WordPress is Not for Developers

By Tuesday June 4th, 2013

Picking out WordPress as a CMS for a company website is like buying a pre-built house with a nice shed in the back because you like the shed, then tearing down the house’s walls and building new ones with the pieces of the shed.

In 2003, a new open source micro blogging Content Management System (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL was released. WordPress quickly went from being a blogging tool to a CMS for full, complex websites (something it was not originally intended for).

Today, giving clients the ability to quickly and easily update their website content is expected, and having a CMS is almost always a requirement for any web project. Whether from lack of time, knowledge, or dedication, many developers turn to a pre-built CMS in these situations, and often times that CMS is WordPress.

Early on, I tried to like WordPress, but I struggled to find any reasons. Even to this day, I’m reading blogs trying to understand exactly why a developer would willingly choose WordPress as their main CMS for anything but a blog.

One such article I came across over at aspireid.com gives 10 benefits to using WordPress to power a company’s website. I read the article, I thought about the points, and I came to the conclusion that they’ve just spent so long using WordPress that they’ve entered the realm of “fan-boy.” So let’s go over each of their points and explain why they aren’t sufficient reasons to use WordPress for a corporate website.

“Ease of use”
If you’ve ever tried to edit WordPress in the back end, you will know it’s not always a fun venture. The folder structure is a mess, and it has random empty files that have no explanation for their existence. The database was designed to be versatile, yes, but it’s a complete mess, with almost everything placed in one table, with so many random connections that it takes hours to figure out.

On the front end, restricting menu options and understanding where things should be is confusing out of the box. Furthermore, the fact that customizing menu options to fit a client’s needs isn’t always straightforward to begin with.

“Manage your site from any computer”
Well yes, that’s what a CMS does. Even if you didn’t have a CMS, you could still do this if you really wanted to. You don’t tell someone to buy a Ford because it has wheels and Chevy doesn’t.

“No html editing or FTP software required”
This is mostly false: what if the client needs something custom done that they can’t find a plug-in for? Why do I say mostly false? Because WordPress is built in PHP, so you can often get away with not using html if you do need to make changes.

No FTP? This is also false: if the company is large, chances are their IT department will have security on the server preventing WordPress’s ability to install plug-ins without FTPing. Though this is not always the case, I have experienced this problem a number of times.

Once you have the site made, though, you don’t need to know html to edit content, because again, it’s a CMS and that’s what they do.

“Search engines love WordPress”
Yes, they do. But it’s not because the code is “clean” or “simple.” It’s because the people who made WordPress understood SEO and did everything they could to optimize the code that’s executed on the browser (something any good web development agency would also do).

“You have control of your site”
I’ll say it again: that is the point of a CMS. Developers build and use CMSs for clients so that they can update content on their own. ANY of the various CMSs out there offer this same feature. It’s not something exclusive to WordPress. (Chevys, Hondas, and Toyotas all have wheels too!)

“The design of your site is 100% customizable”
The design is only this customizable if you have a developer. WordPress has different themes to choose from, but they aren’t custom. If you’re trying to say that WordPress is this super amazing product that doesn’t require a developer or any programming knowledge, then you don’t get to tell them that WordPress is 100% customizable.

“A blog is built in and ready to go”
Who knew that a micro-blogging CMS had a blog built in?

“Extend the function of your website with plugins”
Plugins are one of the best worst things about WordPress (huh?). Plugins tend to be user-created and maintained, meaning that if the developer decides to stop working on it and WordPress updates and breaks the plugin, that’s too bad. Better hope someone picks up development on that plugin you were relying on. Worse than that, though, is that many security flaws with WordPress are exploited through the plug-in system.

“Your site grows as your business grows”
This is true, but I can’t really say it’s a good thing. Oftentimes, development agencies will help a company to narrow the focus of their website to what is going to drive the most traffic and revenue using analytical and past experience.

These people have been doing this a lot longer than the average person that would be updating content for a company website. How often does a CEO or higher-up mention a “must-have” feature that is actually useless or simply causes more confusion?

Development and SEO agencies are there to help narrow down and focus a message, which is much harder to do when the client has free reign to create limitless pages.

“Have multiple users”
Because, no other car offers all four tires when you buy it.

At Brolik when a blog is required, we integrate WordPress into the site for blogging; that’s what it was for. WordPress can be a helpful tool when it’s used correctly.

Picking out WordPress as a CMS for a company website is like buying a pre-built house with a nice shed in the back because you like the shed, then tearing down the house’s walls and building new ones with the pieces of the shed. WordPress is the shed, and it has a purpose, but it is not the house.


What alternatives to WordPress are there?

For small developers working on small projects who don’t possess the knowledge to create their own CMS framework, WordPress may very well be the solution.

There are, however, other solutions out there such as Joomla! and Drupal. Drupal is very similar to WordPress and Joomla! Since the three are only marginally different, these two offer some of the same problems that WordPress does. The one thing they have going for them is that they were built more as a website CMS, and less as a micro-blogging platform.

Perhaps the best currently available option for an open-source CMS would be concrete5. Another PHP based application, concrete5 offers more freedom to develop then WordPress, Joomla!, or Drupal. Having logged less than 10 hours working with concrete5 though, I can’t sufficiently recommend this as the solution to the problem.

As it stands, WordPress is not, and should not be, the solution to a larger company website. The security implications alone should be enough to deter any company from building their website on WordPress. Developers and companies alike should look for something a little more custom for the websites, especially a full corporate site.

Companies looking for a high quality CMS that responds to all their devices should turn to a CMS for developers, by developers, that is going to fit their specific needs. With so much business turning to the web, isn’t it time to start looking for that custom tailored website, rather than a sloppy rebuilt one?


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