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Weighing WordPress: Is It Right for Your Website?

I’m an unapologetic geek. I argue about small details in Star Wars. I sometimes ponder what house I would be sorted in if I had gotten a Hogwarts letter of admission. (I like to think I’d be in Gryffindor.) I can bore you endlessly about the differences of certain types of craft beer. However, my geekiest trait of all might lie in my job at jWeb. I argue for and against different content management systems. If I were still a single man, my dating profile would state, “Favorite CMS: WordPress.” So, trust me when I say I’m a geek.

Just like any proper geek, I’m willing to defend my stance on any subject vehemently. Many web developers will argue that WordPress is a glorified blogging platform (at which point I know I can stop listening, since they obviously haven’t used WordPress in a decade). Other devs fall into the hipster category of thinking WordPress has gotten too big, and they’ve instead found something sexier that goes with their local harvested non-fat dairy salted caramel latte lifestyle. I stand strongly in support of WordPress as an extremely powerful CMS; that, despite its flaws, it is one of the best solutions for the majority of web projects that I approach day-to-day.

Below are a number of reasons why WordPress is likely an ideal candidate for your next web project. I’ll even be nice enough to weigh out the pros and cons for you. If you feel I’ve missed anything, feel free to comment below or continue to the conversation with me or JWeb on TwitterjWeb on Twitter.

1. Keep It Simple, Stupid

Pro: Less is more (or something to that effect). Many people believe that if something is more complicated it has to be better. Maybe I’m just lazy, but why do more work for the same result? A few years ago, I inherited a Joomla site that a new client brought over and it was terrible. When I went to the admin to make simple edits, things that should’ve taken me a few minutes were taking me significantly longer.

Now, as my familiarity with the system grew, so did the amount of time it took to make major edits. I still couldn’t get past what I considered an awful user experience. I’ve since dealt with a number of Joomla sites, and I know many good developers who swear by them, but I’ve yet to find a customer who can easily use it.

On the other side of the equation is WordPress. Probably 90% of the sites I’ve done in the past 5 years have been built on WordPress. The majority of clients find it simple to use. This is a benefit to both the client and our business, as they are able to make quick content updates that often in the past, we were relied upon to make.

Cons: WordPress has a very user-friendly backend. It’s very obvious that there is a lot of thought put into its user experience. Unfortunately, there is still a lot to it. Many people see the left admin sidebar and freak out. It can be a bit daunting. After a bit of training most people tend to have their fears assuaged. Proper training is the best and only solution to this problem. Anyone building a website will encounter this situation when it comes time to show a client their shiny new toy.

2. You Get a Theme! And You Get a Theme! Everyone Gets a Theme!

Pros: WordPress works primarily by creating themes which change the visuals of the content you’ve entered through the WordPress admin. At jWeb, we start the development process by creating a theme on top of a framework. This is called a “child theme,” and allows for easy updates, while still granting a lot of customization.

The framework allows us to have a lot of structural elements already present in the theme that we can pull from, while still being minimal enough that we can create a child theme that suits the needs of your website.

Building a site on a budget?

Pre-made themes are a thriving business. Usually for less than $100 you can buy a theme that allows you to customize your colors and contents with ease. Just upload the .zip file to the WordPress admin and with a click of a button all of your dreams will come true.

Cons: Or not…

Pre-made themes are a great short term solution, but you’ll still want a developer to customize certain aspects of your theme. Pre-made themes look great in demos, because they are filled with spectacular photography, snappy copy, and beautifully designed graphics. They are not a one-size-fits-all solution. While it is certainly better than having no site, investing in a design that matches the goals of your business is obviously the better option.

3. Don’t You Want to be Popular?

Pros: WordPress is the most popular CMS on the web. The size of sites that use WordPress range from minutely small to insanely gigantically enormously <insert more adverbs> big. The New York Times, Vogue, Time, NASA, The New Yorker, and mega-star Channing Tatum all use WordPress. Now I’ll try to cool it with all the peer pressure, but if Channing Tatum uses something, I think we can all admit it is pretty awesome.

The thing this really says about WordPress is that it is immensely scalable. One of the main objections I hear from people about WordPress is, “It’s a blogging platform.” Now, is it a great blogging platform? Absolutely. But it has since evolved past that and has capabilities that just about any business can tap. It probably isn’t going to be the best solution for a large e-commerce site, but with things like WooCommerce, it sure can be a great solution for companies not wanting to make a jump to an e-commerce platform such as Magento.

Cons: You don’t get this big without making a few enemies. WordPress sites seem to have a pretty big target on themselves these days. Hackers are constantly trying to find vulnerabilities to worm their way into WordPress sites. The unfortunate truth is that a lot of times they succeed, especially when people don’t follow security best practices. Make sure to always keep your site and plugins up to date to help with security.

4. Plug It In, Plug It In.

Pros: Need a new piece of functionality, but don’t know how to use code? That’s where plugins come in handy. Plugins add features to your already existing install of WordPress. They can add little features or completely change the way your site works. Best of all, they can be turned off and on with the a few clicks.

WordPress has a huge community of WordPress plugin developers. Some of them release their plugins for free, while others require a license to use. The cost is still much less than it would be to write a custom piece of functionality. Plugins are one way to help manage your budget.

Cons: Plugins require some maintenance from time to time. Plugins that go out of date can cause major problems with your site, and sometimes cause holes in your security.

Luckily, the WordPress community will help you determine which plugins are worth your while, and which ones to avoid. WordPress is kind enough to provide community ratings, number of downloads, when the plugin was last updated, and it’s compatibility with other versions. Each plugin also has its own support forum to help you iron out any issues.

Plugins don’t mean you won’t need custom development solutions, but they do help with ease of use.

5. It’ll Fit in a Purse Easier Than a Teacup Dog

Pros: Many sites we manage are now seeing over half of their traffic come from mobile devices, and those numbers are only trending upwards. Your site on a 960 grid won’t cut it on your customer’s latest smartphone. Responsive websites change their layout depending on what size screen they are view on. Kind of like a Transformer, only with way less lens flare and explosions courtesy of Michael Bay.

As I mentioned earlier, we use the Genesis Framework, and one of its main selling points is that it already has set breakpoints for responsive layouts.

Cons: Sometimes, responsive isn’t the best for user experience. People use the web differently on their desktop computers compared to mobile devices, and having one site might cloud the user experience slightly. Some feature-intensive sites might be better off creating a completely separate mobile site.

Using stylesheet changes can usually change the user experience drastically enough where you wouldn’t have to go the route of a separate mobile site. User experience can drastically change how your site performs, so it’s always a great idea to undergo a lot of testing to make sure your site is well optimized for your users.

The other drawback of responsive sites is cost. It costs less than building multiple sites, but there is added development time to make sure everything performs as expected.

6. WordPress is Friends with the Almighty Google.

Pros: What is the point of having a website if it can’t be found? That would be as pointless as a Kardashian without an Instagram account. WordPress out of the box is very SEO-friendly out of the box. With the addition of a few SEO plugins, it will be your search manager’s best friend.

It’s impossible to undersell the value of search on the web these days. A well-optimized website can make or break your online business presence. WordPress’s structure and overall user experience are one of the many reasons it is the web’s most popular CMS.

Cons: None. Why wouldn’t you want people to see the site you’ve created? Are you embarrassed? Try giving us a call if you need a new website that people can find.

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