Should You Build Your Site with WordPress?

By Milo Cruz | Last Updated: November 17, 2017

Content management systems (CMS) streamline the process of creating and launching a new website. With support for various content types, ready customization through themes and plugins, and easy-to-grasp interfaces, these systems can be a godsend–especially for those who don’t want to fiddle directly with code.

WordPress is one of the most popular CMS options out there. Websites of varying sizes use it, and that includes industry giants like Mozilla and the Wall Street Journal. Should you hop on that train too?

No. Or, well, not always.

If you’re building a simple website, using WordPress might be like using a katana to chop your onions. There’s a lot of power packed into the WordPress engine, but as you’ll find out later, that can entail a lot of upkeep. For sites that are mostly static, WordPress can add unnecessary work to your plate.

Sites that don’t need to constantly update or add information, host multimedia files, or perform complex functions can work just as well using lightweight CMS or development tools like Bolt, Pico, or Jekyll. These solutions will require fewer resources, too, saving you money in the long run.

So should you use WordPress if you’re building a large, powerful monster of website?

No. Or, well, it depends.

The thing about complex sites is that they might require unique or uncommon functionalities that you can’t readily get from WordPress and its plugins. Sure, many plugins allow for customization — but if you have to spend countless hours modifying plugins just to get the function you want, you might be better off coding your desired website features entirely from scratch.

Of course, not everyone can knock out a web app, bot, or site feature using JavaScript, Python, PHP, Ruby, or other programming languages. However, it’s still best to weigh the overall costs of picking WordPress over a bespoke solution. While open-source WordPress might seem like a cost-effective answer, you shouldn’t forget to factor in the time and effort needed to wrangle the system, troubleshoot any issues that arise from your rejiggered plugins, and so on.

So what the heck do you use WordPress for?

Well, almost every other kind of website you can think of.

Consider WordPress your Goldilocks solution. It’s best-suited for websites that slot into a typical model–whether that’s a standard business site with contact forms and shopping carts, a resource site with libraries of how-to guides, and so on. You get the picture. If you’re not doing anything that’s too far beyond the ordinary, but you’re still doing too much for static pages, then WordPress can help you out.

Five Reasons to Use WordPress

1. You want a handy interface instead of hand-writing code.

WordPress, like any CMS, inserts a convenient system between you and your website’s raw code. The standard dashboard interface, plus the ready options to, say, create a post or page, can simplify the process of building your website.

Delving into the finer points of WordPress’ system can be as confusing or intimidating as any coding project, but at its most basic, WordPress lets you click a button to generate a page. You’ll then use a mostly WYSIWYG editor to crank out your content, hit publish, and voila: another update for your website

2. You’ll churn out a lot of content, including multimedia files.

This is where the “static pages” approach often fails. Hand-coding each post page and building (not to mention updating) an index or archive makes for a great blogging horror story, for example. If you want more screams, throw in the need to upload or embed photos, videos, galleries, and other kinds of media, too.

WordPress, true to its name, gives you a built-in framework for your content. It does all the little jobs needed to keep your posts in order, archived, categorized, and so on; it can maintain a library of multimedia material for you; and so on, so that all you have to do is write or upload the content you want to use.

3. You don’t want to create your website design entirely from scratch.

WordPress comes with a vast selection of ready-made themes and templates which you can download and install on your budding website. You don’t even need to worry about being mobile-responsive, either, as the WordPress system ensures your site adjusts to mobile devices automatically.

The best part, though? HTML/CSS wizards who do want to whip up a design of their own can do so. WordPress won’t stop you from implementing your homebrewed theme, so long as it’s compatible. That’s right, you get to have your cake and eat it–and if you put your original theme up for sale, you can even earn from it, too.

4. You don’t want to code additional features from scratch, either.

There are countless plugins, extensions, and integrations for almost any function you’ll ever need: pushing new blog post alerts to Twitter, running an online store, taking delivery orders for your restaurant? All of that’s on the table, thanks to WordPress’ lively, inventive community of third-party plugin providers.

It can take a bit of time to wade through all of the plugins out there, but once you do find the perfect match, it’s as simple as installing it on your website.

5. You want people lots of people – to find you.

WordPress works great for SEO, even before you do any tweaking. Why? The system is built on posts and pages, and that kind of content architecture is fodder for search engine crawlers. Your website will be that much easier to crawl and index; subsequently, you can expect to have an easier time showing up on search engine rankings compared to sites with messy webpage organization or uncooperative subsections.

Does all of that make WordPress sound too good to be true? Don’t worry, we’re not skipping over the system’s downsides. There are significant arguments against using WordPress, too, and as with any major website decision, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons according to what your website needs.

Four Strikes Against WordPress

1. The system can devour your time and energy.

WordPress is a huge system, and it’s constantly being updated. Learning the ropes can take time if you’re absolutely unfamiliar with CMS. Plus, when your website is already up and running, you’ll have to update your particular WordPress installation, not to mention test each new upgrade.

The same is true for each plugin, especially since it probably comes from a third-party developer: your plugins can — and will — have entirely different update schedules. Depending on how many you have, you might end up spending the bulk of your time just keeping your whole website system up-to-date. Unfortunately, outside of managed WordPress hosting that can get pretty expensive, there’s no one-and-done package to update everything as needed.

2. WordPress can slow your site down.

Beware of bloat. Having a tricked-out website can sound like fun, but too many plugins can slow your site to a crawl. Not only will that hurt your site’s performance and turn off potential visitors, it will also increase the risk of site errors and tank your search engine rankings if you’re not careful.

3. Customization requires skill and experience.

As simple as WordPress’ core functions might be, unleashing its full potential can require more skill and experience than you might expect, especially in terms of coding. While ready-to-install themes and templates abound, for example, you’ll still need to know some HTML/CSS to tweak those themes and make them your own.

The same is true for plugins: you won’t always be lucky enough to find one that fits your needs right out of the box, so you’ll have to be comfortable tinkering with settings and so on.

4. It’s not the most secure platform.

The WordPress development community releases frequent security updates, but that’s the thing: according to W3Techs data, 59.5% of all CMS-powered websites use WordPress, and that kind of widespread usage attracts malicious attacks. More hacks, system exploits, and so on will plague WordPress, simply because would-be attackers will be drawn to the wider pool of possible victims.

Even outside of directed attacks, the open-source nature of the system’s many plugins and extensions can harm your site, too. All it takes is a badly crafted plugin, a third-party extension with a gaping vulnerability, or even just an update that isn’t fully compatible with your core WordPress installation, and you can end up with headaches galore.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the choice to use WordPress is up to you. Each website has its own set of requirements and goals, and you’ll know best which tools and approaches to use. We hope this article has given you a better idea of WordPress’ particular strengths and weaknesses so you can make an informed decision about your website’s underlying system. There are pros and cons to every system, after all – and your ability to discern which ones you need to care about will determine how far your website goes.