WordPress can be a great low-cost way to get up and running pretty quickly with a website you can edit yourself. You can get editing and make your website and blogs look great by using a few simple plug-ins and themes.. So what's the problem?
Well, there are two HUGE ones, but WordPress is an extremely popular website/blogging platform used by millions all over the world, and in the past we've used it on websites with custom themes we've built ourselves, so it can't be all THAT bad can it? Yes it can, but it depends on how much time and money you're willing to throw at it.. So let's look at the advantages first..
1. It's FREE!
It's all what they call "open source" which to you and me means "FREE!". If you don't want anything too fancy you can get going with their included templates - just start rattling your content in. The only cost is your time.
2. Simple(-ish) to Install.
Most hosting companies have a 'one-click-install' option for WordPress. It isn't actually 'one click' in reality, but for people like me it is ridiculously easy to set up. However I know a good few people who wouldn't know what the hell a hosting control panel is and don't give a rats ass, but they can build you an awesome kitchen extension! Nevertheless, anybody with a bit of time to spare and the inclination to spend a bit of time on it should be able to get to grips with it easy enough.
3. Easy to use.
Generally speaking it's a breeze to update pages, create blogs, and add plug-ins and themes to customise appearance. It's VERY slow though, so unless you've got some upgraded hosting grunt behind it be prepared to wait for screens to refresh.
4. Rapid deployment
From buying your new domain name to the world being able to see your new website can be less than 24 hours, and most of that time is taken up with waiting for the internet to do it's propogation thing on your domain name.
5. Thousands of themes.
There is a bewildering array of themes available for WordPress some of which are industry specific, so it's likely you'll find something you like, simply upload it and activate it and that's it. Well - sometimes.. Just be very careful of any plug-in subscriptions you might need - ask the question "what plug-ins will I need to buy?". Great looking themes usually have some subscription based plug-ins you'll need to shell out for every year.
6. Lots of Support.
If your template doesn't look or behave in the particular way you want it to, and you're not a Wordpress wizz you'll need help, and it's all out there, Wordpress is all over the place so you'll doubtless find what you need via a Google search - some of it can be a bit technical though.
Seems like a lot of advantages - all sounds great doesn't it, and don't get me wrong, for many cost-conscious small businesses who are a little net-savvy it is the ideal way to get on the net for the lowest possible cost. If you can live with the free templates and plug-ins, time is the only cost. There's just two problems..
1. The Maintenance Overhead.
And this is the killer. Your time. You will have a number of plug-ins (at least an SEO plug-in like Yoast) and the more you've got the more update notifications you'll get. Updates are a good thing of course, but for each update you'll need to get into a time-consuming ritual of backing up your database and files before you do any updates just in case one of them breaks something. You ALWAYS need the ability to roll back.
The actual Wordpress system will update itself these days - you just have to hope and pray that your plug-in authors have been on the ball and have their updates ready too otherwise they might not work on the new automatically updated Wordpress version. The bigger the site the more complex and time-consuming this plug-in management gets. We had over three dozen Wordpress sites to look after at one point and it became absolutely bloody ridiculous - so it wasn't long before we developed our own CMS system.
2. Response Time
Wordpress is slooooooow! If you can cope with it your visitors probably wont, and it's a search killer - Google hates it. It's such a big heavy beast, trying to be all things to everybody, and it keeps copies of every change you've ever done in the database. So the database grows and grows and it's just something else you've got to keep on top of. And like other well-known CMS systems it has a load of generic code and stuff it needs to load in on the fly which is often not needed for a particular website, but it's loaded in just the same. That means the pages are slow to display (render), and that's not only bad for your visitors, Google hates it too, and it can easily affect your rankings. Some modern browsers may cache some of it but even if they do that first page load is still going to be a killer, and the only way round it is to upgrade the hosting - give it more grunt and put it on a VPS.
But WordPress will likely have been chosen because it's free, or at least low cost, so it's reasonable to assume the hosting could have been chosen in the same way which will make it even slower than ever! Check out our article on why free stuff is a really, really, bad idea.
What Do We Think?
It depends on your circumstances of course, we now avoid Wordpress at all costs - but then we're website programmer geeks. I guess the bottom line is if you know what you're doing and you don't mind the admin work and paying for upgraded hosting - get WordPress.
On the other hand if you want a no-hassle thing that looks great and responds fast even on standard hosting, is generically Google-friendly and has a zero admin overhead then I'd go for something else. I know, it sounds like I'm biased because we have a modern no-hassle alternative ready to go, but there are others, so my advice would be to look around before you leg yourself in to the ultra time-consuming world of Wordpress.
A website is often the most important marketing asset a company can own, it's got huge potential for generating business, we think relying on free stuff is a damaging false economy.