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WordPress vs. Custom Web Design

90% of Boston web design agencies use WordPress. Here's why we don't.


August 15, 2019 - Boston, MA


Goldfish jumping from crowded to empty bowl

Most Boston web designers use WordPress

These days nearly all web design firms, including 90% of Boston web design agencies, build websites using WordPress.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Well, for the web design agency, it's great! Customizing pre-built WordPress themes is much easier than creating websites from scratch. That allows web design firms to churn out more websites with less effort, increasing their profit.

And there is certainly some benefit for the client. WordPress web design costs can be lower, and the quality is generally good, although it varies with the skill level of the design firm. After launch, WordPress is an effective way to update a website if you have the time and patience to learn how to use the CMS software. Support is widely available, with an entire industry built on supporting, maintaining, and troubleshooting WordPress websites.

Why we avoid WordPress

We've chosen not to use WordPress for a variety of reasons. Some are based on personal preference, but mostly we avoid it because we feel WordPress websites are not the best fit for our clients.

Here are the main reasons we steer clear of WordPress:

1. You don't own your WordPress website

There's no getting around it - WordPress websites use WordPress code. WordPress allows free use of their code (with some $ upgrade options) through a license, but the code is still owned by WordPress. The theme or design used is owned by the theme creator and licensed for a fee. That means that after paying for your website you only own the writing/copy you created, but not the design or underlying code.

The advantage of custom web design:

With custom web design, clients own 100% of their website - including the design and code - forever.

2. WordPress is not very easy to use

Many small business owners are highly skilled at what they do, but not very comfortable with web tech. While they're certainly smart enough to use WordPress to edit their website, there's a learning curve involved. WordPress is complex and can be intimidating and time-consuming, especially for the not-so-web-savvy user.

The advantage of custom web design:

Custom websites can be edited using lightweight editors that are as easy to use as using Word. This is a much better solution for business owners with limited web/computer skills, and without hours of time to sit through WordPress training videos.

3. WordPress websites can be hacked

WordPress is open source, which means anyone can build themes and plug-ins for it. These themes or plug-ins are from all over the world and can contain bugs or errors that allow them to be hijacked or spammed. Because of these open source issues, WordPress is constantly rolling out security patches and bug fixes. It needs frequent (even monthly) updating to ensure your website is secure and functional.

The advantage of custom web design:

Custom websites don't rely on outside code, themes, or plug-ins, so they are not as vulnerable to hacking or malware attacks.

4. WordPress websites can be slow and SEO-challenged

While it's certainly possible to rank well on Google with a WordPress website, it takes knowledge of specific settings and plug-ins (that must be updated). WordPress websites connect to massive codebases that are notoriously slow to load. Slow loading websites not only annoy visitors, but are SEO-challenged, as Google prefers fast-loading websites in its top rankings.

The advantage of custom web design:

Custom websites are much more lightweight and often have strong SEO built in.

5. WordPress won't be around forever

We all remember AOL, Netscape, and MySpace. At the time, it would have been hard to think of any of those dominant platforms disappearing, but they did, quite abruptly in fact when the next shiny new thing came along. The web is notoriously fickle and ever-changing, which makes it exciting for users, but precarious for business owners. WordPress is already starting to lose interest in favor of new competitors. Just something to consider before committing to it for your business.

The advantage of custom web design:

Custom websites are built with open HTML which has been powering the web since day one.

We've been building websites since 2002, and over the years we've seen companies come and go. And while WordPress can be a good solution - especially for web design agencies - it's important to consider the downsides before accepting it as the only option.

It's definitely not the best solution for busy, non-web-savvy small business owners. Many clients come to us to 'rescue' them from WordPress websites that have become a nightmare for them to edit, maintain, and change alongside their business.

If you're stuck with a WordPress website and are looking for an easier solution, let's talk. We're happy to help!