One of the great adventures of growing your business is crafting a unique online presence through a well-designed website. On this quest to conquer cyberspace, one could argue that WordPress is the road of least resistance. Celebrating their 17th birthday this past May, which is like dinosaur-status in internet years, WordPress is a flexible and versatile open source content management system (CMS). This means that, as opposed to a content coded website that is built from scratch, WordPress has developers from all over the world that contribute to the core code of the templates and plugins available. Powering 36,7 % of the top 10 million websites in the world, it also offers numerous plugins that enable separate functionalities for everything from blogs to eCommerce stores. With hundreds of designs available, ease of adjustment, and mobile responsiveness (it looks good on any device) it seems like an easy win, right?
Despite its’ clear benefits and initial straight forward set-up, WordPress presents some serious potholes that may convince you to rather embark on the road less travelled.
You will start your WordPress website by choosing a theme – a basic framework design from which you will personalize the website with your unique branding, copy, content, and images. If you want any special features on your site, you will have to add a plugin that will enable that function. A plugin is a small piece of code designed to perform a specific task. Think about plugins a bit like an app on your smartphone, here adding features like a contact form or shopping cart functionality to your website. Each plugin needs to be installed, managed, and updated regularly. Your agency will also have to ensure that your desired plugins remain compatible with your site and updates.
Given the open-source nature of WordPress’s design, it is constantly changing to improve your experience as a user. However, this means that it constantly needs to be updated. The agency hosting your website will regularly have to review whether your theme and plugins need to be updated. Keeping your website up to date is essential to ensure that all features are working properly, as well as general website performance, high security, compatibility, and catching (or fixing) potential bugs.
You know that feeling when you see the “Back in 5 minutes” sign in a shop window and you mostly don’t return after 5 minutes? Well, statistically speaking, your window of opportunity to capture the attention of your online clientele is 6 seconds. Impatient much? You can see why the speed at which your page loads and functions is so important – 2 seconds too long and your potential customer may already be at another virtual shopfront. Unfortunately, WordPress websites can be slow to perform due to the added plugins and oversaturated databases and codebases. Each plugin adds time and some can even double your website loading time. An important factor to also keep in mind is that page loading time and server response time plays a significant role in your website’s Google ranking.
Unfortunately, since WordPress is open-source, any developer can build a WordPress theme or plugin and there is not a governing body as such that monitors the code being created. The strength of the product, its’ community of developers, also creates one of the biggest weaknesses and risk factors for clients. WordPress is often a target for hackers and spammers because of its popularity and heavy reliance on plugins. Updates are a critical part of ensuring that your site stays secure, as 98% of hacking happens because of outdated plugins and themes. The strength of your site is thus not just the beautifully designed “shopfront”, but your man-powered agency bodyguards that need to protect your backend.
WordPress can, at first, feel like a smooth cruise on the freeway, but you can hit some major speed bumps (or even serious potholes) with little notice. The necessity of continuous updates for your website and plugins unfortunately also increases the risk (and likeliness) of wobbles in the road – glitches, errors, conflicts between plugins and broken links, or even the site crashing. Updates can also take some time to process and needs to take into account past customizations to your site. This is why a reliable agency is so important to ensure that problems are picked up quickly and addressed to keep traffic flowing to your business.
Clients often make the mistake to assume that the job is done once their website is up and running. However, as the previous points illustrated, your WordPress website will need constant maintenance. This is not just an automated process, but dedicated man-power is required to manage updates, compatibility issues, and security flaws. Effectively this will result in additional monthly costs that you may not have expected when you drafted your original website budget.
At Pathfind Media we are dedicated to personal service and despite the disadvantages of WordPress highlighted above, we believe in the words of WordPress founder, Matt Mullenweg:
“… technology is at its best when it brings people together.”
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