The Pros and Cons of Developing Your Site on WordPress

Having been involved in web development off and on for the past 13 years, it’s been interesting to see how things have changed since the late 90’s.

Clearly the look, feel and navigation of web sites has changed drastically over the past 10-15 years. PHP, CSS, Javascript, Ajax and more have risen extensively, with HTML also getting updated quite a bit over that time. Additionally, thanks to faster connections, things like streaming audio and video, preloading images and running websites off of huge databases are now possible.

I got started with web development on the webpage editor Microsoft Frontpage. I had also learned Adobe Pagemill before inevitably switching to Dreamweaver. Then I learned about this interesting online software to develop and manage a website called WordPress.

WordPress is all the rage today. Their stats page indicates they power nearly 70 million websites, about half of which are on WordPress.com. It is the most prevalent content management system on the web and one of the most popular ways to build a site.

I’ve worked with WordPress on many sites now and know a lot about how it really works. There are many reasons why it’s gotten popular but it’s not necessarily for everyone.

Pros of developing with WordPress

1. Easy to make sitewide changes to common elements

This is one of the major reasons WordPress is chosen over developing with Dreamweaver. With WordPress, you would typically have the same header, sidebar and footer across your whole site. To make a change sitewide, you’d only have to make a single change in the WordPress admin area.

2. Easy to make new pages or blog posts

Since many of the elements stay the same, building a new page or blog post on WordPress is pretty simple. You generally only need to worry about the main content going on the page. Menus, sidebar/widgets and footer get created automatically to match the rest of the site.

3. Thousands of premade free and paid layouts/designs

With WordPress, you don’t need to know anything about design except how to browse through premade “themes”. There’s still a benefit to knowing design, and some themes are intended for designers to customize them further. If you’re not a web designer though, building a site in Dreamweaver or a similar webpage editor would be much more difficult than in WordPress.

Even if you need something advanced that is more robust than what free themes offer, paid themes cost very little compared to paying a designer. Many of them are insanely customizable and even make some web programming steps easier. Which brings me to…

4. Can insert nearly any functionality with plugins (many of which are free)

It’s nice enough not to need to know web design to use WordPress, but what about programming? The beauty of WordPress being open source is that over the years, thousands of plugins have been developed for WordPress, most of them freely available. Nearly any functionality you can think of is available in a plugin. It’s like simply clicking a button to develop a script for your site.

5. Always updating and remaining fresh/cutting edge

Unlike webpage editors that you would have to buy new versions for, the freely available WordPress constantly comes out with new improved versions. Chances are, if a certain web development trend is starting, it will be a part of WordPress soon enough.

6. Google likes it

At some point, it became apparent that Google likes WordPress sites. Some of it may be that SEO plugins many people use help make the site SEO friendly and keyword-targeted. Some of it may simply be that many blogs use WordPress and Google likes sites that update with fresh content periodically. Regardless, it’s been a big reason why web marketers like WordPress too.

Cons of developing and using WordPress

1. Its prevalence makes it a target for hacking

Hacking is not something most sites have to worry about, but it’s still important to maintain a secure site. With so many sites on WordPress, hackers are constantly looking at ways to exploit weaknesses in it. Sometimes sites on older WordPress versions can be at risk if a security flaw was found that was fixed in a later version.

Additionally, many people configure many of the settings on WordPress using the defaults. So things that a hacker may not be able to find out for a normal website, like the location of certain files or scripts, would be more apparent on most WordPress sites. Using different settings can solve that issue.

2. Certain themes or plugins may cease working with new versions

This is an issue with regular sites too – doing any significant update may cause issues with certain scripts. This issue is highlighted with WordPress however since many plugin developers stop supporting their plugins eventually. A significant change in WordPress could cause them to have certain errors or stop working entirely.

Additionally, with themes and plugins constantly needing updates to work with new versions of WordPress, they may start to cause issues for each other. Thankfully it’s easy to add and remove themes and plugins, so troubleshooting is not always a pain, but it still adds something to worry about.

3. A lot of little things to know/learn

While learning WordPress isn’t quite as difficult as learning a programming language, it has almost become a similar process. Because of how advanced it has become, there’s a lot of little things to know. Many people still hire a web developer even if they know the basics of WordPress because of how much they don’t know.

I would highly recommend someone developing their first website to take a look at using WordPress. It’s a great way to be able to build a nice looking highly functional website without needing years of experience in web programming and design. It lets you harness the creativity and expertise of others and in many cases can cost nothing for the privilege (except for hosting and domain of course!).

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8 Comments on “The Pros and Cons of Developing Your Site on WordPress”

  1. TeenDomainer says:

    I love wordpress and agree exactly with what you said once you get the hang its perfect just have to watch out for hackers and keep everything updated.

  2. Vikram Atwal says:

    Hi,

    nice and elaborate article about wordpress,, advantages and disadvantages….

    i will summarize it simply by stating the following,,,

    Anything free only takes you to a certain level… until unless you put your own blood, sweat and intelligence to it (which itself has a monetary value).. otherwise it is better to allow professionals to help you,. Hence the first question anyone should ask them-selves is how big they want to become on the Internet.. and what is the unique proposition that they are offering… is it enough,, or do they need the help of professionals…

    • Steve Jones says:

      Agreed Vikram. I do think WordPress takes “free” a lot further than any other development solution. That said, it can still get advanced and time-consuming enough to make hiring a WordPress developer a better idea for many people vs. making the site on their own.

  3. John Wragg says:

    There is a marketing aspect.

    When I make a proposal to develop a site the customer often likes the promise of being able to do updates themselves even if in practice we both know it will be simpler if I do it.

    My rule of thumb is that the customer can edit the contents of a page, but had better ask me if adding a new page or PlugIn function, unless they are prepared to invest time learning how to do it themselves.

    Regards

  4. Good article. I started a blog in November, and it took me a good month to become comfortable with everything it can do. Well, not everything, since I am still tinkering with plugins etc. I also found out that the theme I picked is no longer supported by its developer, which is too bad because I like it and put a lot of time into it.

    That is the downside of an open community like this one – if you pick a key part of your blog from a developer who isn’t in it for the long haul, you will need to make revisions. I am concerned that the template will stop working as I migrate to later versions of WordPress.

    On the flip side, the developer did a really nice job, and everything he put in made it easy for me to get started.

    • Steve Jones says:

      Thanks Gregory.

      It’s definitely unfortunate when you’re set on a theme and it stops being supported, or if you have a couple vital plugins that need to work together and one of them stops being supported. There’s a lot that needs to work together in a WordPress site and with it all coming from different developers, many things can go wrong.

      That said, I think the positives outweigh that negative by a mile. What an average person can do in WordPress thanks to all the themes and plugins would otherwise cost thousands of dollars. Even when lack of compatibility or support comes up as an issues, a lot of times it can be dealt with by using alternative themes/plugins, again sidestepping the steep development costs otherwise.

      Even if you have to get a developer to aid you in WordPress, it’s generally a much smaller cost than otherwise as they may merely need to tweak a theme and/or plugins to get you the site you want.

  5. Sharon Hayes says:

    Reblogged this on Sharon Hayes Dot Com.


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