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Why this site isn't built with Wordpress

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Before I get going I'm going to clarify that this post is not a rant at free content management systems. Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal alongside many other open source community driven projects, are all genuinely helpful and tremendously powerful tools.

In fact I often use these Open Source platforms (predominantly Wordpress) for both my own projects and for clients. For some websites these platforms are needed and work brilliantly, for others... not so much. The trick's identifying which is which.

So, when is it right to use a CMS?

Content, as the old saying goes, is king. And if there's one thing these open source platforms all have in common, it's their ability to allow all kinds of users to quickly publish their own content. This can be hugely beneficial to all kinds of people and organisations. For example, it might allow a small business with no web developer to create fresh content, allowing them to stay competitive in search engines for valuable key terms.

Oh yes, then there's the plugins and pre-made themes

Yes, yes I know. I was getting there. Sometimes clients can demand lots of features. Sometimes more than can be achieved within a budget or time period. This is where content management systems can be extremely useful.

For example, if a customer has specified a website layout that exists in an established theme (and that theme has an appropriate license), then a good percentage of development time can be saved. Such templates have usually already been throughly tested to work on a range of browsers and pretty much always have good compatibility across the board. From there tweaking the look and feel to provide a bespoke end product is relatively straight forward.

The same is true for plugins. If we take a common client request for a website gallery that they can easily update without external help, it could be as simple as finding, installing and activating an appropriate solution.

So whats not to love?

Ok, so having spent some time explaining two commonly cited reasons for using open source content management systems, I'll do my best to explain why some projects are best without them.

Well there's the security:

Being open source means CMS platforms are always on the move, always evolving. Flaws are found and updated, bad code is removed, good code is re-written. All this of course is very healthy. The problem however, is when these updates don't get applied.

It's a dilemma that I've bumped into time and time again. Clients are scared to update CMS installations and plugins, even when with Wordpress for example, the whole process can be completed in only a few clicks. Why? Because without a website developer to correct problems, updated installations can behave unexpectedly. In particular, updated plugins running on older CMS installations seem to cause the most upsets.

Now as long as backups are made there isn't really a problem. But rolling back updates isn't always a simple task and certainly one that could worry small business owners. The alternative is to pay a digital agency or freelance developer to update the installation. Again not ideal.

As a result most content management systems I bump into are either out of date (and usually by several versions), or have plugins that have a few cobwebs and a thick layer of dust. Frequently both. Unfortunately this has serious security implications.

In July 2014 it was estimated that 50,000 Wordpress websites where attacked through an out of date plugin called MailPoet Newsletters.

In April 2013 a botnet of "tens of thousands" of individual computers attacked Wordpress installations that still had the default 'admin' set as a user.

In the last case changing the default username was recommended. In both cases Wordpress users were told to ensure they were running the latest updates.

..and then there's the optimisation

Ok so for me, this one's a biggie. Even fast, well optimised Wordpress sites are slow compared to a light weight PHP framework. For example, a clean installation of Wordpress on Proactive Codes main web server takes around 2.5 seconds to load. Now compare that to the 750 milliseconds this site hits on average. Bit of a difference ey?

That's achieved by keeping code down to a minimum and only including features that are absolutely necessary.

The real benefit to this type of development is that it ensures that the site is planned ahead of time. It creates a different kind of mentality, where users stop looking to take advantage of pre-packaged solutions and instead ask what it is their business actually needs to reach specific online objectives.

So what's your point?

Ultimately each project has different requirements.

That big ecommerce build your working on probably does benefit from it's Magento foundations, and I'm sure that company blog you built will take advantage of it's Wordpress underpinnings. The point is a lighter more focused project can also provide real benefits, not only in speed and overall performance, but also in terms of security and ease of maintenance. After all prototyping and rapid deployment are made all the easier if the platform you're working on is one that you've built yourself.

Got any thoughts? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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