A couple years ago, 100% of our clients utilized WordPress as their content management system. Just two years later and that number has dropped by about a third. Since I've been developing and designing sites in WordPress for a decade now, I often look to that CMS because of a few reasons.
Why We Use WordPress
- Incredible Theme variety and support. Sites like Themeforest are a favorite for me where I can find the most amazing templates at a minimal cost that we can implement and build upon for our clients. We don't even offer custom themes anymore since we can build upon a child theme and assume all the parent theme's amazing features. Extraordinary sites can be built in a fraction of the time.
- Plugin and integration variety and support. Because so many sites run WordPress, it's a must for virtually any company that wishes to integrate with a content management system. From email vendors, CRM, landing page solutions, etc… it's almost difficult to find a company that hasn't integrated.
- Usage is everywhere, so finding employees and administrators that utilize WordPress is fairly common-place. Ramping up a new CMS can require additional training time internal to a company, so using a popular one can make things much less painful internally.
- WordPress Managed Hosting platforms like Flywheel, WPEngine, Pantheon, LiquidWeb, and even GoDaddy, and more are becoming commonplace. Older hosting companies never actually supported WordPress despite it being so popular so companies often were in a battle between the host and developer on what might be wrong with the site. These services offer security, built-in backups, content delivery networks, SSL certificates, monitoring, staging, and a host of other tools to make your site both fast and stable.
If that sounded like me selling WordPress, stick with me. Issues have arisen that are starting to make us recommend clients to other Content Management Systems.
Why We Don't Use WordPress
- Sales – WordPress used to be bullish on any sales-related service, theme, or plugin. They'd often block anyone from publishing tools within their system that offered a price tag on it. But now, if you integrate Jetpack, you're met with nag messages to purchase Automattic's backup services. So, all of a sudden the open source advocates are now selling their own services. I'm not unhappy they're doing this, it's just that it used to be frowned upon.
- Security – Because of its popularity, WordPress has also become a target for hackers. An average site with a well-produced theme and a dozen plugins may leave a hole open for hackers so site owners, administrators, and hosts have to be extra vigilant to attacks and stay on top of theme and plugin updates.
- Development – I have a client that has a site and typical set of plugins right now that has about 8 references to Google Fonts in their header because their theme and a number of design plugins all offer it as a service. Despite there being a methodology to ensuring a service isn't called more than once, developers ignored it and just added their own references. This hurts the site for speed and ranking… and isn't something the average user would know without troubleshooting. Poor practices in WordPress API integration are becoming more and more commonplace. I have dozens of tickets open with developers to correct these issues. Most are responsive, many are not.
- Complexity – A typical home page in WordPress may have features pulled from widgets, menus, site settings, theme settings, and plugin settings. Sometimes to edit one item on a page, I spend 30 minutes trying to find the setting! It's troubling that WordPress hasn't built out a best practice to ensure developers put their settings where it's easy to find and update.
So, what other content management systems have we implemented? While we continue to look to lean on WordPress for its ability to be search engine optimized, we are seeing some incredible results with other content management systems:
- Sitecore – we've assisted quite a few enterprise clients that utilize Microsoft technologies throughout their companies and have implemented Sitecore. It's a fantastic CMS with vast support in the Enterprise space. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.
- Squarespace – for the non-technical do-it-yourselfer, I'm not sure there's a better CMS out there than Squarespace. I have one client who was able to build their site in a couple weeks with no experience whatsoever and the result was beautiful. We helped tweak and tune the site, but a WordPress implementation would have never been implemented in the same amount of time. The previous site was WordPress and the administration was just too difficult for the client to navigate and update. They were frustrated before, and are happy now! And Squarespace offers ecommerce features as well.
- Craft CMS – we're assisting a client, Canvas, with optimizing their site on Craft CMS and I'm already in love with its simplicity and ease of use. There's also a wide network of well-supported plugins for Craft CMS as well – making it easy for us to add enhancements to the site for search and conversion optimization.
- Weebly – another D-I-Y platform that continues to advance and surprise us on its rich features, including ecommerce. We've not managed a client here yet, but Weebly's array of integrations (apps) is quite extensive and seems to have everything one needs.
There are others out there like Wix or some proprietary CMS systems. Wix did have some issues with Google indexing their sites but has worked hard to make their sites more search engine friendly and their sites are indexed as well as any others out there. I just haven't had any experience with Wix in recent years so I'm not going to judge it here.
What CMS Features Do You Need Next Year?
Aside from search engine and social media capabilities, we really look to our clients to see what they need in a content management system. Doing a quick audit of their other systems – especially their CRM – can make us push them in one direction or another because of the ease of implementation and support for third-party integrations. Web sites are much more than a digital brochure nowadays – so understanding how the CMS is going to fit into your marketing and sales journey is critical in your platform selection.
Are You Stuck with Your CMS?
We also look at dependencies. If a CMS doesn't have the capabilities of exports or imports with a transparent mechanism, it can be a cause for concern. Imagine your company working on a CMS for several years, building authority with search engines, and driving tons of conversions only to find out that you're implementing a new CRM that's not supported through any integration. Your team decides that it wants to migrate but the CMS doesn't offer any tools to do such.
We've seen this multiple times – where a company is tied and locked into their vendor. It's frustrating and it's unnecessary. A great CMS provider that is confident in itself will always offer a means to migrate on or off of it instead of trying to lock in its customers.
Disclosure: We utilized affiliate links within this post.