My Thoughts On WordPress

Collin - 01-26-2018

Want to really tick off a WordPress developer? Just say one negative thing about it. That’s all that it will take! The majority of people who “develop” WordPress websites love it so much, and they will fight you if you say anything bad about it. Okay, well I guess I will try my best not to get into a fight with this blog post. I have some bad things, and some good things to say about the beloved CMS, WordPress, so be sure to read the whole thing before you get all mad about it!

I will start out by saying that I am not ignorant on this topic. I have done a great deal of studying of WordPress. When I first started making websites in 2010 or so, I was shown WP by a friend. She knew I had an interest in making websites, and she couldn’t figure out how to get her WP theme to do what she wanted. She was willing to pay me a good amount of money to get it figured out. Though I never got her site fixed the way she wanted it, I did start my own WordPress blog. 

From there, I grew a love for it. It was so easy to use 3rd party themes and plugins. I couldn’t believe I had made my own website. It was amazing! I spent so much time trying to figure out how to hack the functions and themes. I wanted to customize WordPress sites. 

Years went by, and at this point I had made something like 10 WordPress websites. In 2014, I decided to open TechPress Web Design, and make WordPress sites for other people. As a matter of fact, TechPress is supposed to be a play on WordPress. If you really want to know, I am also a drummer, and I originally started my first blog, “TechBlast Media” for all of my drumming endeavors. It was a reference to “technical blasting”—“blasting” is a type of drum beat. So, TechPress is a play on TechBlast and WordPress. It seemed like a great idea at the time of naming TechPress. Now I hardly use WordPress for any of my clients’ websites. But at this point I have already made somewhat of a name for myself with it, so I don’t feel I can change the name. I may do it anyway one day. Anyway, back to the topic…

I decided that since I was going to go all the way with WordPress, I should learn how to make themes myself. I took a few online courses, including Brad Hussey’s “Bootstrap To WordPress” course, which you can find with a Google search. I learned so much from that course. I put a ton of time outside of that course into learning more about WordPress. I wanted to learn it inside out. One thing stopped me, though: actually learning PHP.

PHP is what WordPress is written in. In order for me to learn WordPress inside out, I needed to know PHP. So I studied. I studied so hard. I would study for 16 hours every day in the beginning. I learned so much, that I no longer felt I needed WordPress to accomplish what I wanted to do. In fact, at some point I was upset with WordPress for having wasted so much of my time. I could have been learning PHP, or any other backend programming language instead. 

For me personally, it takes me about the same amount of time to make a website from scratch that can do all of the things I would normally do with WordPress. Whether I do it with WP or from scratch, I still write all of my own HTML and CSS. It took me a while to gain the knowledge and write the PHP scripts I need to do what I want to do, but it was totally worth it! Now I can do just about anything I want. The time that it takes me to get plugins for WordPress and hack the damn things, I can write a script myself. Seriously. It’s really not that hard. Of course, I am not saying I am some kind of programming genius by any means. I am not exactly where I want to be as a programmer, but I am very capable. I don’t think anyone should ever be completely happy with where they are as far as knowledge goes. I can say one thing, though. My code is less bloated, and much more concise that what you’ll get with WordPress.

WordPress is bloated as all hell! Are you aware that there are over 3,000 files in a normal WordPress installation? What!? Why!? Well, because WordPress is set up for people who don’t know how to code. It has to have all of that junk in there to allow people who don’t know web development to achieve what they need. The bloat hogs up server space, and slows your website down. Oh yeah, and it slows all of the other websites on your server down with all that weight. But, you’re okay with that, right? At least the security is there with WordPress. **Ahem** ….yeah right.

Security with WordPress is OK as long as you hide your login screen and install some security plugins. Yes, hide your login screen. Stop reading this blog now, and go hide it. There are plugins for that. Furthermore, if you have a plugin such as WordFence on your site, you’ll notice that Chinese and Russian hackers are basically constantly trying to get into your website. All hackers know that they need to go to www.yourwebsite.com/wp-admin or wp-login, and they can start attempting to get into your backend. WordPress is the most popular CMS, so using it makes your website a target. After hiding my login screens, I haven’t had this problem. Hiding the login coupled with WordFence will keep your website secure. But my hand-coded websites never have any issues with hackers. I could make my password on hand-coded sites “12345” and probably never have a problem. That’s because my hand-coded sites are not a target to begin with. How would the hackers know my website is a WordPress site? You can look at the file structure of any website by looking in any major browser’s development tools. The folders have “WP” all over them.

That brings me to another point: The fact that a lot of so-called developers charge people a lot of money to make WordPress websites for them. I’m not even kidding. I am talking over $2K. Sometimes more like $10K. When I see a developer boasting on a post somewhere, usually on social media, I will go check their legitimacy by looking at their file structure and see how they built their website. Usually, it’s a very plugin-heavy, 3rd-party-theme-heavy website. I don’t know….I know I probably seem very cynical. But I don’t personally call that web development. I call that fraudulent. These folks will make such big claims, yet they only pieced together other people’s work. It doesn’t seem right to me, but hey, whatever. This is their world, and they can do all they want. I will admit to being jealous when I see them getting praise for their fraudulent work. Normally these “developers” will be wearing a fedora and have their feet propped up on a desk with a cigar in their mouth looking like hipster kings. UGH!

Enough crying. Maybe some more crying soon, but not now. It may be time for me to say something positive about WordPress. 

So, if a client needs a website fast, they are willing to pay for their own hosting, and I know WordPress can handle it easily, I would still consider using it. Maybe they just want a blog or something. Well, WordPress was originally intended for blogging, and it handles it exceptionally well. The time it would take me to make the ‘categories’ and ‘archives’, etc, may or may not be worth it to do from scratch. This is especially the case if the client doesn’t have a lot of money to spend. I can whip a theme out for them and use the WP backend to accomplish this for them fast, and it will work flawlessly. This is one good WordPress point.

One thing that is discouraging for me with the whole WordPress blog thing, though—Not just sometimes, but EVERY time I have taken the time to set up a WordPress blog for a client, they don’t use it! It actually makes their website look worse than if they just used it every once in a while. A blog can be a good thing for a website. It shows Google that the website isn’t just dead. It is being used and is cared about. This means better SEO. Well, after spending hours getting a WordPress blog template just right for clients, I have had to ask them later if they are ever going to use it. If you’re not going to use it, it just makes the world think that your business is not active. These days, businesses just post on Facebook, anyway. So why not just have a link to your FB somewhere on your site, or embed your feed on your site. Blogs are for serious writing of long passages. If that’s not going to happen, I don’t believe you should not have one.

Another good thing about WordPress is the fact that there are SO MANY WordPress developers out there. If you have some issue with your developer, or maybe they fell off the face of the earth, you will be able to find another WP dev fast. There is no shortage of WordPress devs to be had.

I think that WordPress has become so popular, that people think that it is synonymous with “website”. It has become a buzzword. People who think they know something about web development always have to bring up WordPress, or they want a site ran on it. The question I have for them is, “why?” If they can answer that question positively, I may give them a pass. But I am willing to bet that most of them do not know why. It’s because they have heard somewhere it was the best, or they read somewhere that it will make their business successful. I don’t expect everyone to have gone into it as much as I have, so I will not judge them for their decision.

That leads me to a positive about WordPress. If you are a WP dev, you may have made a good decision with it. Because it is a buzzword, there is work to be had out there with it. There are tons of folks out there who need you to fix their broken website after an update. If you can learn PHP on top of WordPress, there are opportunities for you. 

One funny thing that I have noticed is that I get requests every now and then from people needing someone with PHP skills to fix their WP website. Honestly, this is normally not a PHP issue. PHP is being used to include a template into your website, but it is normally a CSS issue. They have something like a container that is popping out the side of the screen. With a tiny bit of PHP knowledge, you can so easily find the ID or class for CSS, and fix the issue. Actually, if you can get access to the CSS file, you don’t even need to go searching through the templates. PHP renders a page on the fly as pure HTML, so you can find the issue simply with your browser’s development tools. 

I am on this topic because I am currently updating all of my customers’ websites for the new year. I am doing this free of charge. Some of my first clients’ websites were built with WordPress, and they probably do not realize all that I have to go through to get them all on the latest version, get their plugins updated, etc. You may think I’m an idiot, because maybe you are aware that to update WordPress, all you have to do is click a few buttons. Well, yes, this is true. But if you really want to do it right, it does take effort. You should backup the database, and make a copy of the whole website before doing anything. You should then make sure that your local copy runs well on your local development environment. Then you should make updates locally, and check if any bugs have popped up. If there are bugs, you will be very happy that you didn’t just click away on the live website. I just now got a local version of a WP website updated after a whole day’s work. This is a giant pain in the butt, and is just a tech-debt that I have to pay to my clients. None of my clients want to hear me asking for money to update their websites. And I don’t even bring up website management upfront, because I want the potential client’s business. I want my customers to feel like they are paying for a product. I want them to feel like they are not getting cheated. I feel like many web developers are snakes, and I never want to come across that way to anyone. Unfortunately, not being a snake has me paying off a lot of tech-debt that I do not really want to do. I bend over backwards for my clients. It’s not great for paying the bills, but I hope it will give me a good name.

But, for the last couple of days, I have been in the backend of a few WordPress websites, and I can admit that I kinda miss it. After all this complaining, did you expect me to say that? Maybe not. But I think I may get back into it. I may start offering it as a service again. It’s kinda exciting. I may even release a free theme or plugin or something, and give back to the WordPress community, since it was responsible for getting me into web development in the first place.

Anyway…let me know what you think, if you wish. You can always email me at collin@techpress.net. I’ll answer your questions, or you can let me know how much you hate me if you’re a big time WordPress lover. Maybe you disagree with one or more of my points. Maybe you think this post is spot on. Let me know, if you wish!

Y’all take care!