Is WordPress the right choice for your website?

Tools IMG_0171

For best results, use the right tools for the job

There are a million ways to create a website, and WordPress is just one of those ways. Yet many people just choose WordPress because that’s what everyone is using or because they don’t know about the other options. The problem is that WordPress may not always be the right tool for the job.

Using the right tool for the job helps you complete the job quicker and with less risk of injury. This article explains why this holds true for building websites as well.

WordPress isn’t always the right choice

I make a living providing WordPress tech support, yet I wouldn’t recommend WordPress if…

You want the simplest option possible for a website. Despite WordPress’ ease of use, it’s not quite so easy to setup. You need to purchase hosting and a domain name, sometimes from separate vendors. Then you need to choose a theme, from a huge number of providers, and then install and configure the theme. You need a certain level of tech-savviness just to be able to do this, and some web development experience to do this well.

You want a maintenance-free website. WordPress releases an average of 3 major updates each year. In between they have about 3 minor updates containing security and bug fixes. On top of that, your plugins and themes may be updated frequently as well. Neglect these updates and risk this…

Oh, don’t forget the website backups, server administration, fighting hackers and more. WordPress is definitely not the choice for a “launch it and forget it” type website.

You want to design your site, but you don’t know coding.

Can I move this section above this?
Can I change the font and color?
Can I have a different layout for just this page?
Can I increase the size of my header / logo?

The answer to all of the above is: not unless you know how to edit the template code, even for the new-fangled drag-and-drop builder themes. Sorry :(

If not WordPress, then what?

SquareSpace logoThe good news is that there are website builders that are easy, maintenance-free and allow extensive customization for the non-coder. I’ve been recommending people to SquareSpace and they’ve come back to me with positive feedback. Want to see how SquareSpace is different from WordPress? Read this article by Website Builder Expert: Squarespace vs WordPress – Our Detailed Comparison.

There’s also WeeblyOnepager and lots of other options out there. The ones I’ve mentioned here are all easier to setup than WordPress, requires no maintenance and makes it easier to customize the design of your site.

Just note that website builders are generally better for simpler sites despite also supporting more advanced features. If you’re intending on building anything more complex than a blog or simple website you may run into some roadblocks.

Website Builder Expert which I linked to above recommends SquareSpace, Weebly and Wix but use WordPress to publish their site. I think that says something about the limits of website builders, so that’s something to consider.

So, why would you use WordPress at all?

WordPress is an amazingly flexible and powerful platform, and it has an awesome community and ecosystem around it. Note: I’m referring to self-hosted WordPress here.This makes WordPress the top choice in the following ways:

Flexibility for any kind of design or functionality. WordPress is used for blogs, news websites, ecommerce stores, classifieds websites, social networks, directories, and even as the back end for apps and services. Just look at all the example sites in the showcase. If you need a site with whiz-bang features, go with WordPress.

Two-thirds of WordPress users live outside the US, according to the 2012 WordPress Survey

Two-thirds of WordPress users live outside the US, according to the 2012 WordPress Survey

Global community of consultants and developers. The thing that sets apart WordPress from other website platforms is its community. The community develops new features for WordPress, and writes code for plugins and themes. Those who don’t know coding contribute by writing tutorials, speaking at events, and teaching others. No matter if you’re in Nepal or Timbuktu, you’re bound to find someone who’s able to help you with your WordPress questions. If you need a huge “app store” which you can use to customize your site, go with WordPress.

Publishing a blog. There’s a simple reason why WordPress powers more than half of the top blogs on the internet – it’s remarkably good at publishing content. Because WordPress is free software, you own your content completely. This means you can present it anyway you want and can monetize it anyway you want. If you are serious about web publishing, go with WordPress.

To WordPress, or not to WordPress?

At the end, it boils down to your requirements. If ease of setup and customization, and maintenance-free are important to you – WordPress may not be the right choice. But for everything else, you won’t go wrong with WordPress. Just like with anything worth doing, expect to spend some time learning and growing with WordPress. Having a reliable WordPress support team doesn’t hurt as well.

Quick note: WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a blogging service / social network like Blogger or Tumblr. This option saves you the hassle of hosting and maintenance, but the drawback is that it’s not as flexible as self-hosted WordPress. It is however, a great way to create a no-fuss blog. Read more about the difference between self-hosted WordPress and WordPress.com.

Still can’t decide if WordPress is right for you? Let me know what kind of site you need in the comments and I’ll tell you what I think.

About David

David has over 10 years of experience with web geekery and WordPress. That experience spans every­thing from cre­at­ing custom themes to opti­miz­ing WordPress sites for thou­sands of page views in a day. Follow David on Twitter at @blogjunkie and circle David on Google+.

Comments

  1. Nice objective article here David. I agree, WordPress does require a little commitment, but for it’s scalability and blogging platform, if you are thinking big, using WordPress as a solution is a no-brainer. I do tend to steer my clients away from services where the interface is bad – UI is almost important as functionality in this game. It may do everything you want it to do, but if the useability is poor then it’s no good to you.

  2. Why no mention of WordPress.com? I send people there too who don’t always need the bells and whistles, and don’t want to have to worry about maintenance… it’s a pretty good option too ;)d

    • Hi Dee, thanks for stopping by! I did think of including WP.com, but in the end I decided it was too similar to self-hosted WP. Also, while it’s maintenance free in many ways I think WP.com can be more confusing because most tech-challenged users don’t even know the difference between WP.com and WP.org. That being said I do recommend WP.com all the time as well :)

  3. Yes! I loved your courage to say WordPress isn’t always the right solution. So many people just say it’s the best and leave it at that.

    • Hi Justin, thank you for your comment. There’s no one size fits all tool for anything, and that’s true for WordPress as well.

  4. Great write up David. What about static sites? There are some sites that wont need regular content or access via a backend. I feel like this option very often gets forgotten.

    • Hi! Thanks for stopping by. I agree, static HTML sites don’t have the attractiveness of website builders. It’s probably the best option if you don’t need a fancy site. I assumed that most people wouldn’t know HTML & CSS so I only included DIY alternatives