Over the last 10 years, I have had, off and on, quite a lot of experience with the WordPress CMS. Primarily to help my clients who using WordPress, who have got themselves in a bit of a pickle and needed to stabilise / transition away from the platform. But I have also worked with several digital agencies who need process and workflows to help them manage large portfolios of WordPress sites.
So from this experience, I can tell you that, in my view, the number one problem with number one problem with WordPress, that all other problems can be traced back to is this; it makes it effortless to build business critical infrastructure on poor foundations.
And when I say poor foundations. Imagine building a house on a sandy beach…which is prone to natural disaster…and the tide is rapidly coming in.
This is not a diss post
WordPress is a perfect solution for portfolio sites, blogs etc. It remains a fantastic choice for these purposes.
It can also be used for more advanced purposes; but it should only be used for these purposes if people can apply reasonable software engineering practises to the build…and 99% of the time; people can not.
Barriers to entry are very low
Anybody can start building WordPress sites. In that way, it’s a great democratiser.
My mother-in-law, with no programming experience, built an e-commerce site on WordPress which has been live for five years! That’s impressive for a none techie.
The problems tend to start when people use it to solve business critical solutions by using page builders and off the shelf plugins.
Just Because you can, does not mean you should
I s*** ye neigh.
I have time and time again over the years seen people build their business and revenue streams around free plugins! It’s great while it lasts. But when your business is dependent on it, and it suddenly falls over. You have a big problem on your hands. Many years ago, I saw an estate agents brought to the brink of collapse by just this problem.
More recently, I saw a case of an e-commerce site that kept mysteriously going down. The owner of the site shared how their developer was a very competent person, but the site kept mysteriously going offline, and files kept appearing in the filing system that they had not created, and how if they restored from backup, it worked for a bit before going down again. It was instantly clear to me the site had been hacked. As an e-commerce store, the owner is losing revenue while the site is down, not to mention the fact they probably had a data leak other hands too. WordPress enabled them to get off the ground, but it allowed them to do things without considering the risks of actually doing so.
To paraphrase a wise man. They were so preoccupied with whether they could, they did not stop to thunk whether they should.
Now, because WordPress allows anyone to build solutions by cobbling together plugins, its become a bit of a race to the bottom. A lot of the skilled developers have jumped ships to other platforms with higher barriers, leaving behind what can only be described as somewhat of a Wild West.
The Cost Of A Race To The Bottom
To be clear, WordPress can be done well, but it does require a bit of manipulating and creativity! I have worked with clients to stabilise WordPress websites and set them up with systems and processes to have multi-stage development environments, version control, auto-scaling, build processes, continuous integration and delivery; all these things are possible on WordPress; you build some fairly robust stuff.
But most people don’t; few developers can do it in a race to the bottom on prices.
What WordPress allows them to-do is build something that has a facade of a working product, but is going to fall over and fail to be fit for purpose before too long.
Few buyers can assess whether the output is good or not until the point that the solution falls over at a critical moment.
Doing WordPress well costs time and money, which clients will not pay, when there is an abundance of people who will do it poorly for super low costs.
So if you are going to use WordPress, my tips for you would be
- Keep it as simple as possible
- Use as few plugins and themes as possible
- Do not build your business around free & unsupported WordPress software
- Use a managed hosting provider such as WP Engine or Flywheel; these guys have workflows and processes to keep things running smoothly. As well as handle the security for you etc
If you can’t do these things, then stick to using WordPress for portfolio sites and blogs, WordPress is a great solution for these purposes. Just don’t use it to build something business critical!