When you work with a tool over a significant period, it’s easy to put yourself into a “bubble” of sorts. You might not see things from the same perspective as an outsider or even a casual user.
WordPress is no exception. Sure, its devoted base of developers and users may have their pet peeves about the content management system (CMS). But they’re still likely to choose it for the bulk of their web projects.
I count myself in that group. I’ve used WordPress almost exclusively for over a decade. Yet a recent dip in market share has me thinking about the CMS landscape, along with the perceived weaknesses of our favorite software.
With that in mind, here’s an exercise. Let’s take a few moments and consider why a freelancer would want to avoid using WordPress for a project. What would make someone want to do such a thing? The following are some potential reasons why.
WordPress Has Too Many Moving Parts for a Quickie Website
A WordPress website is typically a mix of a theme, plugins, and custom code. All of these ingredients have to come together to create a finished product. To do it right takes time and money.
Thus, if you need to build a website quickly (say, within a week), WordPress may not offer the most efficient path. Even if you have an established workflow, it can be a challenge to get all of your ducks in a row.
For example, a fully-custom theme may not be realistic within that timeframe. And even a third-party theme can take significant effort to get looking the way you want. Then there are the tasks of setting up web hosting, installing and configuring the necessary plugins, and performance tweaks.
While most competitors can’t hold a candle to the flexibility offered by WordPress, some do provide a quicker way to get up and running. When you’re in a time crunch and on a limited budget, these other platforms may make more sense.
The bright spot here is that Full Site Editing (FSE) may eventually lead to a faster build process. But for now, there are a lot of steps from start to finish.
eCommerce Builds Can Be a Tedious Experience
Even with a developer-friendly timeline and budget, building all but most simple eCommerce sites with WordPress is a slog. This is particularly the case when using WooCommerce – which offers a very piecemeal approach.
You might need to purchase several commercial extensions to meet a client’s requirements. This doesn’t mean that success is impossible. But there are enough hurdles involved that a freelancer may look elsewhere. Simpler solutions do exist.
A platform that focuses solely on eCommerce may try to upsell you on advanced functionality. Still, they may also offer more in a default setup than WooCommerce. Instead of nickel and diming clients for a relatively basic shipping method, it might come standard with a service like Shopify.
Speaking of Shopify, they’ve been in the number-two position in CMS market share for some time (while also taking a recent dip of their own). Undoubtedly, some freelancers are viewing it as a viable alternative to WordPress.
The Ongoing Maintenance and Security Requirements
There’s no such thing as a “set it and forget it” WordPress site. A lot of vigilance is required to keep things running smoothly.
WordPress core, themes, and plugins will all need to be updated regularly. And there are instances when updates result in problems. Therefore, a mission-critical website will need to be tested each time – preferably using a staging environment.
Maintenance is also critical to security. Let an update languish for too long and your client’s websites could be ripe for malware infection. In that sense, there is no time for rest.
Proprietary systems such as Squarespace and Wix don’t require this level of attention. They have complete control over their respective platforms.
And while we in the WordPress community often critique this insular approach – it does have some benefits. One is that maintenance is relatively hassle-free in comparison.
For freelancers who have neither the time nor interest in site maintenance, it’s easy to see why WordPress wouldn’t be their first choice.
WordPress Performance Isn’t Very Straightforward
Can a WordPress website achieve blazing-fast performance? Absolutely. Does it come that way out of the box? Not so much.
And that’s not necessarily the fault of the core software. It’s more the result of a scattered ecosystem and the wide range of available hosting environments. A developer has to put these pieces together and then implement various optimizations. There can be some significant work involved.
As such, there are two distinct camps of freelancers who may eschew WordPress in part because of performance. The first are those who want an already-optimized platform. The other consists of hardcore developers who prefer super-fast static site generators.
The former group just wants things to work with minimal effort on their part. Not coincidentally, they may also be the same people who aren’t interested in maintenance.
The latter doesn’t mind the technical hurdles that come with static site generators. Some may use a “headless” WordPress install, but that isn’t a given.
A Valuable Reminder for the WordPress Community
The reason I mention these flaws is not to disparage WordPress. After all, there’s plenty to love about it. It has played a huge role in lifting up my career – and a lot of others as well.
My point is that there will always be competitors who do a particular thing better. And it’s not something to fret about. Rather, it’s a learning experience that should encourage progress.
Neither WordPress nor its community is too big to be inspired by others in the CMS market. Good ideas do indeed come from everywhere. We should be open to them.
To continue its reign, WordPress must improve and evolve along with developer expectations. Even so, some freelancers will still choose other options. And there’s nothing wrong with that.