Kamil Porembiński
Kamil Porembiński

Does your website really need WordPress?

WordPress, due to its great popularity and a very complex ecosystem, has become the default choice when creating websites. Many companies creating websites base their work on WordPress, regardless of whether its use really makes sense.

If you are planning to create or order a website, it is a good idea to answer a few questions before you decide on WordPress.

Four potential solutions

Let’s start with the fact that creating a new website we have at least four possibilities to choose from:

  1. The static side,
  2. WordPress,
  3. Other CMS (Joomla!, Drupal, Magento, Ghost itd.),
  4. Custom CMS.

A static website will work for simpler websites. WordPress competition or authorial solutions will be useful when WordPress capabilities are insufficient.

What is the static side?

A static website is any website that does not require the use of programming languages used in the so-called back-end, i.e. PHP, Ruby, Java, etc. for its operation. A static website consists simply of HTML files and additional resource files uploaded to the server. Thanks to this, it is statistically much safer due to the smaller number of possible security vulnerabilities, it is also usually much faster – in the case of e.g. WordPress, the resulting HTML code must be generated, which sometimes takes some time (in extreme cases, several dozen or so seconds), while having a static website, the resulting code is immediately available for the browser.

Static pages are not managed when it comes to their content on the same server – we don’t have the equivalent of the WordPress cockpit here. This does not mean, however, that we have to apply any changes directly in HTML files. There are many ways to create static pages – from mechanisms based on properly formatted files (Jekyll, Hugo, VuePress), through headless CMS solutions (Contentful, Directus, Strapi) to desktop applications (e.g. Open Source project, which I co-create – Publii Static CMS).

What is a custom CMS?

Original solutions for content management work well when we are dealing with highly customized needs of the customer or we are very keen on efficiency. Due to the fact that these are tailor-made solutions, their main disadvantage is their price, which often exceeds a dozen or so tens of thousands zlotys. Another disadvantage of this type of solutions is the issue of project maintenance – as a rule, we become attached to the authors of such a solution.

The biggest advantage of such solutions is the ability to adapt everything to our needs – from the interface through the structure of data, to solutions concerning the way of scaling the project. If the system is well written, it is usually safer than Open Source solutions, which allow everyone to see their source code and look for vulnerabilities (which are not always reported to the authors, but are used to attack pages).

When WordPress is too much

Asking yourself a few simple questions will help you understand whether the use of WordPress is not a coincidence of shooting from a cannon to a sparrow:

  1. Should the website be a simple business card page, a simple blog or a landing page?
    In the case of the simplest websites, it often turns out that a static website would be a much better solution due to the very simple structure of the website. Static pages become problematic in maintenance, when we have a lot of subpages and even a small change in the structure of the site requires updating all files.
  2. How often will the content of the website be updated?
    This is one of the aspects that determine whether the use of the static side makes sense. If you plan to change page content frequently or create a blog with a large number of entries, WordPress will be a better choice. In the case of rarely updated pages, a static page should work much better.
  3. How critical is the security of the created website?
    WordPress, due to its popularity, is a frequent target of attacks. If we want to keep risk to a minimum, a static website will be a much better solution.
    It is worth remembering that the way static pages work will force us to keep data from users (e.g. from the contact form) in the form of e‑mails or with other service providers, who usually have procedures in place to protect the data against unauthorized access.
  4. Are you interested in maximizing the speed of your website?
    Static pages are usually much faster than typical WordPress pages. Not only because they do not require additional PHP scripts and databases to work, but also because they usually contain less scripts and CSS code (WordPress plugins can generate a lot of unnecessary resources to load).
  5. Are you able to save time for website maintenance?
    Compared to WordPress, the static page is virtually maintenance-free. It does not require regular updates of extensions, and its backup is usually always on your hard drive, because it is needed to conveniently perform updates of such a page. If you have a static page, you will also avoid unnecessary stress that occurred during the release of WordPress 5.0 with a completely new editor, because we are not so dependent on our CMS software.

When WordPress is not enough

Often WordPress is also offered where it should not be used. Theoretically, you can squeeze a lot out of WordPress, but sometimes the cost of such actions is inadequate to the results achieved.

When creating really complex systems, it is worth considering an original platform – then we will not be limited by the interface of the WordPress cockpit and the performance of technologies used by it (PHP and MySQL).

Sometimes it may also turn out that competitive CMS will work better in specific applications. For example, when creating a larger online store it is worth considering CMS created for e‑commerce – Magento or Prestashop. In case of creating a blog it is worth to have a look at Ghost. When creating multilingual pages or pages with a complicated modular structure, Joomla may be worth considering!

WordPress works best when creating medium sized pages – the more extensive the service we create, the more we will feel the need to look for alternatives.

Three mistakes made when choosing the final solution

Probably the most common mistake is an optimistic extrapolation of planned future site features. This results in the selection of a tool that gives the greatest possibilities of adjusting the website to the needs of the client at a low initial cost – WordPress.

Quite often you can also meet expressions of the need to have the ability to edit all elements of the site by the customer. In practice, this ends after a few months with a page to which the author no longer wants to admit. It often turns out that the possibility of editing everything is not used at all and the implementation of such a solution was just throwing money down the drain.

The third common mistake is the desire to underestimate the cost of site implementation. In practice, it turns out that with a given budget, no self-respecting developer will take up the order and amateurs who once heard something about creating websites remain. As a rule, in a wider time horizon, the client pays twice: for a website and for its complete reconstruction so that it is suitable for anything.

WordPress is not without disadvantages

The popularity of WordPress and the low threshold for entry into the web development industry meant that even a technology layman can create a quite complex website.

On the one hand, it is very good that the ability to create websites is not a secret knowledge for high-class specialists – it makes the Internet a place where everyone can share their thoughts and opinions. On the other hand, a rash of “specialists – clicks” caused that the valuation of the cost of implementing a website, exceeding several thousand zlotys, causes nervous questions of customers, why it all costs so much. What usually ends up explaining that certain things can simply be done and can be done well.

Surely WordPress is to blame for the mediocrity of many websites. On the other hand, WordPress is responsible for the existence of many websites that would not have been created at all under normal circumstances, because there would be no business basis for it.

Is WordPress a good choice?

It should be remembered that when deciding on WordPress, we also decide to accept its advantages and disadvantages.

On the one hand, we have access to a huge ecosystem of plug-ins and motifs. There will also be no problem with finding a specialist who will create such a website.

On the other hand, we get a lot of additional responsibilities related to the maintenance and security of the website.