WordPress Isn’t Always the Answer
Dec 21, 2016
As we work on several projects with a wide range of applications, we move between different platforms such as WordPress and Laravel to fit the needs of each project. Some of these recent projects include a website redesign, a platform migration of a site, and a web application. In each of these cases, how did we choose which platform was best suited for our client’s needs and desired product?
On one of these projects, we used WordPress. On the others, we either migrated from WordPress or started with an entirely different platform – Laravel in these cases.
For certain work, do we recommend WordPress over Laravel, but how do we decide when to use each? Where are both of these limited and in what areas do they succeed?
Instead of diving straight into comparing the two from a development standpoint, we’ll take a step back to look at what clients want in relation to website performance, usability, cost, and longevity.
When is it best to use WordPress?
The first application that comes to mind with WordPress is blogs. WordPress is by far one of the easiest solutions for someone with zero programming experience to get a blog out in no time.
Simple portfolios are another area where WordPress excels. It’s able to handle all sorts of files and formats to successfully reach your audience.
Even sites that go beyond the simplicity of blogs or portfolios such as online stores or membership sites can benefit from utilizing WordPress.
Overall, WordPress is relatively flexible in a variety of applications. Next we’ll discuss the strengths of WordPress that allow it to excel.
What are WordPress’ strengths?
Imagine you’ve recently released a product, a service, or need to gain exposure online, and you need to do it fast. You’re in luck. With WordPress and its famous five-minute install, you can be up and running in no time, sharing whatever you need to with the world.
People tend to think that managing a website requires the knowledge and ability to code. In more complicated cases that may be true, but with WordPress, site creation is a cinch. The usability is extremely straightforward and something like adding a new blog post is as simple as creating a Word document.
Another positive aspect of WordPress is the built-in ability to have multiple users collaborate. Let’s say you’re the site owner, but one of your employees wants to write an article. With WordPress, the solution is simple. Create an account for them as an author and they instantly have the capability to put virtual pen to paper.
Where does WordPress falter?
As we’ve touched on earlier, there are many areas where WordPress excels. However, it does have some downsides.
The vast amount of themes that WordPress has available is a huge selling point for many, including me. A “custom” look can be installed at the click of a button. But if you can do it, so can thousands of others. And that feeling we all know of someone wearing the same shirt as you is tenfold when their website looks exactly the same as yours.
And when you choose the route of a premade custom theme, there’s also the issue of it fitting the bill for your site. The worst scenario for someone is when a chosen theme can’t be adapted for one’s needs. In this situation, they either have to code the new layout themselves or hire a developer. Both solutions are complex for what at the end of the day is only one more page on the site.
WordPress is a tightly woven platform, for better or worse. Because WordPress is able to cater to the needs of most, it ships out with features that not everyone will use. While some of these features may go unused or disabled, they’re extraneous and become useless for your specific needs.
If you’re lucky, the features you don't use won’t impede your site beyond taking up additional resources. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some elements require complicated solutions for them to not be used. That’s less than ideal.
Although security has improved with recent updates, as one of the most used platforms online, WordPress remains a target to malicious attacks. And even if the core of WordPress is secure, many of the tens of thousands of plug-ins that sites utilize may not be.
What about the alternatives, and how do they compare?
When we step away from WordPress, there are many options. One of these we are a big advocate for is the PHP framework Laravel.
Custom solutions and integrations are an area where Laravel truly shines. With WordPress, this area can seem like a circus act in terms of the adjustments needed to fit the mold required. Laravel, on the other hand, is so flexible as a platform that it’s not a matter of implementing the solution, but choosing which implementation is best for a specific case.
Because everyone wants a site that is uncluttered and quick to load, WordPress’s all-inclusive solutions can seem to get in the way. As we mentioned, it comes with many extras that don’t suit everyone’s needs. While Laravel requires a bit more work upfront, the end result is a finely tuned website that’s blazing fast.
This point ties into the next, longevity. If your site starts out a little cluttered, how will it look one, two, or five years down the road? And will the performance of the site be affected long-term?
This is where we see the lasting benefits of using a more streamlined platform, such as Laravel. When all of the excess is trimmed from the start, it’s easy to maintain peak performance for years to come.
What are possible downfalls of Laravel? Can WordPress do better?
The biggest factor for most businesses is cost. This is where Laravel and WordPress can differ greatly, but not for the reason you might think. It’s true the upfront cost of a Laravel site is more expensive than a WordPress site. However, once the initial site is complete, that is the majority of its lifetime cost.
When you want to come back and add something in, it’ll be simple to implement because Laravel is so flexible. The cost of a WordPress site can be more of a loaded question. While the initial price of just a WordPress site is small, many go the route of wanting a custom theme, but that starts to increase the cost.
On top of that, during the initial development or after the launch, if the client decides to integrate a custom solution–for example, their payment system–the cost increases. The development time, costs, and complexity of the add-on solution would far exceed the expense of implementing the same solution in Laravel at the outset.
Now, WordPress is marketed as easy to use, and this rings true. It also paints other platforms in a negative light, making them seem too complex and difficult to use. While poorly designed sites can have those qualities, our focus is on sites that are simple, easy to use, and straight to the point.
We tailor each site so it’s straightforward for clients and users. We do this from the get-go for every Laravel site we do. WordPress, however, sometimes requires us to go back and change elements after everything else is complete which can take more time and cost more in the long-run. This can also result in a more complicated and difficult site to use.
If WordPress isn’t always the answer, what is?
Our team uses every tool available to solve a client’s problem in the most efficient, optimized way possible. Whether we go the route of WordPress, Laravel, or another platform, they are all tools we’ve used to have great success in each client’s specific case.
While we think WordPress can be a great solution for some,for most, a more specialized platform is needed for the online presence of our client to be built and expanded upon.