Everybody has heard of – and has an opinion about – WordPress (WP). As of last March, WordPress powers 33.3% of the top 10 million websites.
Clearly, they must be doing something right.
That said, WP launched back in 2003 and there have been a number of titanic shifts in the market since then. So, how should you think about WordPress in 2020? In this post, we are going to explore where WordPress is great and why, as the title says, you need to stop using WordPress for your enterprise website.
WordPress is Great for Simple Use Cases
WordPress has many positive aspects. It's easy to use, has a rich developer community, and makes building small sites fast. If you are looking for an easy way to launch a simple website or blog, WordPress continues to be a solid go-to-solution. In addition, because it has been around for so many years, there are a number of tutorials, guides, videos, and plug-ins for WordPress.
Chances are, what you want to do has already been done before. Do you want to add a popup banner to collect email addresses from your site visitors? There's a Mailchimp and WordPress integration for you. Want to get detailed analytics or improve your search performance? There are dozens of tutorials showing you how to install and utilize services like Google Analytics or Yoast.
WordPress is Great for Starting Out
Trying to get a business off the ground or build a proof-of-concept to get more funding? WordPress could be a great solution.
There are even a whole host of community plugins that will take WordPress and add additional functionality – like turning WP into a learning management system (LMS), an online community, or a vehicle for selling gated subscription content. Technically, yes, you can force a WordPress site to have these features. But you should know that what you are purchasing is something off-the-shelf that you will quickly outgrow.
As You Scale, the Limits of WordPress Become Painfully Obvious
That being said, WordPress has serious issues if you are not a generic, small website. We are going to dig into a few issues that arise as you try to scale a WP site.
A content management system (CMS) is powerful for organizations that need a well-defined content flow and are rapidly changing the photos, videos, and text content on their site.
Unfortunately, most people do not need these features. In essence, what people need is a simple static site that is updated rather infrequently. Since WordPress comes out-of-the-box with all of these CMS features, that means the majority of WP users suffer from bloat and slow load times while not utilizing any of the benefits.
For the record, nothing scales as well as static files served by a fast web server.
Next, organizations that do need advanced functionality can only achieve it by connecting a series of disconnected plugins. We call this “plugin bloat”.
People often start using WordPress with 1-2 essential plugins. As time goes on, more and more plugins are added to solve problems and add features as the site grows and evolves. Eventually the site is a monster of plugins and WordPress is barely recognizable as the nimble blogging CMS underneath it all.
These bloated solutions are held together by “duct tape”. Keep in mind that each plugin may be fine individually, but they were not architected to be used together and it can be incredibly hard to test and validate the stability of this new system.
Each plugin has its own development approach, dependencies, and quality. Adding many plugins severely harms website performance and it's often overkill as plugins will always be over-designed for your specific use case.
Lastly, we see WordPress sites that suffer because they are running on the wrong host. Hosting resellers entice admins with one-click installs and easy deployment solutions. But we have seen dramatic improvements in time by switching from GoDaddy, HostGator, and even Pantheon to Google Cloud Platform (GCP) or Amazon Web Services (AWS).
WordPress also has a number of limitations as you look to scale your website.
First, WP was designed to make blogging easy to do. That means it works well for very small teams with limited content types. When you add multiple plugins or commerce features, the whole interface becomes hard to navigate and claustrophobic. Ultimately, this means that your team misses out on important information and small changes take longer than they should to implement.
Second, the WP community does not always enforce the best practices with its codebase – which is evident as you look to scale a WordPress deployment. When WordPress is deployed across multiple containers or load-balanced servers, many plugins create issues, including adding files outside of their directories or modifying core files.
Unless carefully managed, these changes will only happen in one part of your production environment (e.g., on one server in a large cluster of many) so only a subset of your users will face the issue.
As you can imagine, this makes diagnosing and solving bugs painful and time-consuming.
WordPress is built to help non-technical people make simple sites.
Their themes allow you to get up and running without advanced engineering or design knowledge. However, mid-market and enterprise brands thrive on creating a well-crafted customer experience.
WordPress cannot deliver on that promise. The speed at which you launch your first WordPress site becomes the barrier that stops you from creating a unique and memorable experience for customers.
When looking to create a high-end branded experience online, it is best to leverage the right tools and to not cut corners during implementation.
The right framework for your site is going to vary depending upon its features, scale, and business goals. But there are plenty of mid-market and enterprise CMS solutions out there, eliminating the need to take WordPress out of its comfort zone.
We understand the need to create something unique, something that sets you apart.
Drupal is a powerful open source content management system. If user management capabilities are required, Drupal has a very scalable admin, more advanced security standards, and performs better at scale.
We make no excuses. The Tragic team loves Drupal and we even wrote an article on the 10 reasons why we love Drupal.
If you want a true enterprise-grade solution, consider Acquia.
Acquia offers software and services on top of Drupal's open source platform. Specifically, we find that Acquia excels at creating individualized customer experiences at scale.
Their customer experience platform integrates at a deep level with Drupal helping you to build customized experiences for massive user sets. They also offer their own enterprise cloud-hosted Drupal instance.
Contentful + GatsbyJS
Static HTML sites are all the rage, and for good reason. They are fast, secure, and simple.
We like the combination of GatsbyJS, a React-based framework, combined with Contentful, a modern API-first CMS. This combination results in very performant sites that are built on cutting-edge technology.
Furthermore, Contentful is a SaaS CMS so you don't have to keep up with constant security updates to keep your content secure.
Named in the 2019 Gartner CMS Magic Quadrant, Crown Peak differentiates its platform through its built-in web accessibility, data privacy, and cloud native offerings. We have been impressed with what the Crown Peak team has been able to accomplish.
As we said at the start, WordPress is a solid choice for a simple blog or brochure site. If you are a solo writer or small business looking for a proven system, go for it. There are plenty of plugins and resources available for free online that will help you.
That being said, do not use WordPress if you are a growing team that is looking to create a unique brand experience at scale. There are better options available.
We have been getting great results with Drupal, Acquia, Contentful + GatsbyJS, and Crown Peak. The decision on which path to go forward depends on your current technology and your plans for your website or web app as it grows.
Looking for a free CMS consultation? The Tragic team has decades of experience architecting, building, shipping, and supporting content management systems. Schedule a free consultation today so we can learn more about your specific needs.