Why Not WordPress?

Written by
Glen Erickson
February 17, 2023
min read
illustration of small group of boys using the WordPress logo, standing opposite of a single boy presenting the idea of popular versus un-popular

One of the most common questions we get asked at Nimble is if we will build a new website in WordPress, or fix a WordPress website, and we encounter a fair amount of surprise when the answer is ‘no’. While it may appear to be the most popular, no, we don’t do WordPress. 

Do we all remember the popular kids in high school? It doesn’t seem to matter what age we get to, that picture is imprinted on us. Speaking of age, I am in the demographic that wore U2 shirts when everyone else was wearing Guns N Roses or Def Leppard. It was essentially traumatic to feel on the outside of that group at that age, based solely on your choice of hair style or music. We had to get a bit older perhaps to understand that what was popular was not equal to what was best. 

WordPress is one of these products which has become the closest thing to a household name in website creation. According to W3Techs, WordPress is used by 63.4% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 43.1% of all websites – proving that this is the most popular choice among website owners. As a freelance designer I worked exclusively with WordPress for over 12 years. I am not interested in disparaging a product. I do want to share why we believe the popular choice isn’t the best choice for our clients. 

Nimble has intentionally chosen to use a product called Webflow, one of the new kids on the website creation block, rather than WordPress. For the purpose of this conversation, I won’t be answering the “Why Webflow?” question, but rather “Why Not WordPress?”

So what are the most common claims of why WordPress is the better choice? I’ll unpack four.

  1. It's Universal
  2. It's Flexible
  3. It's Cheap
  4. It's Secure.

It's Universal, like the Microsoft Windows of website builders. 

This claim truthfully suggests there are more supporting elements focused on extending its abilities - for web-hosting, functionality, plugins and themes.  There are more people using it, and you are more likely to find someone in your company or organization who can manage it.

WordPress is essentially open source. There are literally thousands of custom third-party developers creating tools and adaptations for the platform. Web-hosting specialists for your WordPress website; evolving ‘themes’ which are packaged templates, layouts and functionality to give your website a running start; and the plugins are endless. 

While the appearance of universality has appeal, it should also be observed that moving parts need to be managed to function properly. While being easily sold as “DIY” and “no code”, someone still needs some level of expertise to navigate the thousands of options available. At Nimble we often refer to this as the “thousand flavours of WordPress” - how do you decide which flavour to be in a world where public expectation is to be all of them? We can’t be all of them. 

It’s Flexible, I can make it anything I want, of any scale.

Of all the popular CMS platforms, WordPress is easily the most accessible. If you want to “get under the hood” of your website, there is nothing stopping you. It is a common client expectation as a result to receive a finished website which they have full control over tinkering with. 

There is undeniable value to flexibility. Yet we finally asked ourselves, “why would a client pay for expertise in creating a website, only to apply their lack of expertise in owning and maintaining it?” As a freelancer I invested heavily in new page builders, with the goal of making it simpler for a client to learn how to manage their content, without breaking the structure of their website. The return on the investment was perhaps 5% of clients actually wanting to get under the hood, despite their best intentions. For those who tinker, who love adding a plugin here or there, adding their own (uncompressed) images, things can get out of control quickly. 

Flexibility is a two-edged sword. Full access and control of a website is a great power, which comes with great responsibility. We are interested in building stable, sustainable websites with smart content that is accessible to the client. If full access is part of a client’s greater goals for their website, and WordPress is their preference, then we just aren’t a good fit, and that’s ok. 

It’s Cheap. WordPress is free, right?

This is perhaps the biggest shocker for a website client. WordPress itself is free, so we just install it and make a website, right?

Here come the layers.

First of all, you are responsible for finding hosting for your WordPress website. There are many, from $3 to $50 per month, and in this department you usually get what you pay for. Which ones are easy to use? Are we still using cPanel? What is an SSL certificate? The options, the interface, but mostly the security and stability, are determining factors. 

WordPress is free, but the moment you want it to do something - something functional - it begins to cost. Do you need a form to handle conditions and a signature option? You need a plugin for that, and the license fee is annual. Do you want to use one of the popular page builders for drag n drop ease, like Elementor? Another $100 per year license. Do you want to protect content and sell memberships? $250 annual license. I think you get the idea. Products are licensed nowadays, not purchased. If you want a website that works the way you need it to, in a stable and secure fashion, the fees will add up annually.  

We didn’t even talk about what it will cost to find the right designer/developer to build these things for you. I can’t count how many websites we have been asked to rescue from “we had a guy/we had an intern/we had my manager’s daughter make us a WordPress website.”

At Nimble we believe our ongoing relationship to keep your website sustainable will be more cost effective and cause much less anxiety. 

Is any website really “secure” anymore?

If you google WordPress strengths, you will likely find information suggesting its commitment to security measures. It regularly publishes updates which include important bug fixes and security patches so your website won’t be compromised by hackers. And yet, with every web designer/developer I have known for the past 15 years, it is understood to be the most routinely hacked. 

If their popularity is due to being universal, and being flexible/accessible, as well as cheap, the flipside of those traits is an achilles heel for security. The truth is, in order to profess true security in your WordPress website, you will need to employ third-party plugins to enhance your security even further, and likely pay for additional license fees of any proven product. You cannot run a secure WordPress site without committing to additional layers of cost, expertise, and deployment on a monthly, even weekly basis. 

Perhaps we are seeing a theme here. 

In every flavour of WordPress, there is a consistent challenge to remain cheap, to wrestle with security, to invest in protective sustainability to temper un-checked accessibility. 

At Nimble, we just don’t think this is the best solution for our clients. Our goal is their success. The tools we use should be part of the fabric of their success. 

We are continuing to grow with Webflow and while not perfect, it provides positive alternatives in all of these foundational categories. 

I don’t wear my U2 shirts anymore, but I do have a Webflow hoodie.

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