Creating a website with WordPress: The good and the bad

We love a lot of things about WordPress. It has so many time-saving features that it makes a lot of the heavy lifting of web development much lighter. Still, it does have its foibles and isn’t a universal, one-size-fits-all solution. Read a few of the pros and cons of developing a website using WordPress.

Here’s a quick rundown of the good, the bad, and our experience using WordPress to create websites.

We love a lot of things about WordPress. It has so many time-saving features that it makes a lot of the heavy lifting of web development much lighter. Still, it does have its foibles and isn’t a universal, one-size-fits-all solution. Having created many sites using WordPress as a content management system, we’ve learned that there are some good reasons to use WordPress to create your website, and some good reasons you might want to use another solution.
wordpress strengths and weaknesses

Cost: Free

Good: You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on some proprietary solution that nobody has ever heard of. If you’re really on a shoestring, you can even have your site hosted for free on wordpress.com. (For another $100/year, you can have more customization options and not have ads served on your site.)

Bad: You can’t argue with Free!


Design: Plenty of templates

Good: Even if you don’t hire a designer to customize your site, there are enough templates so your site won’t look like everyone else’s site. WordPress templates provide a great way to kick start your design, and many templates have built-in functions that can help you solve complex web programming tasks. The past few years have seen a huge increase in the number of responsive templates, so be sure the template you choose is mobile-friendly.

Bad: Templates are not designed to further your particular brand, so while you may find one that is similar to your current look, it won’t match exactly. You might want to start with a simple template and then customize (or hire a web developer to customize) the template to match your branding. If you want to customize pages even more, you may have to spend a decent amount of time updating style sheets and PHP. One caveat: If you choose a template with too many functions that you’re not using, you could end up with a disastrously slow website.


Functionality: Thousands of plugins

Good: If you don’t have the in-house expertise, you can often find a WordPress plugin to extend and expand the functionality of your site. Plugins can handle anything from adding a slideshow or a form to creating a sophisticated online store. Today, there are almost 40,000 plugins from which to choose.

Bad: WordPress is not built for high-performance, and adding plugins can slow things down even more. They can make it easy to add functionality, but each plugin comes at a performance price. Plugins can sometimes stop working when you upgrade WordPress or your theme, since many of them are developed by individuals and fixes aren’t always done frequently. That means that after a WordPress or theme upgrade, you can spend a lot of time changing the site to fit the way a plugin works or trying to change a plugin to fit the way the site works.


Search: Built-in search and SEO

Good: WordPress has a built-in search function and facilitates search engine optimization (SEO). The search function is easily added to all pages of your site. WordPress allows you to tag all content, create custom keyword-rich URLs, and allow trackbacks and pingbacks, all of which help your site be found in online searches.

Bad: WordPress search is limited — results are sorted by date, not relevance, and there are no advanced searching options. For a more robust search function, you can install Google Site Search on your website. WordPress doesn’t automatically do some of the more technical SEO tasks, so you still may have to add a few plugins to truly optimize your site for search.


Site updates: DIY FTW!

Good: For years, clients asked us to make them websites they could easily update themselves. For years, the answer was, “Sorry, there really isn’t an easy way.” No more. WordPress is very easy to use. Once your site is designed and developed, it’s extremely easy to add new pages, posts, copy, images, and more. A quick training session makes it easy for novices to learn how to add or edit basic content on the site.

Bad: WordPress is pretty finicky on how it interprets content you add. If you paste content from Word, you’ll introduce lots of garbage code. If you work in the text/source mode, you’ll end up getting annoyed with the way WordPress “cleans up” your code. And, if you accidentally mess something up, you sometimes have to clean up the HTML by hand.


Platform: Based on PHP and MySQL

Good: Allows experienced developers to completely customize sites. You can make changes to the code if and when you have to. It’s not proprietary, so it’s effectively open-source.

Bad: Not as easy to customize for non-developers or those who know only HTML. WordPress has its own PHP syntax and functions that create a bit of a learning curve, even for experienced PHP coders. Also, you can’t just preview a post in your browser without having a WordPress testing server set up.


Software: Frequent upgrades

Good: WordPress is an open-source project and there are plenty of developers, so security flaws in WordPress get patched quickly,  new features appear regularly, and themes and plugins get regular updates.

Bad: Updates are great, but sometimes when WordPress, your theme, or your plugins get updated, it breaks something else. Instead of updating the minute something new is released, we recommend making a backup, updating in a staging environment, and testing everything thoroughly before updating your live site. An upgrade can easily turn into a “downgrade” if things don’t work well together.


Community: Large user base

Good: WordPress has a 60% market share of content management systems today. (That’s 75 million websites built on WordPress!) WordPress also has 40 international translations, and it’s adding more all the time. The large, helpful community of users can help you fix challenges that arise. If you’ve had the problem, chances are, someone else has too. WordPress is widely used by people tackling the same issues you face, so there is a huge community of support.

Bad: There’s not really any downside we can see to having a big community of users working on the industry-standard platform.


Built for blogging: Great for updates

Good: If you want to create content, make timely updates, and continuously engage with your visitors, WordPress is hard to beat. WordPress makes it easy to add pages and posts, display the latest content up top, and update pages easily and quickly. If you want to keep fresh content on your site all the time, WordPress makes it easy.

Bad: All the functionality that makes it easy to constantly change content can be overkill for a site that requires infrequent updates. All the theme functionality, plugins, and database queries can lead to slower load and response times, so for a site whose content rarely changes, a straight HTML site might be better for your needs.


Maintenance: Content Management System (CMS)

Good: WordPress can be used as a simple CMS, and it is relatively standards-compliant. Adding new pages and posts doesn’t require much training and there are many plugins you can use to add additional CMS functionality to your site. You can assign users with different “roles” to limit their access, and WordPress prevents more than one user from editing the same content at the same time.

Bad: With some work, you can give WordPress some robust CMS functions, but WordPress is not really a full-featured CMS. For example, WordPress won’t keep you from introducing bad code, it doesn’t do workflow management, nor does it track user roles.


twentyfifteen: More like nineteenninetyeight, amirite?

Good: The latest official WordPress theme, called “twentyfifteen,” is pretty streamlined, is responsive, and works great with the latest versions of WordPress. It is free to install and use.

Bad: The theme looks like it was created a decade ago. (Left-side navigation? Really?) And, it has responsive breakpoints that don’t seem to correspond to common mobile devices. We’ve come up with some pretty slick workarounds to implement modern-looking designs in twentyfifteen, but they do require some more advanced CSS/PHP work.


Overall, creating a website with WordPress is straightforward, especially if you can kick start your development using an existing template. However, if you want to customize the look and functionality of the template, you’ll have to possess robust web development skills, or hire a developer.

It’s important to keep in mind what WordPress does well, and what it does only with great effort, so you can have realistic expectations from the beginning. As long as you want your site to leverage WordPress’s strengths, such as posting frequent updates, WordPress is a good way to go. But if you’re looking for a straight CMS, highly customized page layouts, or you’ll only use very few of the content creation features of WordPress, you’d probably be better off going with a straight HTML website.

Note: This article, originally published Jan. 14, 2010, has been updated to reflect the ever-changing world of WordPress.

38 thoughts on “Creating a website with WordPress: The good and the bad”

  1. Thank you for the detailed post and the simple explanation for the benefits and drawbacks of WordPress.In many posts I have read WP is actually considered as CMS, but I agree with you that this is partly true.

    Natalie

  2. WordPress is the best, because its easy to manipulate, you could make mistakes if you are beginner but you will learn and make changes to fix mistakes you’ve done when designing your site.

  3. WordPress is foremost the finest website maker. Its general functionality is perfect compared to others. Since I started using wordpress my is site is optimized to lead in the serps convincingly. To add its that having many features which makes it more easy plus plugins and abundantly available.
    Thanks
    Wordpress team

  4. Thank you for this amirite! In WordPress CMS Platform The good side is much more than Bad. Every Designer or Developer know how to use it perfectly. The microsoft has also some bad side.
    This is my Professional WordPress development website: http://webddss.com/

  5. WordPress is one of the greatest platforms for creating Website or Blog. It provides different types of plugins for SEO or Developers need. The blog feature is available free, it’s great for creating a blog & promote your business.

  6. I’m over at Worpress dot org Website. The best part in my opinion, is the fact that beginners can build a functional website without being code experts. There’s a little work involved, but it’s nothing like trying to learn code from scratch. Plus the themes and plugins make the blogs look pretty professional.

  7. Listening to you guys struggling over all these web plugins makes me glad my website is super fast and almost plugin free. You don’t need plugins if you do it right. 5 at the most.
    and I can suggest to use 15 Best free website builders for people with 0 experience.

  8. Designing a WordPress website has many advantages like it is SEO friendly.. It is an open source and many more. But it has some limitations also. It is more prone to hacking than other websites.

  9. Thanks for sharing your insights on WordPress!

    I need to get a corporate website designed for my company. I will be updating only the ‘news’ and ‘resource’ sections frequently (once in a month). Is it a good idea to go for a custom wordpress site? I am also thinking of buying a premium theme.

    1. A custom WordPress site is a great way to take advantage of all the ease-of-use features of WordPress but still create a website with a look and functionality unique to your business. Premium themes can be good, but be wary of selecting a theme with a ton of features when you really need only a fraction of the capabilities. Often you pay for the convenience of the built-in features with a huge hit on performance, as the theme may be loading in a lot of code you’re not using. For the fastest, most responsive website, building a WordPress site from scratch and adding only those plugins that you are actually going to use is the best way to go. Good luck, and let me know if we can help you out with any more questions!

  10. Thanks for this article. It helped me decide to start my blog thru wp. I appreciate each details!

  11. Great post – it’s good to see an article on this which is really well balanced. WordPress is a popular choice for many businesses as it’s relatively easy to manage once your site has been built. I think if you’re considering setting up a new business it’s vital that you think about the core elements of how your business will operate online. If you’re going to be building an E-Commerce store this thinking time might take a little longer but it really pays off in the long run.

    I think where people fall short is that they don’t think about the functionality of their business when building a website. Where this falls down, particularly for new business startups is that a couple of years down the line they end up rebuilding / redesigning their website because their website doesn’t meet the needs of the business. Obviously this isn’t applying investment sensibly.

  12. Dear WordPressers and The Curious,
    What is WordPress anyways, it’s more than just CMS (a simple user-friendly content management system) it’s a CAREER for some people.
    Yes, I did say that right, SOME people exploit naive business owners into inferior, cheap, mass produced copies of real websites. Real websites that Real programmers write. real websites, hand crafted after hours and hours of labor, no simple “install” button like wordpress. What it also doesn’t have that WordPress does? A huge hole in it’s security. The security on almost EVERY wordpress website. Google wordwress security. Now, I don’t know about YOU but I like hand-crafted AMERICAN MADE websites. So why would you hire someone to use WordPress anyways? Because it’s easy(lower quality, same price). If you want originally, and craftsmanship.. Buy a website made by a real programmer. You’ll never go back to WordPress.

    1. I agree that using an out-of-the-box template for a site is no way to create a unique look, which is why our programmers spend hours and hours creating custom, American-made WordPress sites. Our clients get the benefits of WordPress’s ease of use PLUS our programming and design expertise in creating responsive, optimized, custom-designed websites. Anyone using WordPress should be aware of the security holes (never use “admin” as your user id!), and a good WordPress designer can make sure you get a beautifully crafted, original website that takes advantage of the large WordPress community of developers and users.

      1. For client work, I much prefer something like Craft CMS where I define exactly what markup is spit out, what content modules the site needs using Matrix, etc. The plugin headache alone is one of the reasons I moved most of my new business to a more sane platform.

        As a designer, WordPress is becoming almost a commodity, DIY platform. I would almost argue the huge community of WP users is not only a benefit but also a potential problem because there’s such a wide range of WordPress developers, from absolute amateurs to seasoned professionals. If I as a professional have to dig into their code to see how well built their sites are, how is the average business owner going to know the difference?

        With such a low barrier to entry, it’s getting harder to separate the people who really know what they’re doing and the people just faking their way through it by clicking a bunch of buttons. Designers get big heads about what they actually offer a client and everything ends up being glued together with duct tape. Install WooCommerce and now you have a web store! I’ve cleaned up some WP messes over the years. The dollar value the client spent had little to do with the actual quality of the code.

  13. This year, I came across the Internet and saw its potential in helping market any product or business we have. So even though I am quite a late bloomer in computer or Internet-related stuff, I am taking the time now to learn any of the skills or tools I need so that I can promote any of my interested products to reach and educate those who need these products. i’m not quite familiar with wordpress yet, and my “greatest weakness” is in creating a well-designed and professionally-looking website. =) i’ve tried creating a site in blogspot, and it doesn’t look good as I want it to be. ={ i know wordpress have so many functionalities that are available, but I am not yet familiar with all and which are the most important.

  14. Hi,
    Thanks so much for your response.
    We are very happy with the Thesis as a CMS – it helps “low-tech” clients jump right on the horse and ride – which is great. Very search friendly, very easy to train and maintain.

    Sincerely,

    Drew

  15. Yup, couldn’t agree more. And I’d like to add that you’ve got a great colour scheme on your site, I suffer with colour blindness and many webmasters don’t give us a second thought!

  16. Make a website using WordPress can help to reduce the final price of the Project because of its low complexity. Depending on the Project could be a good alternative to other C.M.S. .

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