These days, most businesses have an online presence with details about their business, their services, contact details, customer reviews, and often a blog.
And, as of April 2019, there are now almost 1.7 billion websites, with the number growing every second according to Internet Live Stats Just over 30% of those websites are built using WordPress, a content management system available as a free download.
WordPress started as a blogging platform and has gone on to become one of the world's great website development packages. And for good reasons:
- It has a large community of people working to make it better.
- It's SEO friendly, which is great for getting your website noticed in search engine results.
- It has a multitude of built-in and third-party themes available.
- It's responsive, so your website looks great on mobile devices too.
So, if you're thinking of a new website for your business, you may think that a free, popular platform is the way to go.
It is fair to say that Wordpress has many advantages. But here are some reasons why we don't recommend it for all websites.
Maintenance and security releases
What's wrong with maintenance releases? These are good right? Sure, but if you take a look at WordPress's release page you'll see how often maintenance and security updates are released. This is something you'll need to keep on top of. Be aware that updates can affect your plugins, as per below.
While WordPress can do most things, its basic platform is still limited compared to a custom-designed and built site. To counter this, WordPress users and developers have created plugins to enhance WordPress. This seems like a good idea at face value, but some of the problems with plugins include:
- WordPress updates: WordPress updates can break plugins. But without the updates, your site can be open to attack. You have to decide whether convenience or security is more critical to your business website and your customers.
- Slowdowns: WordPress can be slow if it's not optimised. And that's just with the base code. Add plugins, and it can become slower still. And what do visitors do when a website takes too long to load? They move on to another site, which can cost you business. A slow website is also a negative for SEO rankings.
- Outdated and varying-quality plugins: Like Apple's App Store and the Google Play store, the WordPress plugin 'store' can be a minefield of outdated or potentially low-quality plugins that can be disastrous for your site. Plugins that haven't been updated for later versions of WordPress can impact your site's performance and security.
- Plugin conflicts: Plugins from different developers can conflict. That shiny eCommerce plugin may not work correctly with your SEO plugin, causing your website to load slowly - or not at all.
eCommerce plugins add shopping functionality to a WordPress website, but they can't alway meet very specific needs in the same way as a custom-built site designed for your business. And what if a critical WordPress update is incompatible with your eCommerce plugin? How much will that cost your business until a plugin update is released?
The WordPress database
The WordPress database holds all the content of your website from the home page to your contact page and the pages in between. This includes your blog, as well as your products and customer details, if you are using an eCommerce plugin.
This data is stored in Wordpress via a single table (wp_posts) for the majority of the content, sometimes as custom fields to cater for advanced functionality. The disadvantage of this approach is that it does not allow for scalability, as there are limitations to how many rows of data can stored and retrieved for larger data sets.
The custom field data format is also unreadable by a human. So, when you need to search the database, the results can be unremarkable blocks of text, requiring a mind bordering on genius to decipher. Plugins such as WP All Import can make the results readable, but why should you need to use these tools to decipher often relatively simple data sets such as a list of products?
The release of WordPress 5.0 in December 2018 caused a greater buzz than the past few WordPress releases. But like major releases of anything, there was a bit of controversy. A new implementation of the WordPress editor caused website layout issues. People discovered a workaround by installing the previous editor as a plugin, but problems like that can be very frustrating for the owner of a website. Have a look at this post on WordPress's support forum for more information.
Ability to Self-Manage Your Website
One reason that many people are attracted to Wordpress is the fact that they will have full control of their website. In reality however, if the application has multiple plugins with custom data fields it will be very complex, and you'll probably need to call in a developer in any case. Many developers would prefer to use other tools to manage complex websites.
One of WordPress's greatest strengths is its themes. But it's also its greatest weakness. Pick a theme, and you may start to notice your site starting to look like everyone else's. Sure, your website will have its own branding, but there's no getting around that it still looks like a WordPress site.
We believe WordPress has its place, especially as a platform for creating marketing and sales content with blog articles.
However, we don't believe that Wordpress is a silver bullet solution for every single website. As requirements for a website’s functionality become complex, Wordpress can require too much maintenance and additional plugins to make it work for your business effectively. The performance of complex websites can also suffer on the Wordpress platform.
What do we recommend?
While we do work with WordPress, for more critical business web based applications we prefer working with a framework that allows us to build websites using blocks of code (packages) that we can easily extend and customise. This enable us to create websites that are designed to our clients specifications, rather than being limited to the existing features of third party plugins.
"O.K. It is true an end user cannot click and install these packages on their phone while travelling home on the train, but this is not appropriate or realistic way of managing the type of complex web applications we are describing."
One of the frameworks we love is Laravel PHP. It's not only great for building websites but also has tools available to debug and maintain those websites quickly. We unpack one of those tools in this blog post about Laravel Telescope.
What about updates?
You can find out more about Laravel's update process on Laravel’s release process page. A customised website built in Laravel doesn't require the constant updating that WordPress needs, because of the way it's made. It doesn't use plugins to get it to do what you want. Instead, it's designed using packages, like Lego, that can be extended to produce custom features. Each block has its own independant role and location in the code architecture so that it does not clash with the roles of other packages, making your website load quickly and perform efficiently.
If you're thinking about a new website or updating an existing website, you need to decide whether to go with WordPress or a custom-built site. Going with WordPress may seem the popular option at first, but for a complex website the amount of work required to keep the site maintained and secure could cost you more time than you have. And the more your website grows, the harder it will be for WordPress to handle the data.
Going with a Digital Bridge custom-built site will give you the confidence of knowing that your website will be be stable for many years. It removes the pressure of constant updates, so that you can spend time developing and expanding your website features instead of treading water to maintain its stability.
But it doesn’t stop there. A Digital Bridge custom-designed site will focus on making your website stand out while showcasing your brand. And with our expert User Interface (UI) design team, your visitors can get the information they need, without excessive navigation.
Got more questions?
Give us a call on +613 8658 2434 or email firstname.lastname@example.org because your website is one of the most significant decisions you'll make for your business. Simply speaking, it's your digital bridge to your customers.
Digital Bridge is a website design and development agency located in Fitzroy, Melbourne.