How popular is WordPress?
WordPress powers a third of the web according to their own statistics. Although many are aware that WordPress is a great Content Management System (CMS) for bloggers, many aren’t aware that it powers lots of websites created for large companies and organizations like the White House, Disney, New York Times, Tech Crunch, and CBS New York.
Obviously, WordPress wouldn’t be my #1 recommendation for every single website and online business owner, but it would be my top recommendation for many of them.
Who shouldn’t use WordPress?
Simple single page websites
An app or marketplace-based website shouldn’t use WordPress. I’m talking Amazon, Netflix, and Airbnb. You’ll have to hire your own developers or you could try no-code software like Sharetribe or Bubble.
Many e-commerce sites
Many e-commerce sites shouldn’t use WordPress either unless you have some technical knowledge or willing to hire a developer to make some tweaks since you will most likely not be satisfied with what you get out of the box. Having said that, I do have an e-commerce site powered by WordPress/WooCommerce (free e-commerce plugin) with over 1,500 products, and it works fine. Also, did I mention the upkeep costs are like $15/month total? [Email me if you want more details. If there’s enough interest, I’ll teach you how to do it.]
For simple e-commerce sites, WooCommerce is still a great solution with low maintenance costs.
Complex websites that offer lots of personalization
Large enterprise websites that want to provide customized experiences (based on browsing history, device, purchase habit, etc) should use a more powerful solution like Adobe Experience Manager. It won’t be cheap, however.
The benefits of WordPress
WordPress is free, open source software
Yes, WordPress is completely free! How are they able to still be around? It’s open source, meaning anyone can view the code and also provide their input to make it better. I know, it sounds crazy. The coding world, in general, is pretty generous when it comes to sharing knowledge. Go to Stack Overflow, and you’ll see so many programmers helping each other out for free.
On a separate note, very few people thought that Wikipedia would work out, but somehow it did. All the people writing and editing articles there are volunteers, but it still works really well.
The benefit of using open source software is that you don’t have a business owner making business decisions on whether to increase the subscription cost or getting rid of it because the software is not profitable.
Also, the collaboration of hundreds of developers volunteering to enhance the code for WordPress ensure that it keeps getting better. I’ve been using it for almost a decade now, and I’ve seen significant improvements.
WordPress has a vast community and ecosystem
You may still be wondering how WordPress is still around if it’s free. The answer lies in its vast ecosystem.
The founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, owns several software that serves WordPress sites such as the Jetpack plugin.
Due to its popularity, WordPress has created so many businesses that serve WordPress sites such as hosting, plugins, themes, and custom WordPress development services. Also, WordPress development in general is easier than coding for most frameworks, so there are lots of WordPress developers that you can choose from should you need to hire someone for custom coding. All this competition drives the price down for you when purchasing WordPress-related goods and services.
And what about the availability of all these solutions? Do you want to allow your customers to book an appointment with you? Create multilingual versions of your website? Create and sell online courses? Or how about create a quiz so that your visitors can know which Disney princess they are? You can do all of these things without hiring a developer.
Simply choose from the many plugins that are already out there that will add these functionalities to your website. You’ll also be surprised to see how many of them are free. The number of WordPress plugins and integrations dwarfs that for other CMS’s like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly.
Finally, because WordPress is so popular, there’s so much documentation online. If you run into an issue, you can search for it online, and many times, find an article that provides a solution.
You have 100% ownership of your WordPress site
You can download, inspect, and modify any file on your WordPress site, which belongs to you. Also, you can choose your hosting service. That is not true for many CMS’s and platforms. Here are some examples of what can happen if you don’t have 100% ownership:
Wix: “Wix may, at its sole discretion (however it shall have no obligation to do so), screen, monitor and/or edit any User Platform and/or User Content, at any time and for any reason, with or without notice.” – Wix Terms of Services Article 12
Squarespace: “When you provide User Content via the Services, you grant Squarespace (including our third party hosting providers acting on our behalf) a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable right and license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works of [….], communicate, publish, publicly display, publicly perform and distribute User Content for the limited purposes of allowing us to provide, improve, promote and protect the Services.” – From Squarespace’s Terms of Services Article 2.2
Shopify: I’ve seen Shopify users talk about their products getting taken down. In one instance, Shopify took down product pages that had Disney characters on them for one Shopify user, saying that it was illegal to sell them, when in fact, she had a licensing deal with them, and was allowed to sell them. Shopify eventually put those pages back up for her. [Didn’t think I’d be mentioning Disney 3 times in this article!] Another example I saw was when Shopify took down a lot of mask-related products in March and April this year when COVID started to spread in the US. Shopify explained that they made false health claims.
You don’t have to learn how to code
A common misconception is that you need to know how to code for creating a WordPress site. Does it help? Absolutely. Is it required? No.
Many WordPress themes and plugins have drag and drop, block editors and visual editors, which make it really easy to create new posts and update the design of your website. The process of writing this article through the WordPress dashboard was intuitive, and I didn’t have to write or look at any piece of code. Also, you can now preview your article during the editing process.
The disadvantages of WordPress
Now, let’s quickly go over the top three reasons people don’t like WordPress.
WordPress is slow
This is false. Get a good host, don’t use bloated plugins, and look up how to or hire someone to do page speed optimization, and you’ll be fine.
The same marketers that say that WordPress is slow are the same ones that tell you to host your site through a Bluehost shared plan. Essentially, they’re telling you to get a cheap, mediocre host and then they’re comparing its performance to a service that costs 2, 3, or 4 times that amount.
The exact same WordPress site I had went from about a 2 second page load speed to 1 second when I moved it to a VPS. You can have a WordPress site load even quicker than that if you actively optimize for page speed.
The code is not clean
This point, I’ll actually agree with. WordPress has been around since 2003, and although the code gets updated constantly, it won’t be able to compete with the new CMS’s that have been created with newer technologies when it comes to innovation, simplicity, and speed.
Having said that, the way WordPress has been coded shouldn’t affect most website owners that don’t need complex technology. What really matters is which plugins and themes you install for your site. Some plugins and themes take up lots of unnecessary space or have unnecessarily complicated code, which will slow down your site, cause conflicts, or take up a lot of memory.
The two sides of having such a vibrant marketplace of third party plugins and themes is that you have a lot of choices, but with that flexibility comes bad consequences should you make bad purchasing decisions.
A couple of quick tips are to use plugins from reputable sources, and to only use plugins that are critical.
WordPress is not secure
The site itself is secure. What’s not secure are plugins that haven’t been coded well.
Also, like most websites and apps, the majority of security breaches come from using generic credentials like “admin” and “password.”
Set up a strong password, get daily backups, get a good host, and set up basic security for your site.
For many business owners, the best CMS is still WordPress.
Yes, it’s been around for a long time, and yes, you hear about all these new, cool CMS’s popping up everywhere. However, WordPress also has come a long way. Plus, it has built an enormous community that you can’t ignore. Unless there’s a good reason to abandon it, at least for now, I’m sticking to WordPress.