Determining the best technology for a project is extremely important to any projects success. Which choices you make determine the deployment efficiency (time to market and profitability / success) and can very well make or break a project.
Here is where I believe the first problem with using WordPress (and other generic sitebuilders) surface. It’s very simple to put up a nicely styled website in WordPress. Highly talented Designers have created many templates and beautifully designed themes to make a website look professional and reasonably functional with little effort.
Is this a bad thing? Definitely not, unless you want more than a very simple site and you resign yourself to being flexible and accepting the limitations of the theme or plugin choice at the start. Otherwise, a traditionally custom designed site will serve you better and cost you less over the long haul.
How can this be? Well, let’s use our redesign as an example.
In redesigning our site, we choose to use WordPress to get a more detailed understanding of how WordPress can benefit or hinder the development of a website.
Initial Pros and Cons were determined based on:
WordPress is easy to get a site up and running. This related to simple and generic sites. More custom sites require the same steps as any custom site. Unique and specific design to meet the Customer’s needs. Programming to create the functionality required make the site more than just a Blog.
Conclusion, great for simple sites that are not very unique from other sites.
In our test, we started to see the weakness of a generic framework when it came to functionality. Again, if the site is not unique and follows the functionality of most other simple sites, WordPress, WIX etc. will have a template that covers the basics. In our tests, this falls apart fast as we prefer not to be part of the crowd and copy the functionality of others. To achieve greater functionality in a WordPress site, we have to branch off from the Parent Theme. This requires creating a Child Theme and making modifications and additions in this separate area, which will then override the original Theme (design). No problem, we’re good at coding, but we need to manage conflicts with the original Themes design. Things start to slow down at this point due to the added debugging required to make old and new code work, together, without conflict.
Conclusion, It’s important to understand WordPresses original purpose, which is a Blogging Application. If you’re planning on writing a lot of pages of text, WordPress rocks and has loads of benefits. If you’re running a Business online for purposes other than textual information, WordPress may not be in your best long term interest.
This relates to the issues we found in Functionality. If the site is to have continued expansions to complement the Company’s growth, being tied to a predetermined framework and theme, starts to slow the development process. At this point the decision to strip the theme to its own level and abandon WordPress starts to make sense. If the site is simple and relies on Blogging (writing articles and other textually rich content pages) WordPress will excel as this has always been it’s main purpose.
Conclusion, Websites, like each business, are unique and the requirements for success will not be the same. If we understand WordPress was built originally for writing articles, we can use that when the requirement dictates a website primarily for blogging or is very simple in nature. If the website’s purpose is going to be more unique, a Custom website will be more appropriate and efficient in the long run.
It’s been a little over a year since we rolled out our redesign using WordPress. Since then, we’ve Designed a few other sites that use WordPress but have moved away from Divi Builder or any PreDesigned Themes. The problem is someone else’s theme is always created in such a manner that it can be used for the greatest number of other sites. Obviously, this is the purpose of any generic Theme, Framework or Platform (largest possible audience). But, flexibility is lost or at least brings a new level of concern when changes are required.
Our subsequent WordPress Sites were created on a barebones WordPress Theme. Understrap is a bare-bones theme that uses Bootstrap for it’s base. Bootstrap was created by the Twitter folks and has been updated to provide a very flexible underpinning for any Designs that may be created over it.
There are nice benefits from using WordPress, especially when your writing textual content on a regular basis. Blog posts, Technical articles, etc., benefit from WordPresses Text Content Creation backbone.
The problems are a lack of potential and freedom to code what you need, where and when you need it. We have to create special Plugins to interact with WordPresses core. Roughly, a 35% increase in development time comes when adding custom coding/functionality to a WordPress site.
What this means is determining which Technology is best for a website needs to be determined at the start. Custom Websites seem like the best choice, but if textually heavy in content, a Custom WordPress Website may be the best solution.
More information on choosing a website technology can be found here.