own digital agency – “But where to start?” Sometimes it feels like they are just trolling us.
With WP it’s easy to make everyone feel like they can be an SEO powerhouse, or a legitimate web developer. You barely have to know how to use Canva or Photoshop to be able to get a really good looking WP site these days. But it’s what’s under the hood that really helps to make businesses grow properly.
You cannot just slap a WP theme on it, and throw up some stock images and make it successful. You still need world class content to compete with the crowded SERP’s, and quality imagery and other content to ensure you are providing a unique and interesting experience for users.
You need users to get value and talk about it. As Seth Godin says: Be Remarkable – be something that people are remarking about. That’s not verbatim, but it makes sense.
WP is a cookie cutter template type of website, but only if you let it be. With the right strategic plan, proper SEO from a technical and practical perspective; good optimization processes and stellar content, you can create quite an internet footprint starting and ending with a WordPress installation.
We’ve only touched on the tip of the iceberg about how you can use WordPress to solve business problems on the internet – contact us to see how you can leverage our expertise and real world capabilities to get more out of your business.
We encourage you to follow us here, or on LinkedIn (or both) to get updates on what we are doing, and how you can benefit by using our intelligence (as in: the things we have learned on this journey). We like sharing things.
Two disclaimers that we feel make sense here:
- We build a lot of websites. Not all of them utilize WordPress. If you need a technical solution for a problem that WP cannot handle, you need to look elsewhere – we can help you understand what you need to succeed in your project – most of the time we can build it too; on time and within budget
- We cannot work with all of the potential clients we talk to. We’d love to, but we have to scale sustainably, and continue to focus on core technology buildouts and competencies to adhere to our charter. Who we are and what we are trying to accomplish is very important to us. So, if you want to explore working with us, we’d love to talk to you, but we may not be the best fit, and we may not have the capacity when you are ready for our agency. As a result, we have created an audit product that can help you find the right agency, if we aren’t it. We invite you to spend some time with us and get real insights.
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