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There’s a better way than Wordpress

By Mark Campbell 19 Jan 2024

Just this week we had a client go through just about the least-fun you can have when you’re just getting back into the swing of work for the new year. Their website was hacked.

Quick side bar for clarity - this was not a website we built or hosted… but to be fair it could happen to anyone.

There was no rhyme or reason for the hack. No private info stolen. No ransom demanded. Just a regular for-the-fun-of-it hack that caused their site to be wiped off the internet. The most likely reason they got hacked? Simply because the site was running on Wordpress.

This is not to say that all hacked websites are Wordpress ones, or that all Wordpress sites get hacked… it’s just that since so much of the web runs on Wordpress, it makes is a juicy target for hackers.

But security risks aren’t the only downside to using Wordpress to run your website. And with a number of other great options available now, it’s time to think about breaking up with Wordpress.

First let’s take a quick look at the downsides in case you still need convincing, and then look at some alternatives.

Security vulnerabilities

There’s a number of reasons Wordpress is less secure than other CMS platforms. As mentioned above it’s so popular it makes sense for hackers to target sites that run it. It easily becomes outdated if you don’t keep on top of the constant releases (often to fix some security vulnerability). It usually requires a bunch of plugins that then have their own security issues. The list goes on.

The proof here is in the hacking… according to reports, Wordpress accounts for over 95% of infected websites.

The bottom line - this is likely going to cost you in one way or the other… either in the time it takes to constantly keep everything up to date, or in the time it takes to recover your site once it’s been hacked.

Plugins, plugins, plugins

Wordpress wasn’t originally built to power mutli-page websites, let alone ones that require extra functionality. It’s a blogging platform that just took off… and once it did came the flood of plugins to make it do the other things a website needs to do.

One of the most popular plugins is called Advanced Custom Fields - literally a plug in to have different editable fields by page/template… the very point of a Content Management System in the first place!

Plugins are also needed to do other basic things like re-order your pages, duplicate your posts, save media on AWS, manage the site’s cache, etc. A site we built a few years back when we still built Wordpress sites has 24 active plugins right now.

The issue with plugins? There’s a few… but the main ones are:

  • Security issues - see above

  • Maintenance and compatibility issues - they constantly need updating and one plugin can often cause conflicts with another

  • Site speed - a lot of plugins come with bloated code, load unused assets like javascript and CSS, and just generally slow down the user experience on both the back and front end

Bad editing experience

Because of the ‘hacked together’ nature of making a Blogging platform work as a full website CMS, the user experience for content editors is terrible.

There’s no clear rhyme or reason for where to find things; in most cases your side menu ends up being a jumbled mess of post types, plugin settings, non-sensical labels (why is your site’s navigation managed under “Appearance”?), and other things you’re just plain scared to click on.

Then when you finally find what you want to edit, you’re confronted with poorly laid out editing fields, a sea of notifications and widgets somehow still on the page to distract you, and that giant red light from Yoast telling you your SEO is severely lacking.

Slower site speeds

Perhaps worst of all, most Wordpress sites load slower for your users. Due to the inherit bloat of the CMS plus all the plugins you inevitably add, there’s just more calls to the server, more code to be processed, and bigger assets to download.

That’s bad for your SEO and bad for your users.

Yes, there are definitely measures you can take to speed up a Wordpress site… but the fact that you have to do so much extra coding to get it up to par is a cost you shouldn’t have to pay to get a well functioning CMS.

If not Wordpress, then what?

So… now that we’ve given Wordpress a right serve, why don’t we end on a more positive notes and look at some great alternatives to get your website working for you instead of against.

Here’s just a quick snapshot of some of the great tools available now.

Squarespace - great for getting started

Squarespace is a simple platform mostly for DIY peeps who are looking for something quite basic that still looks professional. They even handle things like hosting and domains if you want to do everything in one place. It’s generally as simple as picking a template and uploading some content. Easy.

Shopify - for selling more than yourself

If you are a dedicated E-Commerce brand or just need a simple way to sell some sort of products on your site, Shopify is the leading choice for selling online. Like Squarespace you can start simple by picking a template and uploading your products, or you can customise things to the nth degree like we did in collaboration with our good friends at Plants in a Box.

Webflow - blurring the line between design and dev

Webflow and other tools like it were once considered a poor choice by the creative community, since they didn’t produce great code and came with some of the baggage that Wordpress still carries… but they’ve gotten a lot better and Webflow in particular is picking up popularity.

This is especially true for designers who want to have more of a hand in bringing their designs to life themselves, or at least working closer in collaboration with their developers. Webflow plays nicely with Figma… in some cases being able to copy/paste designs into code.

Dedicated CMS tools - best for custom, powerful sites

At Ply we currently recommend Statamic to most of our clients if they’re not selling online. Statamic (hard to say, fun to use) and other tools like it are dedicated to one thing - managing content for your site. They’re built from the ground up for the way most content websites actually work.

It’s this focus that allows them to:

  • Provide a much nicer editing experience for content editors

  • Get out of the way to let the developer create a truly custom design and user experience

  • Play nicely with custom functionality the developer may add on for the client’s unique requirements

  • Remain lightweight and fast - not requiring many plugins and just doing one their core job

We also build our Statamic sites in a way that make it easy for our clients to create new pages, mixing and matching components to get a “page builder” like experience, but without the bloat that comes from these types of plugins in other systems. This allows them to do more themselves and rely on us less once the site is up and running.

C-Ya to WP

It feels a bit dated to still be piling on Wordpress in 2024… but we still come across so many situations where this is what’s being used, or even still requested by some new clients. I guess when you’re the dominant player that still carries a lot of weight. But in almost every case... we can do better.

If you want to get nerdy about CMS choices, or just chat about your next website not being on Wordpress - drop us a line.

By Mark Campbell Founder

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