You know you need a website, and everything you hear is about how great WordPress is – how simply and seamlessly you can create a site using the platform. It’s clear from the number of sites using it – 18.3 million at last count – that it is an immensely popular brand. But the statistic that is the most staggering is WP’s market share. Here is market share for the top 5 CMS systems (W3Techs; May 29, 2017):
- WordPress — 59%
- Joomla — 6.9%
- Drupal — 4.7%
- Magento — 2.5%
- Blogger — 2.2%.
In other words, WordPress has more than 3.6 times as many users as its four biggest competitors combined. We all want the best tools, not just the one that first comes to mind, so the question must be asked in this context: Is WordPress as great as everyone seems to think it is? Or is it just as much a lazy, safe choice?
Let’s look at that second scenario, exploring the perspective of those who toss it aside. We get a good example from people who are completely familiar with the ecosystem and still choose to go another direction – such as web developer Ben Gillbanks.
Related: Calling All WordPress Lovers
When WordPress Theme Providers Forego WordPress
The thing that’s interesting about Gillbanks specifically is that he actually co-owns a WordPress theme site called Pro Theme Design. The avenue he and his partner, Darren, took to transition away from WordPress went through the distinction between wordpress.com and self-hosted sites using the CMS installation.
The site was based on WordPress until 2014, at which point Ben and his partner Darren switched out their multipage structure for a non-WP, static, single-page site that included the company’s themes available on wordpress.com. Their top priority for the business at that point was manageability and building up the brand by focusing on wordpress.com – so the company didn’t even offer self-hosted options.
Darren decided that the decision to move to a site that was unrelated to WordPress was liberating – so he kept with the static site even when the company began to reintroduce self-hosted themes to its catalog again.
The specific technology that backs the site is FlightPHP, a PHP microframework. Data is contained in text files rather than a database. It’s free of dynamic elements. Third-party services provide the analytics and contact forms.
What’s Wrong with WordPress?
You’ve surely seen plenty of argument for why moving to WordPress is a great idea. Let’s look at the top reasons to ditch WP in favor of an alternative:
- “It’s slow to respond.” – Many people actually choose WordPress because it is considered relatively fast, assuming you make a number of tweaks focused on acceleration. However, speed is one of the three main factors that was listed by Smash Company’s Lawrence Krubner when he decided to transition away from WordPress in 2017.
- “It’s a contained universe.” – It can be a good idea for people who are currently using WordPress to try something different simply for variety and building a new skillset. Gillbanks noted that this was a core concern for him since he felt he was stagnating as a developer when he was trapped inside the world of WordPress.
This reason for dropping WordPress is kind of a switcheroo on something that current users often tell themselves: that it is a strong choice, for efficiency and ease, to stay with it because it’s what they’re doing now. Instead, Ben embraces the road less traveled since the very act of changing up his approach will help him become nimbler and more capable.
“Doing something even a little bit different is good for the mind,” he said. “By working with a PHP Framework that I haven’t used before, by ditching databases, by integrating with third party services, I can learn.”
- “It’s a frequent hacking target.” – Another primary factor listed by Krubner was poor security: he said his site had been hacked twice.
When Sucuri analyzed more than 11,000 sites that were infected with malware or being used in phishing scams, they found that fully three-quarters were WordPress sites; and half of that 75% chunk were outdated.
Clearly, security is a broad and growing problem. 50 million Internet users have experienced warnings that a site may contain malware or that their information might otherwise be compromised (March 2016, Google). What’s particularly shocking about that figure is that it rose from 17 million since March 2015 (almost tripling in size). Phishing results in search engine blacklisting for 50,000 sites a week and malware vilifies and sidelines another 20,000.
Sucuri emphasizes that the data on phishing and malware only reveals the number of sites for which security issues have immediate and obvious consequences. Additional sites are unknowingly jeopardized, and their authority downgraded, for falling victim to such infections as spam SEO.
- “It’s weak and bloated.”
WordPress is not just WordPress usually but a combination of the core CMS platform with various plugins from outside parties. Incorporating numerous plugins within a site can help with user-friendliness, but it will race through server resources. If your site is bogged down with a bunch of plugins, your search visibility will also suffer, and users will be likelier to depart your site because of slow loading.
Outside the plugin ecosystem of WP, errors occur less frequently. Going another route that also includes external services (such as the site approach of Gillbanks) still requires careful vetting, though. Always make sure that any outside services are well-constructed and stable, and have backup plans if any issues arise.
- “It ain’t the only open source in town.”
WordPress has succeeded to a great degree because it is open source – which means that its code is constantly being improved by its savvier, more technically adept users. Well, any site that is based on open technologies can push the language that makes it come to life out to the community – as Ben did by publishing his site’s code on Github.
People can study the site’s code for new ideas, and they can also submit pull requests and make note of problems.
- “MySQL sucks.”
A chief technology used for WordPress is MySQL. The incorporation of MySQL is one of Krubner’s biggest beefs with the CMS. Who else says, in so many words, that “MySQL sucks”?
- In a piece entitled simply, “Avoid MySQL,” programmer Elnur Abdurrakhimov notes that the open source relational database management system (RDBMS) is unsafe and doesn’t functionally outdo the alternatives. Elnur switched away from MySQL to PostgreSQL after discovering a bug that was not being resolved. “It’s not really important what the bug is,” he said. “It’s the mentality of MySQL developers to do buggy s— they can’t fix and then call them features.”
- In a thorough piece on the topic of MySQL’s numerous failings, grimoire.ca covers challenges he has experienced with storage and data processing; central flaws in the way it’s designed; and what he considers poor arguments for why it’s the right choice.
- “It’s slow for development.”
Everyone thinks that WordPress is the fast and easy way to get a website going. It’s accepted almost religiously that it is a faster development tool than just about any other. Interestingly, though, Ben says that he has found he can code faster with his new, non-WordPress setup.
Understandably, you may want to stick with WordPress because it’s a comfort zone and for positives not listed here. But clearly, there are some good reasons to consider using other options. Do you need hosting and expertise for your project transitioning off WordPress? At Total Server Solutions, we’re different. Here’s why.