WordPress – The Good, the Bad and the Lovely
Is WordPress any good for your business?
We create websites for many businesses in Oxfordshire and we use the WordPress framework to do the majority of design and development. Some businesses start out thinking that WordPress is a bit lightweight for their organisation. Well it all depends on what you are wanting the website to do. This post sets out some good and bad points about WordPress and useful if you are deciding what website solution to use.
Don’t forget your web content
It may be worth adding here that we are talking about the technical framework. Ultimately the content, relevance, reputation and brand still needs to be addressed whatever technical solution you go for.
First things first – What is WordPress?
WordPress is one of many Content Management Systems available. It accounts for over 27% of all websites. A Content Management Systems is as it sounds a way for you to manage your content in a structured, timely and easy way.
When people talk about WordPress for their business website this usually means the following:
- A hosted solution that supports the WordPress framework
- A theme that is either highly influenced by the theme creator in terms of look or feel or a blank canvas theme whereby you create the style from scratch based on the business brand but use the functionality it offers
- Additional software to extend the functionality
- Someone to help you develop and deliver it for you
What you need to know about WordPress if you are considering a new website
The WordPress framework is free. It comes with a set of pages that allows you to login, add, edit and delete content.
A professional theme costs around $70. For additional functionality, plug-ins are either free or not expensive. As they are so cheap, you may as well get a paid one rather than the free themes.
The main expense is the web developers time. A typical brochure website can take between 2-5 days and an ecommerce website a little longer. A good developer rate starts at £250 a day and we have seen them go up to as much as £600 so shopping around is advisable.
On specifically WordPress, it is very difficult to say anything bad about value for money as the product is generous in functionality, encourages Best Practice and yet so cheap. If I am pushed I would say that the reasonableness of the price does encourage elaborate and sometimes gimmicky design that to be frank distracts from the business and its products and services.
Although clients do sometimes say “our business is different to most others so an off-the-shelf package would be no good” this often doesn’t mean that a WordPress website is at all restrictive. Interestingly we have built bespoke websites using .NET and had to write specific admin functionality that mimics what WordPress gives you.
A marketing website that people find or one that you refer people to is perfect in WordPress. Actually it is hard to beat because of the structure and Best Practice principles it encourages. It also has a full raft of marketing initiatives for subscribing to newsletters, integrated contact forms, SEO tools and Social Media integration.
If you run an ecommerce site then the WooCommerce plug-in is a great (free) choice and also comes with additional functionality to extend your shop such as complicated shipping and delivery, multiple languages, postcode finder and so on.
Finally, community and subscription plug-ins extend the WordPress usefulness further.
There are dedicated shopping platforms such as Magento for websites that need a large, robust, fast and efficient shop. If you have thousands of items, stock integration, multiple regions and an overall sophisticated set up, I don’t think WordPress with Woocommerce would be my first choice.
There are also websites that require functionality you can never get out of the box and are particular to your business. For the latter you will need bespoke development such as the .Net platform. Oxford Genetics is a great example of this.
At the outset, you need to decide what functionality you actually want. Your developer will then be able to offer a solution that would fit within the more cost effective, feature rich WordPress solution or alternative option.
There are a plethora of security plug-ins and built in features that help to keep your website safe. These range from CAPTCHA, limited logins, whole security suites and strong password set ups. Other solutions help you with malware, brute force / DDoS mitigation, website firewall and protection and HTTP monitoring all for a small monthly cost.
The main problem with PHP based, open source Content Management Systems like WordPress is that the PHP code is not a compiled language. Because the PHP the code is interpreted at run-time, a potential threat is possible. A .NET solution on the other hand is compiled and the database is in reality inaccessible. It is therefore all about balance. If you are not storing potentially sensitive data and you are taking all the necessary precautions including SSL connection for any sections of your site that require a login then you may not want to invest in a .NET, bespoke solution.
To extend the WordPress functionality, a developer will make extensive use of plug-ins. Each third-party plug-in has the potential to have security issues and therefore the developer needs to use them sparingly and from a reliable source and to keep them up to date.
Reliability and Performance
A professionally designed and managed WordPress website should be reliable. There are various updates during the year of the WordPress framework and also theme and plug-in updates. These are normally one click operations and as long as you have an update strategy in place, it will all go well.
There are yet more plug-ins to help optimise your website which compress images and cache pages. All these initiatives help speed up the site and we would recommend this.
Knowing when to stop adding functionality is the key to performance issues. The more plug-ins you add, the slower your website can be. A sure sign of a slow WordPress website is the size of theme and the number of plug-ins. Even plug-ins that are no longer used can cause poor performance.
WordPress is undeniably cost effective and can give you the platform to create a beautiful looking, hard working website that gets found. It is feature-rich, reliable and if you take the necessary steps, secure. If you make a list of the functionality and then go and find other sites with similar, then a quick inspection of the source code (right -click > view source) will indicate if it is a WordPress site (look for /wp-content/). If on the other hand you need something more specialised or bespoke then you should look at software dedicated to what you are trying to achieve or go down the bespoke route such as using .NET specialists.
And finally, as mentioned at the beginning, it is all about what you put on your website that counts. Great, timely content, clear, realistic call to actions and where necessary, a picture of a donkey!