Let’s get this out of the way front and centre: we’ve used WordPress and we hate it. Joomla, hate it. Drupal, ugh. DNN, meh. The truth is, over the years, we’ve used countless content management systems (open source, proprietary and custom), designed in them, managed them, extended them, basically used them to run business websites and have never met a “free” CMS that we truly like nor think is appropriate for business marketing. To be fair, we’re not big fans of many paid CMSes either but we do think we’re fairly qualified to talk about the pros and mostly cons of CMS products like WordPress.
So, to be clear, we have high expectations when it comes to software. We expect a smooth, efficient, and elegant solution. We deserve the best options and so do you. As developers who work with clients in the professional services space including but not limited to legal, education, healthcare, and finance, here’s what we want from any software that we employ:
We want software that is easy to use.
Let’s start with this one because it is a little subjective. To us—knowledgeable web developers with more than 15 years of experience using CMS software—WordPress is not easy to use. It’s just not. Because it is inherently a blog platform with web administration tacked on, it’s clunky at best. We have spent a fair amount of time inside WordPress installations, maintaining sites for clients and have been constantly frustrated by the lack of tools, the improper flow and the pure ugliness of it all. We want software that is elegant, well-thought out, almost anticipates our needs and helps meet them. We want software that is purpose-built, not cobbled together to meet the bare minimum requirements. We want software that makes you forget that you are using software and just does its job in the background. WordPress is none of these things.
We want software that is free.
Just kidding. We don’t expect software to be free. We expect it to work. We expect it to do what is advertised without making our lives more difficult. If it’s free, it’s missing something and we want everything. If we had a dollar for every time someone told us that WordPress is better because it is free, we’d be able to pay for all the hidden costs associated with running a WordPress website. WordPress is not free, people.
Yes, the core BLOGGING engine is free and yes, you can add pages to it for free but do you have a domain name? Okay, no longer free. Do you want a custom design instead of a template that 5,000 other businesses are using, well that’ll cost you. Do you want to use your site for something other than a blog (I don’t know, like selling your points of difference to an already jaded consumer base that is looking for high-quality, unique and trustworthy services)? How about functionality like people management or fully searchable archive of all the resources you’ve produced over the last 10 years? Do you want to link your services to your industries to your team to your awards to your publications to your services? Try doing that in WordPress for free. Trying doing that in WordPress, period.
We want software that is secure.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where we always felt safe, where hacking meant coughing and you never had to worry about rebels taking over your website to sell fake Rolexes (don’t laugh, we’ve seen it happen). Unfortunately, it’s estimated that 1% of the almost 1 billion websites out in the wild are currently hacked and selling watches (and maybe purses and maybe stealing your clients’ passwords). WordPress is one of the worst offenders of security breaches (and yes, they are constantly improving things like adding SSL as a default on their host platform and allowing for automatic upgrades but the problem is more widespread than that).
Part of the issue is ubiquity. There are a lot of WordPress installations out there (because it’s free) which makes it a prime target for hackers. Hackers like the mainstream. But a larger part of the problem isn’t so much that it’s free, it’s that it doesn’t do much out of the box. In order to make WordPress do anything more than blog, you have to integrate plugins, most of them free, to provide necessary functionality (you’re not off the hook either, paid plugins, you’re just as bad). These plugins are very prone to security breaches and are often created by fly-by-night developers or amateur code-hacks. No real testing has been done and releases are few and far between. These often lead to security breaches that can be disastrous to a business and at the very least, a complete embarrassment. In case you’re interested, 10,000+ WordPress websites were hacked in June 2016 because of a plugin flaw and more than 26,000 WordPress sites were used to initiate a DDoS attack (a not-very-nice thing to do). These are just a small sample of the reported cases of mass WordPress hacking. Imagine all the unreported cases. Imagine your site was one of them.
We want software that is supported.
When you run into a problem with WordPress, the first step is to identify the problem: is it with the core, is it with the theme, is it with the plugins, is it with the host? If you’re lucky enough to be able to answer this question, you now have to get support. Most WordPress support is done by way of forums. You ask a question and then you wait and wait and wait some more. Hopefully someone feels sorry enough for you that they take the time to answer your question. WordPress has a chat feature but that’s for core functionality issues which is rarely the problem. The fourteen-year-old kid from somewhere in Europe that developed your slider is on a field trip today though so you’ll have to wait to get any help from him. And as an FYI, if you want paid support from WordPress, it will cost you $15,000 to set up and at least $5,000 per month. Figures with that many zeros in it certainly does not equal free.
We want software that is pretty.
It’s true. When it comes to software, we’re shallow. So, sue us. We like software that has an elegant interface, where time has been taken to think about the end-user and how they are going to use the product. It’s what our company does. We care about you, we really do, and we want your experience to be the very best. WordPress doesn’t care about you. Not even a little bit. You’re an annoyance to it. It wants to crush your soul.
We want software that is fully featured.
Like we mentioned before WordPress is a blog engine, so out of the box, you get blogs [insert slowly deflating balloon noise here]. We want more. You should want more too. How about e-commerce or Google Analytics integration or fully-featured multilingual capabilities? How about the ability to drag and drop functionality or resize layouts with your mouse or add any type of content (cases, people, news, or anything else for that matter) in a matter of minutes? The point is with the use of plugins, you can add a lot to WordPress, but it’s not a homogenous solution. It’s a Frankenstein of different modules from different vendors all with different points of failure. No thank you.
We want software that is extendable.
Ok, WordPress can be extended by a long list of plugins but so many of these plugins are of such poor quality, it’s like trying to extend the functionality of your dog by giving him fleas. A truly extendable CMS has a rock-solid foundation, has many tools that can be used by developers and non-developers alike to add functionality on the fly. Do you want to add newsletters to your site? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just go in and create a newsletter content type, drag and drop a newsletter widget onto a page and you automatically have a list of all your newsletters with the ability to link to the actual document? “That would be nice,” WordPress says from the cubicle next to you. A real CMS will allow you to do that and so much more.
We want people to stop telling us that WordPress is so popular so that’s why it should be used.
Chopsticks are popular but I’d rather use a fork, thank you very much. The reason WordPress is popular is because there is no barrier to entry. The hacks of the world can grab a free template and some free plugins and a cheap host and create a website of dubious quality and questionable morals. Popular doesn’t mean better and it certainly doesn’t mean more secure. See above for all the reasons why we don’t think WordPress is the best choice for business website management.
So, what do we recommend?
We recommend Sitefinity, an enterprise-level CMS, built from the ground up to support the administration and presentation of custom, sophisticated, and intelligent business marketing initiatives. It costs $2999 US for a license (gasps from the audience) but is worth every penny. It is easy to use (ask any of our clients that have tried both), it is well-priced for the amount of functionality that you get (it’s way more than just a blog), it has excellent, knowledgeable support (24-hour support from the people who built it), it’s elegantly designed, it’s easily extendable with a module builder and framework that allows for quick modifications and most importantly, it is rock-solid secure.
So now that we’ve told you what we want, we’ll tell you what we don’t want: WordPress (or a dog with fleas).