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For me, WordPress has always been a bit like the weird kid on the block. Everyone knows it to some extent – there’s hardly anyone who can imagine widespread blogging without it – but at the same time almost all of us web developers frown upon it, some with quite a passion.
I remember my first attempts at using WordPress: back then it was still in version 2.x (somewhere around year 2007) and was far from an enjoyable experience. But since then, a revolution has happened and now WordPress is the most popular CMS engine on the planet, with more than 25% websites being hosted on it and keeping close to 60% market share amongst the CMS platforms. That’s a huge, huge, huge achievement for something that was so awful not so long ago.
So, how is it possible that WordPress has taken over the world? I think that WordPress, despite all its cons, is really a great product with an even better community. Here’s my take on why we and other companies have chosen WordPress as the go-to CMS platform. Let’s start with the pros.
5 biggest upsides of using/offering WordPress
1. A lot of people already know WordPress and have often also used its admin panel in the past. This is a huge leverage when we’re offering a build to less tech-savvy customers. They feel saver hearing a well-known name and quite often we don’t need to train them in how to use it. And for most smaller projects there aren’t any downsides, like performance penalty etc.
2. It’s cost effective. Often there’s no need to go crazy with work when the client requires a relatively simplistic page. For cases like this, using WordPress is a no-brainer. Instead of building low level admin features and content management, we get to the important stuff almost immediately and start building the actual content management within WordPress itself. Basically, we combine tools like Advanced Custom Fields Pro, WordPress SEO and others in order to create a structure for content pieces on the templates. No time wasted.
3. It performs well. This is a tricky subject, because WordPress has terrible performance out of the box, but for a regular company page or blog we can easily configure layers of cache on top of the engine and we’re good to go. No need to overthink it, go with Fastly, MaxCDN or CloudFlare, and that’s that.
4. There’s a ton of plugins to add almost any feature imaginable. The WordPress community is very active and it’s hard to find a feature that can’t be added to the site with some plugin or other. Some are free, some are not, but in most cases it’s easier to go for the pre-built and battle-tested solution than to force an already open door.
5. The WordPress team works hard to deliver regular updates and security patches. This is super important in times when automated scripts are constantly scanning pages in search of vulnerabilities. Thanks to constant work on the engine, you’re more likely to avoid problems and the only caveat is that you need to keep the site updated, but even that is automated to some extent where small updates are auto applied.
So that covers the most important pros of WordPress, how about the cons?
5 biggest issues with WordPress today
1. It’s not exactly developer-friendly. Because of the way WordPress is built, it’s not easy to establish a good system for version control or code management. For example, it’s common to only version control the theme, but we see it as far too troublesome. The project repo should keep all the required parts of the code. When you create a theme that requires a given plugin, this plugin should be in the repo (at least via composer.json) together with its version.
2. The performance is terrible. I know I said in the section above that it’s great, but that is assuming a fully cacheable site. That’s not an option for pages like Checkout in WooCommerce. There are multiple things you can do about this, but there’s a limit as to what can be done. If you have a complex and not cacheable site, this may be a problem to handle without some serious processing power in your server room.
3. Quality of plugins. As often happens, quantity doesn’t always go hand in hand with quality. There are plugins to handle almost anything, but you need to be very careful about how well these are created and maintained; it’s a security risk that can’t be ignored.
4. The way WordPress stores configuration and data. Why on earth someone decided that keeping the site domain in the DB would be a good idea is anybody’s guess. Also, keeping a lot of configuration in the DB makes the whole thing way harder to migrate between environments than it should be. Thanks to DeliciousBrains.com for all the hard work on WP Migrate DB Pro plugins.
5. Web developers are looking at WordPress as if it were a lesser technology, so it’s hard to find great talent to work on it.
WordPress is good. Despite its drawbacks and the stigma amongst developers, it’s a great product that offers so much flexibility in one, compact, free package.
Let me know if you have any questions or would like to know more about how we work with WordPress on a daily basis.