4 Reasons WordPress Will Bleed Your Profits

Monday, August 15th, 2016

4 Reasons WordPress Will Bleed Your Profits

WordPress is the most popular platform on the web these days.  But it's not a tool that true professionals use, or one that businesses can thrive on long term.

If you are looking at building a website these days, chances are you have run across or are familiar with WordPress. It often seems an obvious choice for many businesses as a popular, free and open source platform that runs off of a standard Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP (LAMP) server setup.  After all, over 70 million installs can’t be wrong, can they?

In a word:  yes.  While WordPress is a viable option and a suitable choice for many bloggers and/or recreational web users, it is not a tool for web professionals nor is it suitable platform for enterprise business use.  WordPress is first and foremost a blogging tool (and is not a content management system, no matter what it claims) and a tool for the masses.  So the question then becomes:  Why is that a bad thing?

For companies that are interested in maintaining their brand integrity online, optimizing their website performance, and minimizing their maintenance costs and maximizing their security, WordPress is far from ideal.  This might feel like a contradictory statement based on the usage numbers.  Why would so many people use something that is insecure or takes an abundance of time to maintain?  Isn’t WordPress free?  Don’t they have thousands of themes? Aren’t there a lot of companies using WordPress? Yes, on all counts

Threshold believes in designing and building custom solutions that meet our client’s unique needs and goals.  We’re the tailor as opposed to the off the rack product.  WordPress does not fit that strategy first and foremost because it is an inherently inflexible platform that is centered around blogging, vs. a true content management system (CMS) that concerns itself only with data.  

WordPress sites take, in our opinion, a fundamentally flawed approach to creating websites:  they use themes that need to be heavily altered to be anywhere near custom, and are driven by a platform with the exact same issues.  The platform itself fights the build process at every turn due to its assumptions on content, and relies heavily on plugins that to morph itself into something useful.  Conversely, we believe the right approach is designing and building solutions that serve an exact purpose, vs. reverse engineering a theme and platform built for the masses.  (That’s why we use Craft).  Custom builds offer a far better solution that overcome all of the following issues.

1.  Website Performance (Or Lack Thereof)

For businesses on the internet today, speed is king. Users want a seamless experience that is as responsive as a magazine, rather than waiting on streams of data and images to load.  47% of users expect a website to load in under 2 seconds.  40% of users will abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

So your website's performance is a huge deal, not just for your user’s experience, but for your bottom line.  Even a 1 second delay in your website’s load time can reduce your conversions by 7%. If an ecommerce website transacts $100,000 in sales each day, a 1 second delay in page response can cost up to $2.5 million in sales every year.

Site performance also affects SEO.  Google has admitted as early as 2010 that load time is a metric they use for deciding site rankings on searches.  So in some cases, a slow site can actually hinder a customer's ability to find your website at all.   So what does this have to do with WordPress as a platform?  Easy:  in general, WordPress driven websites are slow.

A 1 second delay in your website’s load time can reduce your conversions by 7%.

There are a lot of factors that lead to the pedestrian nature of WordPress sites, but the biggest factor is its afore mentioned reliance on themes (templates), which in many cases are very resource intensive. Themes that include a lot of images, plugins and load external files from third party libraries can add literally megabytes of data that load every time your site loads (especially if it is not cached).   And while your site may only be using 20% of the elements that come with the template, it's almost always loading the other 80% regardless.  This means a huge number of connections and downloads the site has to make, not to mention total file sizes in the range of multiple Megabytes.  

A typical WordPress template may be anywhere from 4 to 6 MB in size with over 80 connections to make in order to load itself.  For comparison's sake, we typically keep our custom websites well under 1MB in file size, with under 30 connections.   It's not at all uncommon to see a WordPress driven site have 6x the file size and over 4x the amount of connections it is required to make, in order to load everything that comes with its theme.  Such is the case with the WordPress powered site we tested in Pingdom tools, below:

4 Reasons WordPress Will Bleed Your Profits

WordPress also has a giant library of plugins that are meant to solve programming problems without any coding. Unfortunately, these plugins not only can have a sever impact on your website’s load time, but they also may be operated by developers that are unreliable or who just abandon the project all together.  So you run the risk of having broken links, resource bloat and even security vulnerabilities. In effect, the very features that attract so many users are the ones that can cause the most harm to your business.

2.  Diluted Brand Identity

Any business's brand is their most important asset.  Every point of contact your customers or users have with you is an interaction with your brand. If any aspect of this is compromised (your logo, images, fonts, colors and overall look and feel) it can create brand confusion in your customer base. With WordPress, some of the appeal is the litany of themes to choose from. The problem is that each theme is already complete and therefore needs to be adjusted to fit your brand.

The most effective websites are designed to achieve very specific business goals.  Websites aren't Mad Libs anymore than the brand's behind them are.  Templated web solutions are created to fit the most boxes possible, to try and solve the most common problems for developers or businesses. They are not made specifically for a single company and their needs.

Websites aren't Mad Libs.  Effective sites are designed to achieve very specific business goals.

Websites that are designed and built for a specific brand ensure that the tenants of that brand are also adhered to. The also tend to perform well because they avoid the bloat that comes with themes and frameworks that have unused or unwanted features. A simple gallery plugin can take hours to refactor to meet the standards of a company's brand, where a custom solution will be developed with only the site and brand requirements in mind.

Finally, WordPress sites and themes tend to have a very distinct look. Because WordPress is meant to be a blog, and has to be modified to fit other needs, there tend to be vast similarities to their themes and layouts.  A company's brand is it’s message, and if that is compromised by its viewers because the software used gentrifies their message and experience, then the Brand itself has been lessened.

3.  Maintenance Costs

When dealing with free software and mostly free plugins, it seems counter-intuitive to think that there will be large maintenance costs for WordPress sites.  Unfortunately, every item in the site, from plugins to themes to the base software have to be maintained.  Even with auto-updates for the core WordPress software, plugins and themes have to be maintained as well.

An Achilles' heel of the platform is that it centers around these free plugins that are nothing short of necessary to jerry-rig it into an at least semi useful tool.  And while 'free' sounds great, it means that you are committing yourself to an eco-system that can often go unsupported and break once the WordPress releases a new update.  Many WordPress users know this scenario all to well, and stop upgrading their site altogether (which in and of itself creates huge security risks). 

WordPress centers around free plugins that are necessary to jerry-rig it into an at least semi useful tool.

Users that have lightly to unsupported or abandoned plugins and themes can find their site's not in jeopardy with each software update. These failures can force site owners to scramble to find comparable plugins that are still being supported regularly or you have to hire someone to repair or create a custom plugin that fixes the site problem.

Whole sites have shut down due to mistakes or errors in plugins that were incompatible with the latest WordPress upgrades. In many cases, WordPress hosts will recommend and offer backups to databases and code bases because of the hostile nature of software and its many moving parts.

4.  Sub Optimal Security 

As has been mentioned previously, security is a huge issue for WordPress users.  While upgrades and auto-updates help fix known security bugs, WordPress by its very nature is a blogging software that utilizes developer donated code snippets to solve common site problems. This means that every WordPress site that uses any plugins are dependent upon the coding acumen of unknown developers as well as their desire to maintain their code base.  At any given time, a plugin or theme could fail your site or be hacked because of some dependency of that theme or plugin.

Because of it's popularity, a single security exploit found by a hacker or group of hackers could potentially affect over 60% of websites on the internet.  That means the WordPress platform also has the biggest target on its back imaginable, for those with malicious intent. In terms of bang for buck, hackers find WordPress to be the most attractive option available for their talents. In any given month, there can be multiple updates to the core WordPress software in an attempt to fight a bevy of known security breaches

Hackers find WordPress to be the most attractive option on the internet.

There are many reasons to use WordPress for a blog or a personal website.  It is a competent blogging software that can be morphed into a CMS, at least to some extent.  It provides a lot of opportunities for people to create quick, generic websites. Unfortunately, for companies or businesses that want to create websites that are fast, responsive, secure and match their brand and business goals, as well as keeping them from constant maintenance fees or from hiring developers or consultants to come in and fix their websites on a consistent basis, WordPress is just not practical.