Let's be painfully honest. We never liked WordPress in the first place.
Most of the projects we work on are large and highly customized. Over the years, we have inherited a lot of WordPress (WP) projects that were duct taped together, leveraged strong-armed themes, or that looked terrible. We were brought in to build better user experiences, fix scalability issues, and mitigate security vulnerabilities. It's safe to say that we have seen the limits of WordPress up close.
WP became an industry favorite for simple sites because it's easy to deploy, friendly to marketers, and affordable. Which we agree with. That said, we mostly work with customers that have outgrown the system, have complex feature requirements, or that are looking to create a unique brand experience – so we are very familiar with the platform's short-comings.
Our dev team is always exploring new tools and frameworks. We must balance cutting-edge features with flexibility, scalability, and long-term support to ensure the solutions that we propose are beneficial to our clients for years. We evaluate the right technology for a project based on the client's specific needs, budget, and long-term growth projections. When building websites, creating a great user experience is priority number one. But our clients also demand that their content management system is lightweight, fast, and easy for their admins to navigate.
We were resistant to jump on the static site bandwagon at first, but we think we found something that ticks all of these boxes with GatsbyJS.
Why We Stopped Selling WordPress
You heard us right – we are no longer pitching WordPress for new projects. We will continue to stay up-to-date and support our existing WordPress clients. However, we feel that we have an obligation to leverage the best tools available and to put our clients' long-term success first. We have strong reasons why we are making the decision to move beyond WordPress.
One third of all websites run on WordPress, which puts a large target on its back.
We also believe that WP lacks some important security standards. The CMS has always had lackluster standards, the only thing that changed was that their plugin market became paid and businesses started to care about their plugin reputation.
Other open-source CMS offerings, like Drupal, have a security team and all community-built modules are reviewed. Modules that do not pass Drupal's security reviews are flagged or simply not allowed to be published. Even Joomla has a core security team and a process for community members to flag extensions that have potential security issues.
Customers have a false impression that using WordPress makes their projects easier to build, that the administration is easier to use, or that it somehow automatically speeds up the level of effort to build custom experiences.
In some instances, this is true. Leveraging a pre-built theme to spin up your blog can be quick and rather painless. But when you want to build a large or custom site, it can actually be more restrictive and incredibly time-consuming to overcome all of the assumptions and walls imposed by the theme or WordPress itself.
Difficult to Navigate
As we wrote about in a recent blog post, the WordPress admin console does not scale. The console is fine for a small blog. But it becomes difficult to navigate once you start adding multiple post types, plugins, and use the more advanced WP themes. Moreover, WordPress does not enforce a standard user interface (UI) – so each plugin has the power to create a completely different management experience. This leads to inconsistent experiences across features and settings.
The fieldability also leaves much to be desired. You must turn to Advanced Custom Fields or Visual Composer far too often. Even with the recent Gutenberg update, WordPress fieldability still leaves a lot to be desired.
Ultimately, we are trying to extend a blogging service to do much more than it was originally architected for.
Why We Switched to Gatsby
So, why did we select Gatsby instead of a more traditional "CMS" solution? Here are our reasons why we like Gatsby for a cutting-edge content management stack.
Modern Decoupled Approach
We have pushed for businesses to take a modern decoupled approach to building websites since 2018. This approach allows for you to optimize your front-end experience, and to decouple the back-end CMS to allow for management of content across multiple digital applications.
Gatsby serves the frontend while allowing you to integrate with any modern CMS of your choosing, enabling you to get the benefits of a decoupled infrastructure while still serving your content as a static site. (We will explain more in the next section.)
In today's connected world, speed is of the utmost importance.
It can be difficult to get your content-rich website to load and perform the way you want, particularly to users on mobile networks. And multiple studies have shown that your users will not wait. Gatsby outputs your site as raw HTML, which Google prefers because it's fast and easy to read. Unless you have a strong reason to require user accounts to access your CMS content – or are creating a very dynamic user experience – your site should really be raw HTML.
All of our clients require a CMS. Even the ones that update their content infrequently desire a way to do it without a developer. There are a few headless content management solutions we have coupled with Gatsby, but we like utilizing Contentful, especially for our smaller clients.
Contentful is a headless SaaS CMS, so clients don't have to worry about security updates or additional hosting overhead, but they still retain the power to add and edit content as they wish. All while still having the performance benefits of Gatsby on the front-end.
For bigger clients, or clients that want an open source solution, we have also connected Gatsby to Drupal, Ghost CMS, as well as application back-ends like Django and Laravel. This allows for the marketing website to be hosted separate from the application (allowing for more refinement over performance and scalability of both), while providing marketing managers a central place to update content across both application and website.
GatsbyJS is a thoroughly modern solution. We have seen dramatic improvements in performance, flexibility, and ease of use when switching from WordPress to Gatsby.
In part, this is because Gatsby runs the front-end and only connects to a decoupled CMS when producing a new static build. This avoids many problems typically associated with managing a content management system. In order words, you do not have to keep a giant, unoptimized system duct taped together.
That's right. You no longer have to worry about system performance, updates, and security.
Given the flexibility of Gatsby, you can build static sites, blogs, ecommerce sites, or everything that your startup needs. You can easily connect to multiple data sources (e.g., APIs, databases, and markdown files) all with this simple React sitebuilder.
To learn more about the benefits of GatsbyJS, contact the Tragic Media team. Your free consultation is waiting for you.