At one time, WordPress was the only logical choice for those of us who wanted our own website, with modest outlay and modest technical skills.
Today, however, things are very different. I want you to know you have other options!
Watch as a video, if you prefer, here:
Or see below for the written article.
I’m still using WordPress, but not for long…
Like thousands of other small business owners, I currently use WordPress. I’ve had a website (and blog) on this platform for at least 10 years, so I’m deeply familiar with its strengths.
But… I refuse to use WordPress for my clients
For reasons you’ll discover below, I believe the drawbacks of WordPress now outweigh its benefits for many small business owners.
I don’t entirely trust it, and I can’t stand behind it for a website when I’m charging for my services. From the moment I started my business, I knew I wouldn’t be offering WordPress design or support, and I’ve stuck to that policy from the beginning. This spring, I’ll be migrating my own website, the one you’re reading now, to Squarespace.
At one time, WordPress was the clear and logical choice for those of us who wanted our own website, with modest outlay and modest technical skills.
Today, however, things are very different. I want you to know you have other options.
Why is WordPress dominant?
Back when I was setting up, WordPress was the only reasonable option. Because of that, its popularity grew steadily. Wikipedia tells us 60 million websites run WordPress. First released in 2003, by 2009 (ish), when I was building a site, WordPress was a great choice. I even recommended it, without discussion, in my book, Indie With Ease. WordPress is so popular, you probably have friends using it. (That isn’t the same as loving it, but I’ll get to that later!) Word of mouth, as you know, is a powerful thing.
Today, there are myriad online articles about setting up a website that instruct you to use WordPress without pausing to question whether it’s the right choice for you. Many of those posts are outdated. Many of them are written by folk who’ve never used anything else and have no idea of your website requirements and technical ability. Worse, far too much “this is what you need to do” advice is from people who make affiliate commissions, usually from the hosting package you’ll need to buy right at the start of your WordPress project. They can easily pocket $100 when you make a purchase, based on their glib assertion of what’s best for you.
What are the drawbacks of WordPress?
WordPress has many, many strengths. It’s free to use (sort of) and incredibly flexible. Because there are so many worldwide users, there is loads of additional functionality that you might find helpful. And there’s the snag. WordPress isn’t one tool, so much as an ecosystem. It’s best that you think of it as a project, or a community, instead of a product. The WordPress Foundation is the umbrella organization, but thousands of developers contribute their own pieces, such as themes and plugins.
To create a professional-looking WordPress website (no adverts or free limitations), you’ll need to:
- Choose and possibly pay for a theme (and good luck if you get that wrong: you’ll be surprisingly constrained by it)
- Buy hosting (thereby lining the pockets of that –hopefully– trustworthy affiliate who recommended it)
- Get your head around the widgets you’d like to use (and, incidentally, understand what a widget is!)
- Install (possibly buy) plugins for any extra functionality you need
- Keep the whole thing up to date and secure (neglect this, and you risk being hacked… I speak from experience here)
And that’s in addition to dealing with the actual words, images, pages, menus, and colors you’d like to use on your site.
That last bullet point above hints at security headaches. First, let me state, no website is entirely secure. If you use a lame password, you’re vulnerable. If the provider of your technology suffers a sophisticated attack, your site could be compromised too. However, WordPress, I believe, is a bigger target because of its sheer popularity. And because of that ecosystem concept, where any developer can build the plugin you use, it’s easy for security problems to creep in. The time I was hacked, I believe a reputable programmer created the plugin, then eventually decided they couldn’t support it. They sold it, and the new owner chose to introduce malware during my next update.
So, updating my plugins got me into trouble. But don’t think you can just sit back and not update, either: every security expert will tell you that updates (or patches) are vital to keeping the rest of your tech running happily. Almost all updates to plugins, and to WordPress itself, improve your security. But here’s the next thing:
To make matters even more fun, plugins occasionally argue with each other. Search any WordPress help discussion and you’ll see people advising that the best way to troubleshoot is to disable every single plugin, then turn them back on one, watching for what breaks. Ugh. Who has time for that? I have 25 active plugins on this very modest site: you might not have that many, but you’ll almost certainly have a few. When something goes wrong, you’ll likely be at a loss to know where to start looking for the fix. Unless, that is, you pay for expert help…
Free Is Rarely Free
Earlier, I said that WordPress is (sort of) free to use. Leaving aside hosting, themes, and other extras, I’m increasingly having conversations with bewildered WordPress website owners who are spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars each year on “care” packages. Yes, there are folks out there who will nurture and cherish your WordPress site on your behalf: backing it up, making updates, and coaxing your plugins into behaving. But this service comes at a price, and generally it’s a high one. I’m unhappy with the value for money you’re getting here. You’re paying big bucks here, primarily to stop your website breaking.
What Are the Alternatives to WordPress?
WordPress is still worth your serious consideration if:
- You want to publish large numbers of blog posts (say, more than twice a week) and
- You are comfortable with technology. That means you’re happy to tinker with settings, explore how to add functionality, probably learn the inner workings of your theme (hello, CSS coding), update it regularly, and most importantly, fix things when they go wrong.
- You’re happy to pay $$$ for an ongoing “care” package (see above).
If this isn’t you, I would love for you to balance all that WordPress advice you’re getting and consider some other options.
If you’re overwhelmed by WordPress, you’re not alone
- Download my free Website Starter Kit that will give you a quick-start education into making smart decisions. It doesn’t tell you what to do, it shows you how to decide for yourself.
- Also check out the criteria I recommend you use if you’re looking for a tool for your DIY website, and
- My top 3 suggestions for tools at the most affordable end of the market.
3 alternative website builders I recommend you investigate
- Carrd.co (affiliate link, the $19 annual plan is amazing value)
- Squarespace (affiliate link)
When I create custom websites for my 1:1 clients, I use either Carrd (simple websites) or Squarespace (more extensive features).
Regardless of the technology you pick
Whether you’re building your website yourself or working with a professional, keep the scope as simple as you can, for the best chance of success. Reduce both the number of pages, and the amount of content you cram onto each page, to give yourself fewer headaches, and your visitor a better overall experience.
Because, after all, that’s what it’s all about.