Insights // Talking Shop

Your website doesn't have to be WordPress!

Last updated June 27, 2020

WordPress powers almost 25% of the web and out those sites running a content management system, it's closer to 50%.

It seems like every freelance graphic designer, big agency, and retiree-turned-web-designer is recommending the software as the best way to build your website.

But is it really?

So what's wrong with WordPress?

Well, it depends on who you ask. And more importantly, what you plan to use it for.

We've built many sites on WordPress as well as many other content management systems over the years.

Today, WordPress can still be an option and many clients we host and support are still on the platform, but if you're looking for a fresh approach, the right CMS for your site depends on many different factors.

These are the biggest drawbacks for using WordPress:

  • Limited Functionality Out of the Box
  • Ancient Architecture
  • Increased Exposure to Hackers
  • Inexperienced Developer Pool

Limited Functionality Out of the Box

Talk to any WordPress enthusiast and they will tell you it can be used for just about anything—from a simple blogging tool to building the next Facebook clone.

However, WordPress was originally designed to be a simple blogging platform. And it shows.

In fact, freshly installed, WordPress actually doesn't really do much. If all you want to put a few basic pages up around a blog, it works pretty well.

But try using it for anything else, such as lead generation, (landing) page design, etc. you start to reach for plugins to extend its functionality. Even staple functionality for Search Engine Optimization including fields for Meta Description and sitemaps are notably absent.

While there is a vast ecosystem of ready-made plugins and themes, many developers stretch WordPress' limits a bit too far from what it was originally designed to do: blog.

Oftentimes, inexperienced developers will use dozens of different extensions (plugins) to add on functionality they actually didn't build themselves onto your WordPress site. Now you're at the mercy of when those extra bits of code are updated—or not updated—as well!

It's not unlike duct taping wings and a jet engine onto a consumer sedan and using it for commercial airline flights. Unfortunately there's no (FAA) rules for web designers.

Ancient Architecture

There are many different technologies to build a website. Just like computers, programming techniques have also evolved.

Much of WordPress' code is still based on older programming techniques which can leave it open to security problems. In fact, hardly a month rolls by without some sort of security incident.

After all, much of WordPress' foundation is over 10 years old! If you think of WordPress as a home, it's been patched, re-patched, painted, and drywalled over the years but that old, shaky foundation is ultimately still there. Older editions of these homes have had a few problems in the past with leaky pipes, some electrical issues, creaky foundations, and more.

By contrast, systems such as Craft, use a robust, common programming pattern called MVC (model/view/controller) which means there's a separation of the business logic (code) from the presentation or view layer (what you and your web browser ultimately "see").

Developers are able to build onto these systems much easier, since there's a common structure in place—from the way plugins are built on the "back end" to the templates used on the front end.

And Craft's templating language automatically escapes (or sanitizes) markup, which can help prevent certain scripting attacks, both on the user side and on the back end, administration. This is just adds another layer of protection which makes hacking your website much harder.

Functionality-wise, because WordPress is quite lax in organization, themes and plugins can often provide the same functionality. To change or add onto a platform, it often becomes a wild goose chase as to where code is hanging out. Is it in the theme or a plugin?

Experienced developers know how to work around WordPress' problems—so they don't fall into the hidden sump pump in the basement—but wouldn't starting on a fresh, modern architecture make sense?

Increased Exposure to Hackers

Speaking of hackers, with so many people using WordPress, staying up-to-date is absolutely critical.

WordPress is a little like moving into an apartment complex on the somewhat "shady" side of town: you're constantly getting people knocking on your door, jiggling your locks, and trying to find a way to break in.

What's worse, if you ask WordPress nicely, it'll even give you a list of names off everybody who lives at the apartment—whether they're listed on the mailbox or not. If someone knows your WordPress username, now all they need is your password.

And since WordPress doesn't block multiple repeated failed attempts to login or let users change where administrators login, it's not uncommon for automated scripts to troll your website, trying 100s of different passwords at once.

As you can imagine, this can slow your site down if your hosting provider isn't prepared for it.

It's not all that uncommon for someone to go on vacation for a week, a critical update comes out and come back to a hacked site! While the WordPress "Core" installation itself has become quite secure over the years—in fact, it even applies its own security updates these days—the same is not true of the plugins that are needed to extend WordPress and these are often the most problematic.

Systems such as Craft are less used, so you're exposed to much less nefarious activity. A little "security by obscurity" in this case happens to be an advantage.

Inexperienced Developer Pool

Since lots of people use WordPress, this initially seems like a great thing: if your designer goes missing-in-action, there's 9 others lining up at Upwork who can fill in the blanks.

The reality is, there's actually a pretty wide range of skill levels. The barrier to starting to build a WordPress project is quite small. Just as an experienced contractor can mess up your home, an inexperienced developer can do just as much damage online.

Complicating matters, oftentimes you think you're hiring an agency when in reality you're hiring a single person, posing as an agency, with just a couple months experience. We've seen this first hand when hiring talent for our own projects.

With other content management systems, the "training wheels" are off. While an automatic transmission can get you around the race track, many professionals prefer to shift themselves.

Don't Take Our Word for It

We're big fans of the underdog. But how well can the underdog swim against the tide?

Turns out, pretty well. In fact, designers and developers working on big names like Air BnB, Associated Press, Atkins, Foursquare, Intel, Progressive, and Oakley haven chosen Craft to power their websites. And that number continues to grow.

If you have a small brochure based website where you might touch the content every once in great while, any CMS—including WordPress—would probably work just fine.

But for those seeking a more out of their website without work arounds and hacks, you owe it to yourself to have us demo Craft. It has solved many common problems we've encountered over the years better than other systems and it just keeps getting better.

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