By David Terrar, CEO, D2C Limited

Last month in this newsletter Nikki Pilkington argued why WordPress is a good choice for your website. I want to argue, passionately, the opposite. I happen to be a stakeholder in a content management system/ platform developer, but I'll try to explain my case as objectively as possible.

The first thing to say is that Nikki's article starts with a vital, core truth - whether your website is created by you, some experts in your team, website developers you've hired or an external agency, it needs a content management system (CMS) at its heart. You need to be in control of the content without needing technical expertise. You shouldn't be paying an agency or a developer every time you want to change a word, add a page, or move a menu option. But is WordPress the right CMS for your website?

Wordpress is a blogging tool, not a CMS

WordPress is great for blogging - I used it for my own blog for a couple of years, but it wasn't designed as a CMS platform. It can edit blog posts and static pages, but it has to be "bent" in to being a CMS, either by someone developing code, or by deploying a plug-in that changes the administration back end in to a CMS. Even then it may not be that user friendly. It's easier and more flexible to work with a product that was designed from scratch as a website CMS with usability for non-technical people as part of the design criteria.

There are lots of widgets and plug-ins

There is a huge library of add-ons and widgets for WordPress, but the quality of the code and the support available for them is a big variable. Some are great, but if the particular widget you need is developed by an individual programmer in the Ukraine or Hong Kong working in their spare time, getting support when you need it or when something goes wrong might be tricky, and what about documentation? Much of the time there isn't any.

Software updates can be problematic

WordPress software updates can vary in terms of upgrade complexity and time. You are also heavily dependent on the particular set of widgets and plug-ins you need for your site's functionality. Are they supported in the new version? Sometimes you may need to rework the entire site when a new version comes out.

I need my site to be Search Engine friendly

WordPress wasn't designed with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind, although there are plug-ins that can help. That's okay, but these are add-ons with mixed levels of support - it would be so much better if the SEO possibilities were designed in to the core of the platform from scratch.

WordPress handles making my site social

WordPress is a blogging platform, so it's easy to provide a blog with a comment stream along with the conventional pages and other content that you need for your site. Things get a bit more complicated when you want multiple blogs, or to have a conversation around all of the content on your site, or to create a community. There are add-ons like BuddyPress that can help, but there are better platforms where the page management and blog structure have been designed for multiple conversations.

How about supporting multiple users?

WordPress started as a single user blogging platform. Over time it has added multi-user and multi-site capability and some user administration roles. As usual there are add-ons to get round some of the restrictions, but that brings us back to the integration and support problems. It would be so much better to have a CMS that has user security and flexible administration designed in from scratch.

WordPress is free, isn't it?

The code is open source and you aren't charged a licence fee. However, that's just one part of the cost equation. You need the site to be hosted. You need design work. You need expertise to assemble and integrate the plug-ins and add-ons for your particular functional needs. Then you need to support the site and all of these widgets over time as new WordPress releases come out. Cost of ownership of the site soon adds up. Actually WordPress itself offers 4 levels of VIP "commercial grade" support for companies. The basic package costs $15,000 per year per seat, up to Enterprise level at $250,000 per year per seat (yes, that's a six figure sum per year!).

There is a large pool of WordPress expertise

That's true, and their rates can be reasonable - but you are definitely going to need some of these experts to support your site, unless you plan on doing a lot of homework and website DIY.

There are loads of free or low cost WordPress themes to choose from

That's true, but a lot of them look so similar - it's pretty easy to spot a WordPress based site. Of course you can get great design from a good website designer too, but that will be pretty much the same cost as for any good CMS platform. The better CMS providers give your designer free rein over what they can do with your site.

It's Open Source - isn’t that good?

The open source development approach can bring huge benefits to a product where you have a large community of developers all working on enhancing and adding to the product for free. But everything comes with a cost. The open source approach is probably the biggest weakness for WordPress - for me it's the killer. It means that the development community understands the platform inside out and can exploit the security flaws that are there. Take a look at the WordPress Pharma Hack - your site could be taken over by spam adverts for Viagra and Cialis. The WordPress developer community, large as it is, has not been able to fix this hack completely: look at what you need to do if you get infected. I have many friends who moved away from WordPress for this reason alone. You know there is something seriously wrong when you see Google ads for companies like White Fir Design who make a living from cleaning up hacked WordPress sites. Do you want to leave your company or brand open to that kind of risk?

So in summary, WordPress is a great blogging platform, although the security concerns worry me. As your website CMS, I think it’s a poor choice, and I'm concerned that so many agencies build their sites on this platform. There are open source CMS products like Joomla or Drupal. They have their own strengths and weaknesses, but they are also infected by that same Pharma Hack (you can read about it here and here). My advice would be to choose a good, proprietary CMS product, probably based on safe and secure technology such as Microsoft .Net and MS SQL Server. When you compare the total cost of ownership, they can be more cost-effective than a WordPress based approach, as well as safer, and more easy to use.

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