WordPress? What are they not telling you?

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Maybe you should reconsider using it for your website

Quite a few of my blog posts come about based on questions and requests for help that come from my clients. So many questions come from entrepreneurs who have a website, very often built on WordPress - websites where the owner doesn't understand how to use or update their site. By the time I connect with them, they are usually overwhelmed or frustrated about the platform they are on.

Just lately I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about why WordPress is the “best thing” to use to build your website. Unfortunately, a lot of people buy into this and it can have the effect of turning business owners into unwilling “techies” forced to become something they’re not or held for ransom by people “in-the-know.”

The small business owner often has a website (good, bad or indifferent), perhaps self-created, sometimes the “kid-down-the-block” built, or they paid web designer put it together.  With that in mind, WordPress is often the tool of choice – even when the client doesn’t know what’s been/is being used. Suddenly, as the saying goes:  “and then the fun/fight started.”

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe WordPress to be a great and valuable platform.  When you know what it is, how to use it and what you’ll need to do to keep everything ship-shape and working the way you want. My concern is that assuming WordPress is the only solution can be misplaced at times. So, I thought I’d approach this topic from the “less technical” point of view. Here goes:

WordPress features - for you?

Let’s take a look at some of the more common references as to why WordPress is the way to go are listed here so we can put those features in context.

WordPress is open source and free: It’s true; WordPress itself is a free product, whose core has been built over the years by hundreds/thousands of volunteers. The never ending variety of themes, plugins training and more allows you to transform your site into anything you can imagine. There are more free themes available than you can count, as well as premium, paid themes ranging in price from next to nothing to a few hundred dollars. Then there’s the ever growing number of products that work with WordPress, and you’ll find more on the internet all the time.

Well, here’s what this statement doesn’t say: WordPress is open source - anyone and everyone can build a theme, plugin or other products that can be attached to WordPress. Unfortunately, everybody thinks they have the coding skills to profit from this free platform. Since there’s no standard for coding skills (as long as it “works”) we have more constant security concerns and malicious code that can be used to harm your website. You need someone (you?) to become an expert to keep all the moving parts playing nicely together (because that poorly written code is going to affect you somewhere) and more.

Should you be unwise enough to use a free theme, please know that there is usually very little/no support available (the theme was free, right? Can you say buyer beware?) Also, free themes often have embedded coding containing back doors capable of bringing your website to its knees while turning your website into a spam bot with the power to spread more malicious code across the internet. Need training? What will you need and where will you get it? How much time will you spend on this? By the way, you will need to buy a domain name, get website hosting and be prepared to pay someone who is up to speed to help you through the confusion, process and support. This is truly a case of “is it really free?”

Plugins give you lots of functionality: Again, free and paid plugins are available (plugins are extensions added to your basic WordPress environment that add more/different functionality).

Here’s what this statement doesn’t say: You will need to add plugins to your WordPress website in order to get effective things like enhanced SEO, better security, website utilities, an amazing array of cool features and more. Based on the combination of your chosen theme, plugin combinations, plugin updates and WordPress version, there’s a fine line you need to walk to keep everything playing nicely together. 

Found a plugin that does what you really like (among hundreds)? Well, it may or may not be well-supported (generally controlled by how much you paid for it), and how skilled the plugin creator is/was at designing the plugin, to name a couple of reasons. A badly designed plugin can break your site, affect other plugins and leave you guessing. How diligent the creator is/are about updating the plugin to stay in lock step with WordPress updates – some plugins are just plain abandoned leaving your site vulnerable. You will need to keep your plugins up to date – and each one is updated on its own schedule. Something else you’ll need to keep on top of. Question for you: Do you intend to spend the time, knowledge and attention required to keep everything “ship-shape?” How much will this cost you in terms of time and money?

Google Loves WordPress: Core features of WordPress are attractive. Things like settings designed to help you with SEO right out of the box.

Here’s what this statement doesn’t say: There’s thousands of plugins available to help you with things like SEO, Security, Link building, etc. That means you’ll need to figure out which ones you might need to be most effective. What is really attractive to Google is fresh, valuable content being made available and a great experience when visitors land on your site. I think you’d agree those things aren't platform specific.

WordPress sites are accessible: 25% of all websites are built on WordPress. Many Fortune 500 companies build their sites on WordPress. Since it’s so well known, there’s no shortage of ways to learn it.

What the statement doesn’t say: If you land on any site on the internet, can you tell if it’s a WordPress site or not? Unless you use one of the custom tools out there that can identify specific things such as the WordPress theme used on the site, how do you know and what difference does that make to you? Fortune 500 companies build on WordPress? The difference between those companies and you is that they have a group of people just to look after the site, provide the content needed to grow and security experts to keep their site secure. Do you/will you have that? There are reasons they need that many support people. 
To learn how to use WordPress, YouTube and many other areas have an array of resources. Check them out. Facebook has a multitude of groups. Questions for you: How much time do you intend to spend getting and keeping your business website up and running? Is this what you went into business for?

Your site can grow with you: When you add up the WordPress features, you can grow your site over the years.

What the statement doesn’t say: Your website should be a living, online extension of you and your business and will naturally evolve over time, WordPress or not. However, it’s not about the platform you’re delivering from. It’s about your content and message, serving your customer needs, developing your brand and growing your influence. What do you need to focus on, who will you partner with (and what will it cost) to get a website to meet client and business needs?

What does your business website need in terms of features to serve your clients and meet your business goals? Do you really need to consider the number of templates, plugins and additional bells and whistles? Have you considered who will maintain your site once it's up and running? Are you prepared for the learning curve (true of all platforms - some more than others)? Get clear on those specific goals, and then find the resource that will support your current and future needs. Make a list of your needs then ask the questions and explore alternatives so you can come to the right choice for you and your business whether you’re a Do-it-Yourselfer or working with a webmaster. It doesn’t, nor should it be all about WordPress – just sayin’.

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