Why I no longer suggest WordPress for (most) new websites
Don’t get me wrong. WordPress is extremely powerful, versatile, and generally easy to use and update. There’s a reason it makes up more than 30% of all websites in existence today (Usage Statistics and Market Share of WordPress for Websites, January 2019).
I’m not suggesting you ditch your current WordPress site and start over. Any site migration is a considerable undertaking. If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it.
However, after my years of consulting for small businesses and solopreneurs, I’ve learned there are many situations where a WordPress-driven website is either overkill, too complicated, or overly expensive to run correctly.
Good hosting is pricey but worth it.
WordPress requires a database. While it increases the versatility of the software, it adds more complexity.
Cheaper web hosting plans mitigate this by offering shared hosting. Shared hosting is cheap because your website is sharing resources with any number of other websites. If there’s a website on your shared server that is getting a massive amount of traffic, that means your site suffers.
Additionally, cheaper web hosting plans suffer from poor customer support. Having issues with your site that you have no clue how to solve? It’s unlikely you’ll get a decent or quick answer out of cheap hosting support. In the meantime, your customers are suffering, and you’re pulling your hair out.
Of course, this kind of support and features come at a cost (~$35/month; $420/year). But factoring in all the headaches which can come into play when hosting your own website tends to be worth it.
Hard stuff is easy. The easy stuff is hard.
While WordPress comes with a slew of features of the box to make your life easier, if you need to customize anything, it often leads to headaches.
If you don’t have a dedicated tech person, these headaches can turn into migraines and even possibly shut down your site from paying customers. Yikes!
Here are some examples I’ve experienced personally.
Small changes to established themes tend to be more of a hassle than most business owners realize. While themes are much more customizable these days, there’s a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to fully customize outside what the theme documentation or “getting started” guides help with.
Unless you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get down to the nitty-gritty of theme editing, I’d suggest sticking with the pre-set theme options.
Setting up an online store with WooCommerce
WooCommerce is a great plugin which turns your WordPress site into an online store. This alleviates needs to give a percentage of your revenue to other services.
However, if you want to make a simple change to how your product listing appears, expect to have to keep updating the template file every time WooCommerce goes through a major version update.
All in all, WooCommerce saves you money so that you can spend that money keeping things up and running.
Most plugins are a hot mess
While the WordPress rating system is pretty good to determine which plugins are good or bad.
However, some plugins are just plain awful, whether in graphic design or the way they are coded. There are numerous things inexperienced WordPress plugin developers can do to slow down a WordPress site whether intentionally or not.
Here are some things I do to mitigate the risk of a rogue plugin.
Plugin ratings and comments
I tend not to install any plugins which have lower than a 4-star rating. If in doubt, read through the comments to find the most common pain points.
Updated in the last 3-6 months
WordPress is continuously updating with features and security updates. If the plugin developer isn’t keeping up with the times, there will likely be some breakage.
Look at the screenshots if provided
Screenshots give you a peek into the plugin’s admin area and/or functionality.
Before paying for a plugin, test it for free
Some plugins charge a fee to get “Pro” or “Advanced” features. However, they should offer a free version as well so that you can test the basic functionality. If they don’t, it’s likely a scam because there is always another option out there which will probably be free.
Better alternatives for simpler sites
With the advent of Squarespace, Wix, Landing Pages, and many other PaaS (Platform as a Service) options, WordPress is overkill for most situations.
If you’re looking for an easy way to publish a simple website, portfolio or online store, you might be better suited to avoid a potential headache and utilize Squarespace.
If you already have a WordPress site and it’s working for you, high-five!
If you have a WordPress site that’s causing you too many headaches, either look into migrating to a new platform (like Squarespace) or hosting with better customer service (like WPEngine).
If you’re unsure of what to do, contact your friendly neighborhood (or remote) tech person to guide you.
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