That 5-minute install and $0 price tag is really attractive, and it’s great for many businesses, WordPress isn’t always sunshine and roses. While it’s business model is incredibly attractive for developers and self-bootstrapping entrepreneurs, there are a few technical issues that can make or break your WordPress site.
What WordPress Is Great At
WordPress was built for what we call “Static Content,” that is, content that never changes. This blog article is a great example. Once you’ve written your content, most WordPress installations will take a snapshot of the content. When subsequent viewers request that content, WordPress sends them the snapshot instead of actually re-rendering the page. The technical word for this process is “caching.”
WordPress needs to cache your content, because in reality, it’s unbelievably slow. WordPress was built back in the 2000’s, and its core hasn’t changed much since then. There’s a lot of practices that have emerged since the 2000’s for optimizing websites for fast load times, and WordPress fundamentally can’t take advantage of them, because of how it’s architected.
If you’re building a marketing site, a blog, gallery, portfolio, or even an e-commerce site where you have a limited set of product offerings that rarely ever change, WordPress is probably the best option for you. That is what WordPress was built for, and you’ll probably do fine. Many very popular content blogs or news sites run on WordPress.
What WordPress Is Terrible At
On the other hand, if you are incorporating (or plan to incorporate) any kind of interactive or dynamic experiences into your website or web app, you’re headed for a brick wall.
Dynamic features, like live social media posts, or rapidly updating prices, won’t work properly with caching. Just imagine if you updated the price for one of your products, and your customers didn’t see the update until a few hours later. If that would be a problem, then caching isn’t for you. And if you disable caching on a large WordPress site, it will either crash outright, or generate some impressive hosting fees.
Interactive or dynamic experiences include:
- Real-time information (such as stock prices)
- Time-sensitive content changes (such as price changes, or social media posts).
- Interactive features (such as real-time comments, bidding, purchasing, etc.)
- Customer-generated content (such as profiles)
In a world where there is an increasing demand for acc
Is WordPress Right For Me?
You can get an idea of how inefficient your website or web app will be with a simple algorithm I came up with that approximately calculates WordPress’s inefficiency at scale.
Daily Average Users X Number of Plugins Installed X Daily Average Users = X
If X is significantly higher than the number of actual users you have, then you are probably wasting some resources on hosting. This number will increase, until you need to pay for 10 users to get one actual user. Eventually, you’ll hit a brick wall.
For example, one organization I’ve done work for had a WordPress site with about 200,000 users per day. They paid thousands per month in hosting fees, and had a team of full-time engineers just to keep the site running. Leadership had a hard time figuring out why their technical infrastructure was so expensive, and why it was so hard to change. The answer is because to get 200,000 users, they had to pay for 40 million.
The really insidious part of this problem is that it won’t show itself right away, but as you grow, the inefficiency slowly eats away your profits. Eventually you can’t grow without changes, and you don’t have enough profit to upgrade without growing… you’ve hit the WordPress Wall.
How To Use WordPress Effectively
At Emmert Technology, most of our clients have had a mix of needs. As the media cycle (and business cycle) shrinks, the need to get content out quickly is vital. This is where WordPress shines. You can post incredible content directly to your website, and you can even create your own landing pages in minutes.
However, when it comes to custom business software, such as product configurators, pricing engines, and even e-commerce, there are a lot of better options that will carry your business much farther before hitting a wall. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are using a new set of industry standards that allow them to build massive applications that can handle audiences larger than most companies need to worry about. Many of these tools and practices are now open source, meaning that a forward-thinking development team can now take advantage of them at no extra cost.
I usually encourage my clients to build an inexpensive WordPress site where they can either manage their content directly, or hire a PR or marketing agency to help them do so without much hassle. Then we set up a new custom platform to house any dynamic features in a private cloud. Then we use a load balancer to combine the two systems, so they function as one seamless experience.
The result is a highly flexible content management system, where you can focus on getting your message out, without sacrificing the ability to create unique, dynamic, interactive, and cost-effective custom software.
If you’ve hit the WordPress Wall, or if you’re scoping out a project and want to know what options there are, let me know. Right now we’re offering a free consultation for new customers, at my company, Emmert Technology. We’d be happy to evaluate your situation, and give you more information and follow-up options specific to your situation.