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I’ve been a professional developer since 2005, which has given me the experience to create just about any custom code I want. Yet, when it comes to real-world business applications, WordPress is my go-to in nearly every situation because it almost always makes the most sense for businesses.
The problem with paid platforms
When it comes to choosing a platform, you have an incredible amount of choice. Shopify, Wix and Squarespace are some of the most popular. For the most part, these platforms are designed for you to be able to quickly launch something in a few clicks and have it look good enough. They usually do that job well.
The problem comes into place when inevitably you need to do something that should be simple and straightforward, but the platform itself doesn’t support it. In order to make things easy, a lot of code editing abilities have to be restricted. As a result, you have limitations on what you can do.
The other issue is that when you’re using a paid platform, you’re married to it. What you’re allowed to do is tied to the monthly fee you pay and critical business features usually require a higher monthly subscription. Plus, most platforms make it hard to get your data (content) out of the site, so switching is expensive and time-consuming.
To top it all off you don’t own the platform you’re using, so if you unintentionally violate their terms of service, your website can be taken down and removed completely and there’s nothing you can do about it. The cost of convenience is enormous.
The problem with custom development
With custom development, you have no restrictions at all. But the problem is that it’s easily expensive to create and expensive to maintain because you have to build everything from scratch. For most small businesses it’s simply not a viable or affordable option.
If you want to make it easy for a non-technical content editor to post content, you either have to pay a license for another program, write something yourself or hope you can find an open-source program that fits your needs well enough to implement. All of that takes valuable time.
Most small businesses don’t have the budget for even a small-sized development team to create something in house or hire a competent agency. Plus, managing a project like this isn’t easy. If you don’t have experience doing it or understand the common roadblocks, then it’s going to be incredibly frustrating for you.
When you create something custom you have to have a full-fledged developer to make changes. Even with popular frameworks, finding people who can jump into your project, make the changes and fix the bugs usually cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars more. For example, when I debug or add on features to a Django project, I can easily charge 10 times more for the work.
WordPress enables you to get the custom features you want without reinventing the wheel. If one of the 50,000 plugins available doesn’t help you, you can do any custom coding you want to it without restrictions.
Advantages of WordPress’s massive adoption across the internet
WordPress powers such a high percentage of websites on the internet that it’s the de-facto standard. That means pretty much every software builds an integration with WordPress directly because they don’t want to exclude 40% of all the websites out there from using their services.
This also means it’s incredibly easy and affordable to find courses, training and professionals to manage your site. Websites are constantly evolving as your business evolves. Eventually, you’re going to need someone to help you scale it up or manage it. The majority of professional designers, developers, content managers, social media strategists and admin assistants are at least acquainted with WordPress and in plentiful supply.
One of the drawbacks of such an open and accessible platform with such a low barrier to entry is that it’s easy to hire someone cheap who does shoddy work that needs to then be fixed later. We’ve had to fix quite a few of these situations and they’re usually not pretty.
Open source means you have control of your site
WordPress comes in two versions. WordPress.org is typically what most people want: It’s completely independent and open source. That means, when you download a copy of WordPress and install it on your server (which every host usually has a one-click install option for WordPress), you can do literally anything you want with it and nobody can take your site away from you. This is called “self-hosted” WordPress in the technical community. You have zero costs to run WordPress outside of whatever your host charges you for your website server.
WordPress.com is owned by Automattic (founded by the co-founder of WordPress). It is a paid platform like Wix or Shopify. While it is powered by WordPress, there are limitations to what you are allowed to do. For example, you can only use approved plugins and custom coding is restricted for just about anything other than CSS.
Improvements to WordPress are all done by independent contributors who volunteer to improve the code, debug it and make the platform better, which means you’ve got a collection of some of the world’s best developers working to make the platform that powers your website better without having to pay a dime for it.
WordPress is adopted to modern tech and is easy to optimize
Optimizations are incredibly easy to implement and in any way you can imagine, from SEO to hosting, where most of the time there’s a “one-click” install and configuration option.
WordPress certainly has flaws and it’s always a work in progress like any major tech project. Like anything else, it’s not a perfect fit for every situation but it’s the most powerful and flexible option for the vast majority. It does this without high monthly fees, development costs or limitations to what you can add with some of the world’s best developers supporting it, while being extremely easy to train and find people who know how to use it.