You’ll have to excuse me for this week’s post being a little late. I have just started back at Uni and the workload is already piling up. I’m slowly making progress with it as more information is released by our tutors, but I think being trapped inside my own home with no social life is getting to me. Hopefully this will all be over soon.
Anyway, I recently come across several websites, powered by WordPress that were plagued with issues. Some simple to fix, some not so simple, but I just wanted to talk about my experience with WordPress and some of the issues you may run into and things to bear in mind if you are building, or having a website being built in WordPress.
WordPress started off being a blogging platform, called a CMS, short for Content Management System. This provided a way to manage your blog and publish posts, without having to write HTML code. As WordPress evolved, more themes and plugins started getting published by 3rd party developers and people realised that WordPress could be used to build full websites and e-commerce stores. WordPress now powers over 30% of websites on the World Wide Web, which is pretty impressive but also a tad concerning, as I will now dive into.
1 – Website Speed and Page Load Times
Since WordPress runs from a database, a lot of the content is dynamic and the website has to query the database every time a page loads, including the Admin panel.
If you are using shared web hosting to host your WordPress website, the chances are you are using a single server with either Hard Disk Drives (HDD) or Solid State Disks (SSDs). The latter is obviously better for speed, but surprisingly, most cheap hosting today still use HDDs which can really drag your website performance down. Also, being on a server that is shared with hundreds or thousands of other users means you share server resources and bandwidth speed with them and your website doesn’t get the full benefit.
Shared hosting is fine for static websites, but WordPress should be ideally hosted from a dedicated WordPress hosting package or cloud hosting provider. A dedicated WordPress hosting package stores your website on a high-speed server (or virtualised server) with its own contained environment and usually SSDs, meaning that all the resources get dedicated to your website and your website only, allowing it to perform at its best. Cloud web hosting is a next-gen type of web hosting where your website is cached across several high-speed servers in datacentres around the world, so whenever your website is loaded in a certain country, it will be loaded from the nearest datacentre available to them, resulting in faster speeds and better performance.
2 – Security and Maintenance
Since a WordPress website is dynamic and has lots of moving parts, it becomes a prime target for hackers.
They usually target vulnerabilities found in an older version of WordPress. This is why you should always, always, always keep your WordPress version up-to-date. The dilemma with doing this, is that if your WordPress website has some hard-coded features or functionality inside the theme (usually added by your web developer to meet your requirements), updating the WordPress version will wipe out these hard-coded changes and may break your website or cause it to look strange.
Unfortunately, many developers have resorted to refusing to update the version of WordPress to avoid this issue, which is a TERRIBLE and EXTREMELY DANGEROUS solution.
Instead, your website should be maintained on a continuous basis to keep your website running smoothly and in-line with the latest version of WordPress, which can be costly, but this is one of the footfalls of having a WordPress website.
3 – Clunky and Lack of Customisation
As I just mentioned, web developers will often hard-code certain features and functionality into the WordPress theme to achieve the requirements you ask for.
This is because most WordPress themes will not come with all the features, styles or functionality you want. There will almost always be at least 1 barrier caused by the WordPress theme you are running. Not to mention that the website cannot be customised in 1 central place like you can with custom-coding or DIY drag-and-drop website builders (even these have their problems, I will cover in another post).
For example, want to customise the WordPress menu? Ok, you go to the WordPress dashboard, click on Appearance, then Menu, then select the menu you want to change, then you add an item to it. The menu item you just added isn’t centred? Ok, click on Appearance again, then click Customise and wait for the theme customiser to load, then find the theme setting that allows you to change the menu item positioning, then save.
See, this is already sounds painful and clunky. Pair that with the website being on a terribly slow shared web hosting server and you are at the threshold of web developer hell.
Imagine paying your web developer hourly to make a simple changes like this, I guarantee you will be forking out for more than you originally expected.
Furthermore, giving clients access to the Admin panel to manage and edit the website themselves sounds nice on the surface, but if they aren’t very tech literate or aren’t familiar with the ins-and-outs of WordPress, as well as the annoyances mentioned earlier, they could accidentally mess up the entire website or parts of it.
So, although I have no problem with most WordPress websites I visit from a user point-of-view, what I’ve seen under-the-hood is enough to scare off anyone. Please bear in mind the issues I have raised in this post if you are considering having a WordPress website or already have one.
Thanks for reading!