Just another blog post about WordPress
Yes, this is just another blog post written in support of WordPress in no other place but a WordPress website. Admittedly I could not resist writing about this knowing that some of you are probably rolling your eyes just by seeing the title. –That’s right, I can see you Sam.
But tell me ….
Why all the hate for WordPress?
Frankly this debate on whether people should use WordPress to design their website or not is similar to debates such as Windows VS Apple, Android VS iPhone, Adobe VS Sketch or Google VS Bing…… ok I am obviously kidding with that last one. In all seriousness though, what I find to be common in all of these debates is that one of the two sides rarely uses valid arguments to justify their choice. They use hate. Raise your hand if you heard this:
I have an Android because iPhones suck and I hate giving my money to Apple!
Instead of let’s say “I prefer Android because it offers me the same functionality as an iPhone in a more affordable price”
You will often also hear an argument such as:
Macbooks are for show-off hipsters, I am using linux cause I am smarter and I actually know how to use a computer!
Instead of hearing something like “Linux is an operating system that I am used to”
In the case of WordPress, the VS possibilities are literally endless and the hate against it even stronger.
Ever since my first web design project I have been in numerous and endless conversations about the fact that I use WordPress. I must say that each and every time I have this sort of discussion I am not convinced from the antilogue of WordPress haters and that is because I often hear one of the following non convincing arguments:
WordPress is not secure
WordPress is not professional enough
WordPress is not going to make you 1st on Google
Ok guys, so if I am not supposed to use WordPress but I do want to use a CMS then which one should I use? As I mentioned before the choices are endless. There is Drupal which is a CMS made in Belgium, Joomla, Blogger, Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, Hubspot, Github pages, AEM, Magnolia, pages made with Adobe and the list goes on and on and on and on…..
In my opinion WordPress wins by far against all of the aforementioned alternatives except when you belong in some specific case(s) that I will discuss later on in this post. First, let me make something clear right now; I am not saying that I do not understand the motivation or the arguments of people who choose to not use WordPress or not a CMS. I get it and respect it. Kudos to all of you taking the time to make something custom but think of this….. does it really worth it? Aren’t you just losing more time this way? Especially if you are creating a personal portfolio or a blog.
I personally find it a bit odd and exaggerated to dismiss and hugely underestimate the use of this WordPress considering that it is the most popular solution trusted by the majority of CMS users.
|Definition Break: CMS is short for Content Management System and it is a piece of Software that facilitates the task of building and designing a website.|
A truth hard to admit for some is that if WordPress was not that popular, we would not be having this discussion at all.
The Popularity of WordPress.
There are approximately two billion websites online worldwide according to various surveys, reports and articles dated up to 2017. Half of those websites are created with the use of a CMS. WordPress is in the lead of this marek with a share of 60,1% of all websites made with the use of a Content Management System. Not too shabby eh? In fact, when I was writing my thesis in 2013 I had researched for the same information and at the time WordPress’ market share was at 54,1%. So the percentage seems to be going up up up ….
The second most popular CMS is Joomla but that with a market share of only 6,4% ( Drupal follows with 4,5% ) Number do not lie…. we are not even talking about close seconds here. WordPress is king
If you are going to pick a CMS to create your website it will most likely be WordPress.
Who uses WordPress?
One of the biggest arguments of those against the use of WordPress, is that this CMS is not a professional solution. They are usually basing this on the fact that WordPress is an open source CMS and on the fact that the majority of WordPress users are common people like you and me who create blogs and not high profile professional websites.
Indeed WordPress was initially created for bloggers however as more and more people use it for websites that are much more than blogs, WordPress has clearly evolved into a more polyvalent CMS solution. A quick search online will show you that there are indeed some big names that use WordPress for their professional websites including Mercendes-Benz , Microsoft News Centre, The New Yorker and the TechCrunch Blog. In Belgium as well several websites are made with WordPress such as 20Something the website of an advertising and communications agency based in Brussels, Sauve une vie the informational campaign of the hospital of Liege, Nove the website of an advisory agency in public affairs and communication based in Brussels and let’s not forget about Doccle.be designed by yours truly of course!*
In a more universal scale and for your design inspiration, you can find a list of beautifully designed WordPress websites in the Awwwards website* If you have a look at these examples you will be able to get inspired and see what is really possible to achieve with WordPress. What I am trying to say here is that provided that you know what you are doing you can create really beautiful and professional websites with WordPress. The CMS is not in any way an obstacle if you have the knowledge, imagination and talent.
Why am I using WordPress?
My clients and colleagues know that I am a WordPress supporter and while some of them try to convince me of the error of my ways, my clients are in a totally different category. Some of my clients choose me to design their website specifically because I know how to design with WordPress.
Why have I been so loyal to this particular platform instead of exploring the alternatives?
👍 First of all, I have a good basis to start working with.
If you are a user experience designer you know that a project never starts with the design you first have to define together with your customer the why of it all, the purpose, the goals. After defining the why you will start designing the journey of the people who will visit the website and the flow of pages which will lead you to the creation of wireframes that you will then bring to life with a design. This process usually takes a lot of time but it is quite important. When I am at the stage where I have to bring these wireframes to life, I will look for a premium or freemium WordPress theme that I know how to manipulate to a great extent in order to match the requirements and the design that I have proposed to my client.
A great advantage of this is that these WordPress themes come with a responsive design code which means that I only have to write a few lines of additional code for the final result to be correctly represented in all devices.
👍 There is great support and endless online resources.
Contrary to criticism there is great support within the WordPress community. Since a lot of people use it, that means that tutorials and helpful resources are endless. When I started to understand the architecture of WordPress better and how everything comes together, I was able to search more efficiently on line for what I wanted to do and find tips and examples that helped me. The online community not only helps with bugs that you can find along the way, but also with pretty much anything you will need such as; creating your own custom post types, writing custom functions and creating custom headers that will include metadata, consent notifications and so on…..
👍 Fast and (not) Furious.
When working on a project for an SME client, time is everything. It is more likely that your customer is pressured to be live very soon, deadlines have to be respected ideally without sacrificing any step of your design process along the way. With WordPress I know that I can set up a website quite “fast” and shift my focus more to code customisation, UX and design aspects instead of writing endless lines of PHP or JAVA just to get pages and basic components up and running.
👍 Easy to manage.
WordPress is an easy CMS for a novice user. When I deliver a website to my client (s)he has to be responsible for managing the content and keeping it up to date. If I deliver a custom website that does not have an admin interface, I know that I will have to manage all kinds of changes in the content, the code, handle updates and more. With WordPress that is easy for my clients to do on their own as nowadays the CMS works with several page builders and it has a built in and easy to use admin interface, page editor, update system and media library.
👍 It is FREE!
Yes, I kept the best for last. WordPress is free. Listen, when you will create your website for the first time you need to pay for several things that you probably did not expect:
- You have to pay annually for a server,
- for a secure connection,
- for your domain name,
- probably for a SEO service that will boost you up in google
so it is a huge advantage to not to have to pay for your CMS as well, don’t you think?
Aaaaand I am going to close with the strongest argument I could possibly have. Guys…… Beyonce’s website is made with WordPress need I say more?
Ok WordPress is cool but let’s not sugarcode it..
So yes indeed WordPress has all these cool advantages, it is popular and but there has to be a catch in all of this, right? Nothing in life is free
I am not blind to the disadvantages of WordPress. It is true that when I first used it I was overwhelmed and it took me some time to learn how to use it to fit my needs. For my very first website made with WordPress I used a very basic template and I did not yet have the know how to work with the theme besides of applying just some custom CSS code to it. That means that for any kind of extra necessary functionality, I used plugins. A lot of them.
👎 A Plugin for everything.
Plugins sometimes can be the cancer of a WordPress website and that’s because they slow it down significantly. There are some necessary plugins that you will most likely not avoid such as the Contact Form 7 plugin for example or a Page Builder plugin of sorts but here is what I suggest you; if you can avoid the use of a plugin by adding some custom code to your WordPress files just do it! It will be totally worth the effort. I am not suggesting that you should build your own custom page builder but if you need to add a cookie consent to your website you can do it by manipulating the php files of your theme.
Do not go for a plugin for everything type of website. The problem here is that since WordPress is quite popular there is a plugin for literally everything no matter how complicated or easy the task is. There is a plugin for the simple fact of adding social media icons to your footer, to a plugin that automatically compresses your JS and CSS files while you are editing them. Developers and companies win from these premium and freemium plugins and it gets harder and harder to find the way to make something work without them. But hang in there, search harder for the solution it is not impossible to do it without a plugin!
👎 Slow down.
👎 Security issues.
Another disadvantage that comes with popularity is security risks. Since a lot of people are using WordPress it becomes more interesting to attack WordPress websites, it as simple as that.
I am not saying that all WordPress sites are vulnerable though. Russian hackers will not attack blogs like this one that only Didier reads, there is no interest in that – but if a business website is made with WordPress chances are that some hackers will find it challenging to attack it. I once worked with a client who suffered an attack on their website (before I worked with them of course) and let me tell you they were scared of everything after that happened. How can you make sure that your WP site is protected? Yeah ….. you can do that with a plugin. What you can also do though is make sure you change your password frequently and that you BACK IT UP!
If you want to build a more complex site such as an eShop that offers a range of products, then you might realise that you need more than what WordPress has to offer. Even though WooCommerce, the e-commerce platform of WordPress, seems to be having the advantage over other e-commerce platforms I must say that I feel the need to investigate other solutions lately for these types of projects. And here is why; first of all, the search functionality within a WordPress website is known to be (below) average and search is crucial for an eShop. Search results in our days should be smart enough to give to our users the information they are looking for as accurately and as fast as possible so that they will not have to search multiple times for the same piece of information.
It is possible that while your competitors are upping their game by applying AI and natural language processing techniques to optimise their online product catalogs, their eShop customer experience and search functions, that you find yourself having a headache with yet another WooCommerce update, wondering if your template is compatible with the latest version of WooCommerce or if you have a risk losing all your data ending up using that backup file you wish you did not have to use, ever. I feel the pain and the stress….. I am going through it right now!
How to get the most out of WordPress
I think it is time to forget about the most popular myth surrounding the use of WordPress that “you do not need to have any design or development skills to build your website with WordPress” and talk seriously for a second. How can you get the most out of WordPress?
💪 Create a custom WordPress theme.
Remember all the examples I gave earlier of professional WordPress websites used by well known brands? If you have a closer look at what these guys did you will realise that they developed their own custom WordPress theme. They also customised the structure of their website for security purposes. This is something that solves problem one and three that I discussed above but it is not something that a person with no development skills can do. In order to achieve this you will need to have development and design skills yourself or you need a developer to create a custom theme for you and a designer to create several the design and the flow of your pages.
But, if you cannot do that not all hope is lost …..
💪 Work with a child theme.
I realise that creating your own custom template is not always feasible you may not have the skills or the budget. If you want to do this yourself it will take time and in our days you should not wait too long before you just join the internet shpere. So if you do not have that Beyoncé money and you just want to launch go for a child theme! I would suggest you to purchase a premium WordPress theme that will not cost more that 70euros and that will often come with the child theme version already set up and ready to be installed. Using a Child theme is actually the suggested WordPress method to customise and extend a theme to fit your needs. This way not only you will not lose your changes after each WordPress update but it would be a more easy way to create and modify your own website to your liking and get to know WordPress better.
💪 Involve a professional in the process.
So you purchased a WordPress theme, you installed the child version and while in the online demo it looked amazing, now that you installed it – it looks different and it just makes no sense. That is normal if you are new to this. Premium themes are made by professionals with the only goal to sell them, they serve the purpose of demonstrating what you can do with the theme when you download it assuming that you know how to work with WordPress. For this theme including its images, typography, logos and UX there is an entire team of developers and designers behind it – did you read that correctly? I said a team
So if you are alone in this with no experience then you need to roll up your sleeves and start learning or you need a team of professionals to help you set up the website you were dreaming of. In other words don’t think about it just mail me 🙂
What are the goals of your website and what do you want to achieve with it? What is your budget and what are your priorities? These are questions that only you can answer and those will define whether you should even use a CMS or not. Maybe all you need is a FaceBook page to get you started or just a free blog subscription.
If you choose to use a CMS to design your website there is absolutely nothing wrong with using WordPress. There is nothing wrong with using another CMS as well, to each is own.
Is WordPress the most straightforward CMS? Yes.
Is it possible to create a high quality website with WordPress? Hell, Yes!
Does WordPress require zero development, UX and web design skills? Absolutely Not!
Here is another truth that is hard to accept; we cannot blame a CMS for our lack of knowledge in working with it. Would you blame a car for not starting if you do not have the keys? Think about it. Every CMS requires work and a skillset and you will be able to achieve better results by learning how to use it well. It is wrong to expect things to work out of the box without any effort on our end. Just like every application out there it is your experience and talent that will define the end result.
But above all remember, what would Beyoncé do?
Currently listening to Taylor Swift: Shake it off
Photo downloaded by Unsplash, my gifs may be in subject of copyright – That’s what google said to me!
* Future goal, have one of my websites included in the Awwwards website
Sources that I read to write this post: