What content management system should you use for your website? WordPress, or something else? There are some great arguments for WordPress and some things to consider alternatively.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a content management system. It is responsible for 30% plus of all websites on the internet. It is free and open source, and that is the key. For those who don’t know, open source is really what you want to look for in many applications. Developers can modify and add to the system in order to improve it as they so desire. They can make adjustments based on your unique needs. If you go with a platform that is a drag and drop builder, they’re not open source. And if you want to change or develop something, you’re restricted to the confinements of that platform. And there are limitations.
This is something you need to think about before you start building your website. Otherwise, you’re going to have a lot of wasted time, frustration, money, and obviously loss of opportunity cost, which you can’t get back. That should be considered when exploring any sort of website or content management system.
It really comes down to need. We love WordPress, but it may not be the right solution for every situation. If you’re looking for proof of concept, if you have no budget, if you want to do things on your own, these are all scenarios when an inexpensive “do it yourself” style platform may meet your needs. Go to one of these drag and drop builders, get something for a few bucks a month and call it done. If it’s a proof of concept, if it’s a side business that isn’t really doing any revenue, you can put up a page yourself, you can spend a weekend and get something up that would explain your services. But it’s not very flexible. You don’t have the options for scalability.
That’s not what we focus on. There is a certain point where you’re managing a business, you’ve got other things to do besides try to develop a website. It’s not your skillset. At that point is when WordPress becomes a very viable option for most projects.
WordPress is a far superior product because you can go in any direction. It’s a open canvas for whatever you want to create. You’ll often hear people compare them because you have themes and plugins similar to many sites, but these are your foundation. It lets you set your foundation and you build on it however you want, given the developer has the right skills to achieve this.
You can go and create a landing page on WordPress with ease, and it would rival any landing page made on a different platform, no question about it. You are certainly not missing out on anything, that is for sure. There is a learning curve, like with anything. People ask us often, well, is WordPress difficult? Well, what is difficult? There is a learning curve associated with any new platform you choose to work with, and WordPress is not more difficult once it is built.
It is important to understand the difference when you start talking about the difficulty. There are two components.
- The actual development of the website, and its maintenance.
- Is it difficult comparatively? As in, is it difficult to go onto the website and add a blog post? Or change some text?
These two answers need to be separated. It’s not rocket science, but like most things, if you have the proper training, and enough time, and the right skillset, you can definitely learn it.
No matter the platform you choose, there is a learning curve. We ask ourselves often, “Since when did a business owner need to also become a web designer?” The allure of creating your own site in minutes, without professional help, seems exciting. We would argue that in most cases, its frustrating, and a waste of your time.
Impact on SEO
There are SEO disadvantages when using these drag and drop platforms. Getting a blank canvas, a vanilla build out, you can optimize your website properly, via tried and true SEO implementation methods. You can optimize your internal linking. You can get into the nitty gritty of technical SEO elements, so your site can be ranked and found on Google much more easily than something with “the other guys”.
That’s in part due to the drag and drop builder. The ease of use, being able to drag and drop the website without any coding. It may not be obvious… but every website has to be coded. They turn the code into a drag and drop builder that puts the code on the back end. And, the offset of it is having a very code-heavy front end. That means, you can change it any which way you so desire. But you have a code heavy front end, which makes it much harder for the site to be able to rank and for Google to understand it because it has to parse through all of the code.
With WordPress, you get exactly what you want and need. It’s very light. It’s very fast, or it certainly can be if you have good hosting. Those differences are not made very clear. You see ads all day long about how easy it is to build a site in a few minutes. You’d have to think that if those sites are so effective and so scalable, the world would be out of web developers.
Approximately 30% of all websites built on the WordPress platform, and a 60% market share in content management systems. 25% of the top 10,000 websites are built on WordPress. Those are numbers that speak to its benefits.
The WordPress User Experience
WordPress is built on underlying themes and the ability to extend those themes via plugins, and customizations. Some are free, some are premium. There’s a huge library of plugins available, much more than are available on other platforms. Some are better than others, and with some due diligence, you can get fantastic extensions of your website’s functionality from a variety of great sources. A developer can come in and custom develop content that otherwise doesn’t exist in the world. You can connect great plugins built by competent developers, and you can go as far down the rabbit hole as you’d like.
You add-on what you need and you optimize accordingly. You are not paying for bloat or the ability for functionality that you just don’t need. It really makes a lot of sense.
WordPress & Controlling Your Website
You have control with WordPress. You have a lot of control that you wouldn’t have elsewhere. WordPress plugins can get very granular, you can get really involved with what it is that you’re doing and how things present to search engines.
Control is very, very important. The bigger the business is, the more money they’re doing, more is going on online. It is imperative to make sure that you have control over all aspects of the website. Security is imperative, and with WordPress, you have control. Read more about protecting against WordPress security vulnerabilities.
Misconceptions about Drag and Drop Builders
When people hear customization, many instantly think a hefty price tag, big, money, expensive. Having the freedom of being able to customize your website or having the flexibility of open source does not necessarily mean it’s going to be tens of thousands of dollars.
Its all a matter of the market. You could go tomorrow and find a WordPress developer that wants 25K in order to develop a website for you, guaranteed. You’ll find one in five minutes. On the other end of the spectrum, you can go to Fiverr.com and there’s someone there that wants 300 bucks to build you a website. Neither is a great choice, in most cases. Do your research. Check reviews, check sources, check references. Make sure that you’re getting involved with a team and a group that know what they’re doing.
Design and Development – Two Different Things
There are two elements to consider when developing a website. There’s the design, and there’s the development. You need to make sure that you have the right people in both of those positions in order to achieve the best results possible in the long run. Full stack developers (Those that design and develop) are harder to find. It is a matter of finding people that have work that you like, that is in line with what you’d like and what you desire for your website, have the right work ethic, respond to you well.
The important part is similar to digital marketing efforts or anything else, you need to have an idea of what success looks like. What’s the finished product? And then at that point, you can determine what is the best path for you to go down. Check out our blog post about 12 essential elements for good web design.
How do you design a website in such a way that they’re going to get to your end goal. Whether it’s a phone call, or a form submission, or get someone to download some sort of PDF guide, or whatever the goal is of the website. There is a saying we like a lot, it goes like this, “Without a direction, without a goal, any road will do. You can go to the left, you can go to the right. It doesn’t really matter because you don’t know where you’re going.” Somebody that just wants some credibility, and like a business card, has very different needs than a site that is spending money in order to send traffic and expecting a return on their investment. It’s a lot of difference, a big difference.
Do I Own My Website?
With a WordPress website, you own your site. Whereas when you’re on a drag and drop builder you’re paying rent for the site every single month. And when you decide not to pay or you’re done with it, you’re left with nothing. It’s like a lease of a car, except it’s your business. Being able to own the site, and the content, and being able to move it somewhere else, if you so desire, is valuable. If you spend time building a blog, you’re going to want to be able to keep that, and if you decide you want to move your website, you have that freedom with WordPress. Now, the fact is, whomever is your host essentially owns your website, but that is a separate discussion. Check out this blog post about what to look for in a web hosting company, or check out our web hosting page.
You’re renting. You don’t own the thing. If you don’t pay, it’s gone. You have no control over hosting, no control over other important considerations. It sounds nightmarish!
Shopify is a great option if you’re selling products online. It has a very good ecosystem. It meets users somewhat in the middle between WordPress and one of these drag and drop builders. You can build upon it. You can customize certain elements, but it’s also built on having a rock-solid checkout. And as an eCommerce merchant, Shopify would be appropriate.
Now, Shopify is definitely not appropriate if you’re a lawyer. You’re going to end up spending a fortune to build out a site that you would end up using only a few key elements of. For people that are selling products, if you’re a larger business, as in doing a few million a year, Shopify could be a great option. You do have the ownership issue tough.
And you have “app creep”, which means you’re paying X amount of dollars per application you add to your website, on top of the monthly subscription cost. Unless you’re on Shopify plus, which is $2,000 a month. And then for each application, you’re paying $5, $10 a month, $30 a month. So that adds up. So before you know it, you could have a few hundred dollars a month worth of apps adding up.
Differences in Development Time
From my experience between WordPress and Shopify from a developers standpoint, Shopify is probably five times the effort and time to customize compared to WordPress. It’s certainly something to think about.
If you are a high volume store, it would make a little more sense, but we’ve done work on a lot of high volume stores that are built on WordPress.
It really comes down to understanding the needs. What are the actual needs of the product? What does success look like? And finding a combination of where the two points meet? We believe that will help guide most people to finding the right platform for them.