WordPress is a content management system that is equally loved and loathed by web designers and developers across the globe. Whichever side of the fence you are on, WordPress is an Internet phenomenon with a massive market share – something like 14% of all sites are powered by WordPress.
I’ve designed and built bespoke python systems and ‘off-the-shelf’ CMS’s such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Expression Engine, Drupal and Craft (the new kid on the block). For those of you who have not yet taken a look at Craft, you must – it’s brilliant but it serves a different purpose to WordPress. So I’m in a good position to judge the pros and cons of each system and lets be honest, none of them are perfect so it’s all about making the right choice for your project and your set of requirements. It’s an important decision and not one that you want to get wrong.
For today, I’m looking at the merits (and pitfalls) of designing and building a site on WordPress.
It’s FREE!!! How many market leading products in life are free and I would put it right up there with Facebook and Google. For a free CMS, WordPress is an incredible piece of software. But it’s the gift that keeps on giving… not only is the core free, but there are thousands of plug-ins to expand the functionality of your site that are free too. Imagine how much it would cost to pay a web developer to build something so powerful from scratch.
Secondly, it’s open-source so there are more WordPress developers in the world than any other type. No matter where you live or work, there will be a WordPress developer close by and that provides piece of mind. Whatever happens in the life of your website (your developer decides to go backpacking for a year), within the enormous WordPress PHP community, you won’t find it difficult to bring in an expert to take over your site. A talented WordPress developer can custom build additional functionality beyond the WordPress core so don’t panic if you want to do something a little extra.
As a web designer, I will always push the merits of bespoke design. You can deliver to the exact requirements of the clients brief and ultimately achieve a cleaner, simpler and better outcome. But lets be realistic here – not all clients have the budget for a bespoke design and as designers we need to be aware of what can be done within the allocated financial resources. As responsive mobile design has become the standard rather than the exception, the time it takes to design a bespoke website has suddenly gone up (but the budget has often stayed the same).
So as designers, what do we do? Again, loved and loathed by the creative industry, one of the most powerful features of WordPress is the quantity and quality of pre-built fully responsive WordPress frameworks and themes that enable web designers to build and tailor a site to meet many of the clients requirements. So for the right brief, this can be an excellent option to explore and one that I now often recommend to my clients who have a small budget.
The other advantage of installing a theme, is that your website will be live far quicker than a custom design and build – for some business’s this is vital and an important decision.
Some clients feel that they can go it alone (DIY mode) and install WordPress, buy and activate a theme and create a site that meets their needs. This is possible and worth trying if you are technically savvy and there is an ‘inner web designer’ in you. Very quickly, you will know whether this is a realistic long-term option for your business but more often than not, it simply won’t do your brand justice and even more importantly, won’t generate the enquiries, sales and business objectives behind it. I regularly get asked to redesign a website that a client has put together themselves. In business, your time is probably better spent in your area of expertise rather than dabbling in some web design but hats off to those who try and succeed.
The WordPress interface has improved a lot over the years and what was once a clunky and unattractive blogging platform, is now relatively straight-forward to use if your site has been coded up correctly. It lacks the high-end slickness of some of the paid CMS’s but for the most part, it’s fine and allows you to manage your content effectively. The user never sees the back-end so what it lacks in style is not a deal-breaker for many sites.
WordPress is so big and has such huge momentum, that it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, which is not something that can be said for other systems – you wouldn’t want to buy a car from a manufacturer who is going out of business next year and the same is true for a CMS.
To summarise, WordPress is an excellent choice if:
- You have a small budget.
- You want to use a free CMS.
- Speed to market is important – you need a site up-and-running quickly.
- WordPress plugins are available for each piece of functionality that you require.
- There is a design framework and theme that is suitable for your sector.
- You want the peace of mind of a large development community.
If your brief has a set of custom design or functionality requirements (a lot of startups fit into this category) that are more suited to a bespoke design and build from the ground up then WordPress definitely isn’t for you. For everyone else, WordPress is an excellent option and should always be considered.
If you want to design and build a new website and you are unsure about the next steps and the best CMS to use, drop me a line (mobile or email) and I will give you my thoughts on the best route forward.