The working title for this blog was originally Why I Hate WordPress. But I decided that was a little too harsh a stance to take against the world’s most popular blogging platform. And as I wrote I realised I needed to reveal both sides of the coin because, as I always say… it depends.
My dislike of it springs from my background in designing websites without WordPress, ie. I’d prefer to build sites without it. However, I really can appreciate WordPress’ appeal to people who don’t know code. In fact, many of my pet hates about WordPress won’t matter a hoot to most users.
Who is this post for? It’s written for anyone who’s thinking of starting a business blog or business website, using WordPress. It’s for those wanting to do it themselves, and for those looking to hire a web designer/developer to help…
WordPress is like Windows
To make my point, I like to compare WordPress to that irksome PC operating system, Windows. A large percentage of the world’s population use it by default. It is ubiquitous. Yet a lot of people wrestle with it and find plenty to dislike about it.
It also attracts hackers. Partly because it’s the most-used. But also because it was never built that well in the first place…
That argument is a favourite with staunch Mac users who seem to hate Windows with a passion. (For the record, I’m not a “Mac-head” – I use both operating systems daily and find things to like and dislike in both!)
With both Windows and WordPress being so pervasive, I find I have to use them.
But that doesn’t mean I have to like them.
So here I outline some of the things I hate about WordPress, tempered with things I begrudgingly admit I love about it. (Well, perhaps love isn’t quite the right word, but I am at least learning to embrace it…)
WORDPRESS as a “CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM”
WordPress started as a blogging platform. Pre-2010 it was most commonly used by backpackers and proud new parents, eager to share their adventures with friends and family across the interwebs.
WP’s metamorphosis into its current role as a website platform and CMS (Content Management System) was thanks to the dedication of a bunch of open-source software developers. They pummeled WordPress into a shape that matched the blossoming expectations of a business community who had just begun to realise the benefits of blogging and wanted to tie it in with their websites.
And hence, it’s not quite like any other CMS (of which there are plenty, but many you would never have heard of).
Why I Love WordPress as a CMS
- Everyone has heard of it, so it’s easy to sell. People even ask for WordPress by name when they want to be able to manage their website’s content. Or because their neighbour told them to ask for it…
- It allows me to design content in a way that my clients can follow and update themselves.
Why I Hate WordPress as a CMS
- Like I said, it wasn’t really designed as a website builder and CMS.
- To me, “content management” used to mean: Here’s your website design, and here are the areas that you can update with your own text and changing images. If you want to add new functionality, extra sections, and different page layouts, come back and have them incorporated into the design. You know, so that it looks good.
- With WordPress, people now expect that they can add all that themselves (and usually can), but without a designer’s input.Hence a website might begin its life looking clean and simple, but end up cluttered and confused.
- Not to mention that sometimes the Editor seems to have a mind of its own. WYSIWYG is supposed to mean What You See Is What You Get. But only sometimes…
- The fault I see most often is a small chunk of content on each page, with a right-hand-column full of widgets that stretch as long as Michael Jordan’s arm.
You might also wish to read about the general pros and cons of using a CMS.
Why I Love WordPress Themes
- Themes save me time and energy, no doubt about it. Instead of designing from scratch, I can use someone else’s creative work as a great starting base.
- It’s easy to show clients multiple options, without putting in a whole lot of design work up front.
- And yes, much of the coding is already done.
Why I Hate WordPress Themes
- Much of the coding is already done. But not necessarily the way I like it!
- I find themes can often be either:
- Too restrictive in what templates, layouts, and add-ons are allowed; or
- Way too complex – often in their desire to provide every option that a non-coder could possibly desire.
- The result means they can be very weighty, and cause sites to run slowly.
- Worst of all, they slow me down. I can update HTML and CSS classes far quicker than going through annoying little individual code boxes to get the same result. And with each theme having its own quirks, it can be hard to remember where and how to change different elements.
Why I Love WordPress Plugins
- Some plugins are great! They make life so much easier, even for coders. The ones that integrate with other apps, via APIs, etc, are heaven-sent.
- It seems like, for almost any function you might want, someone has already built a plugin. Search and ye shall find…
- They’re mostly as easy as “plug and play”.
- They’re mostly free. Even brilliantly useful ones, like Wordfence (for security), offer most of the features you need in their free version.
Why I Hate WordPress Plugins
- They proliferate! Just because “there’s a plugin for that” doesn’t mean you should add it to your site. Too many plugins can also be detrimental to your site’s load time, and the wider user experience.
- They don’t need a designer’s input because they’re freely available to anyone with a WordPress site.
- Many are dodgy, patched together, or don’t play nicely with each other.
- They need updating. All. The. Time. Hackers find vulnerabilities through plugins, so you need to be vigilant. (ie. you should always keep them up-to-date, and steer clear of new, untested plugins or old plugins that have been abandoned by their developer.)
And then there’s WORDPRESS.COM
In all this, I have only been referring to the WordPress software platform, sometimes referred to as wordpress.org. WordPress.com and WordPress.org are different beasts. The former has earned its own special place in my black heart…
Why I Hate WordPress.com
There’s no love here. Full stop. I hate seeing people go down the path of building their own business website on WordPress.com, unaware of its limitations. Like the fact that you can’t use plugins. I understand how people fall into this trap – if you read WordPress’ own summary of .com vs .org they makes it sound like the only way to Do It Yourself is via .com.
They use the term “self-hosted”, which sounds scary, but it doesn’t literally mean you have to host your own website on your own server. You simply pay a professional web-hosting provider (of which there are hundreds, and they don’t cost a lot).
I know, I know, WordPress.com are just trying to sell their service, so of course they highlight the pros, but gloss over the cons.
Here’s a balanced viewpoint from the great people at WP Beginner:
Please, please, please take my advice. Do not consider WordPress.com. EVER.
(Not even if you think “all I’m doing is a little blog, for myself”. Because one day that blog might morph into something that’s heading for success and monetisation, but you’re stuck. Moving content from one to the other isn’t too hard, but moving your comments, and followers, and etc, etc. It’s bad.)
Before you build your own WordPress website, get some advice
If you do want a DIY website, using WordPress.org software, I’ve created a new service. Especially for you. It’s a basic get-started-with-Wordpress package, and includes:
- A 45-minute phone consultation with yours truly, to make sure you’re on the right path and make the right choices up-front;
- A quick-start guide, with recommendations for registering your domain name, finding a hosting service, and selecting a theme;
- A list of my recommended plugins, to make sure you’ve got security, backups and anti-spam ready from the outset; as well as other useful plugins for SEO, comments, forms, etc.
Call me to find out more. The new service is not on my website yet – but will be on my new one, which I hope to launch next month. And no… I didn’t build it with WordPress.