Adrian Trimble - Designer, business owner and occasional writer.

Does WordPress Suck?

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Recently, I’ve been trying to challenge the assumptions I’ve made over the years about business and design. I’ve been looking at the things I take for granted, and trying to figure out if they’re still true. This process has been enlightening. Some of my beliefs have held up to heavier scrutiny, but there’s a huge elephant in the room and it’s crushing all the furniture.

That elephant is a content management system (CMS) that you’ve probably heard of: WordPress. It powers pretty much every site I’ve built for the last 9 years. I know a lot about WordPress: how to configure it so it’s fast & secure, how to build custom themes for it, and how to make sure I’m not using 40 plugins when 4 will do. I’ve got 1000’s of hours invested in it.

There’s just one problem: it kinda sucks for clients. The back-end is clunky & confusing – for many, no amount of training is enough to edit the site themselves successfully. It’ can be fragile: miss a few updates, forget a few custom fields, or upload the wrong size image and your layout or even the whole site can break pretty quickly.

The WordPress.org homepage.

It didn’t used to be this way.

When it started getting popular, WordPress was little more than a blogging platform that allowed you to add a few extra pages and maybe install a contact form plugin. The user experience for those simple use-cases was pretty good. Since then, it has grown into a full-blown CMS – and that means a bunch of extra baggage.

WordPress can do everything you need, and if it can’t, you can bet someone has built a plugin so that it can. It’s still the most versatile website platform out there. I still believe WordPress is the right choice for some websites – especially those that need specialized functionality. For those that don’t, they deserve something that’s easier to use.

Clients need something that works well for them.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, what clients need is a better experience. WordPress is great for really niche use-cases, but what many clients need is a great looking website that’s easy to update themselves.

The likes of SquareSpace and Wix have capitalized on this by offering the essential features, modern templates, cheap pricing, and easy-to-use user interfaces. There’s just one problem with their model: what’s a designer like me supposed to do when someone else already built the template?

Some designers specialize in building sites on SquareSpace so their clients don’t have to do it themselves. I’ve thought about doing that, but removing most of the creativity from the web design process doesn’t sound like a fulfilling proposition.

Custom design *and* a better experience.

Clients who don’t need WordPress, but still want a site tailored to their brand deserve a better experience than they can get with SquareSpace or Wix. Those services are fine, but we (the people of the web) can do better. Does WordPress suck? It depends but what you’re trying to achieve, but sometimes the answer is yes.

I’m working on my own solution to this problem at the moment – stay tuned for details. In the meantime, what old assumptions have you challenged lately? Drop me an email at adrian@spencedigital.ca and let me know!

Posted on September 20, 2018