Clients and potential clients often ask us about WordPress, particularly when others tell them it is "free." That view can be misleading. The base software is indeed free, but it still has upfront development costs, ongoing maintenance costs, and many of the add-ons aren't free. WordPress also has a number of drawbacks.
Zee Designs uses WordPress when it benefits the customer. Most often we recommend the ZD-CMS™ because it is more flexible and scalable without the pitfalls.
When to use WordPress:
- When all you need is a blog, informational content, and a simple site style will do. WordPress does blogs very, very well, because it is still mostly a blogging tool, not a complete CMS (Content Management System) since it needs so many plug-ins to work as one. If the content is blog-like, it also does that well. However, get beyond that and it can become complex and cumbersome quickly.
- When your website is small, your content does not change much, and there are few updates.
- When SEO is not a major concern.
- When database management or integration with other applications is not required.
- When you don't need a customized high end look. Most WordPress sites are recognizable as WordPress immediately because of their looks and functionality.
Issues to consider with WordPress:
- When the site is beyond boutique, (7-10 pages of simple content), WordPress gives few navigation options for a workable large site.
- When clients wish to update their own content; the user interface only has a developer's view. Often the end user is afraid to touch it for (the altogether reasonable) fear of breaking something.
- If your site is not heavy on video, audio, or photos, WordPress will handle these, but as a blog does, not with the flexibility and customization a CMS or custom website can.
- WordPress is SLOW. It takes longer to load a WordPress site due to the plug-ins and bloated codebase. This feature can have a negative impact on SEO.
- WordPress doesn't do much beyond blogging without plug-ins, and the more plug-ins you have, the slower the site loads.
- Only a small percentage of plug-ins are developed by quality coders and you have no way of knowing what you are getting without testing, which can be timeconsuming. Plug-ins can even introduce security risks that are next to impossible to find in testing.
- Just because an add-on, feature, or plug-in was made for WordPress, it doesn't mean it's going to play nice with others.
- If you can't find a plug-in that does what you need, you will need to have one programmed (if it is even possible to program it). WordPress has limited interface with plug-ins and a programmer may not be able to program in everything required and maintain compatibility with the software.
- Updates can be challenging because one update for a particular feature or plug-in may not be compatible with other components. Therefore, there can be considerable time spent on updating and rolling back.
- When the WordPress software itself is updated, these plug-ins can "break" and may not be usable until updated at a later date (if ever).
- Most experienced WordPress developers pay for themes by specific sources they are comfortable working with and find are more reliable than others.
- Only a small percentage of themes are developed by quality coders. Many are very simple or don't have the combination of features desired. Some are not optimized for all browsers.
- There are more limits to the capability of themes than there are for custom websites. They have to fit into the framework set by WordPress.
- Some themes are updatable or customizable. Others are not. Some themes can be risky and difficult to customize.
- Complicated themes may have upfront cost or monthly fees.
- Themes can suddenly and unexpectedly need to be replaced due to updates in the WordPress code or other compatibility issues.
- While some themes are optimized to be mobile responsive, updating them so they look good on any smart device or computer monitor can be challenging and costly.
- Full search engine optimisation is not possible, although the plug-ins are getting better all the time.
- While there are many SEO plug-ins for WordPress, and by picking and choosing the correct ones you can achieve a certain level of optimisation, you can never have the fine control that you get with a custom website.
- There are SEO settings that are not customizable, even with plug-ins. There are many settings in different parts of the interface that affect SEO and all of them have to be set up correctly for optimal results.
- You can create readable permalinks to blog posts and pages, and install themes that follow SEO best practices, but these things are pretty much standard. There is more to SEO than that.
- SEO rules are constantly changing. The plug-ins are not, and even when they are, every change introduces the risk of compatibility issues with WordPress or other plug-ins.
Security and Maintenance
- Since WordPress is used by so many people, often those with fewer technical skills, that it is a frequent target of hackers and spammers.
- WordPress is updated frequently as security holes are found. This means updating your WordPress installation to keep it secure, and that costs developer time.
- Since WordPress is Open Source, there is no official "development team" and no reliable source of technical support should issues arise. There are forums and people familiar with the software, but you take your chances when needing more support than your developer can provide.
- Free? Labor is not free, no matter how you slice it. Open Source doesn't mean free; it means, "Here you go, you can have it, now you invest your time and talents to make it work." And then you need to pay to maintain it with frequent software updates.
- You still have to pay for hosting and domain names, plugins, and special themes.
- Although you still end up spending a lot of money on the site, people see it as a "free" or low cost alternative rather than a professional solution.
- Other solutions can be lower cost and more suited to your requirements in the long run.
What software and strategy to use for your website is a complicated decision. One size does not fit all. The ZD-CMS™ is a fully optimized and customizable solution that avoids the issues that WordPress has, so we recommend it for most of our clients.