Seven WordPress Myths Dispelled
WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) on the market. As of March 2019, WordPress powers a third of the top 10 million sites on the internet.
WordPress is popular for these reasons:
It’s open-source (or ‘free’)
There’s a huge community of users behind it
It’s easy to get started on the platform
You can adjust a WordPress site’s look-and-feel and functionality
Despite this, WordPress myths crop up time and time again. Let’s have a look at some of them.
WordPress is slow #
Website performance is tricky because there are so many elements at play: page size, server, scripts, etc. Describing WordPress as inherently slow is misleading.
WordPress uses a database to store information about the site—post content, plugin and theme configuration data, etc—so it will be slower than a static site that doesn’t use a database. That said, WordPress websites can be configured to load quickly.
Make sure your site runs quickly by choosing a good host. Many site owners purchase the cheapest hosting packages from some of the biggest companies.
These packages are set up with the aim of squeezing as many websites on to a server as possible. Resource limits apply, meaning a spike in traffic on another site can cause other websites hosted on the same server to slow down.
A decent WordPress host won’t let this happen. A good host combined with caching, optimised images and code helps to make a WordPress site lightning quick.
I’ve seen some hosts deliver WordPress pages of 20MB in 2–3 seconds—incredibly quick for the page size. Sites of a more reasonable size (0–3MB) can load in as little as under half a second on a well-configured setup.
WordPress is insecure #
Given the popularity of WordPress in comparison to other CMSs, it’s not surprising that it’s a big target for hackers. But that doesn’t make it insecure.
Use security best practices when installing WordPress. These help to protect against common vulnerabilities, but many of these would apply irrespective of the CMS being used.
The most common way that WordPress sites are hacked is through vulnerable or out of date plugin/theme files. Keeping on top of these, making sure the site is hosted with a reputable company and using a good security plugin to lock down the site helps to guard against attempted hacks.
Of course, a static site is more secure. But if you need a CMS, security shouldn’t be a reason to rule WordPress out.
Plugins slow down a WordPress site #
Plugins can cause a site to slow down. Plugins are frequently used as an excuse by cheap hosts, passing the buck on slow performance.
Plugins are bits of code that extend the functionality of WordPress. They range from tiny snippets to extensive systems that turn WordPress into a shop or learning management system.
The impact of a plugin on a website’s performance will depend on these things:
What the plugin does
How well it’s coded
How much code it’s adding to the site
Some plugins cause WordPress sites to load quickly. For instance, an image optimisation plugin could shave megabytes off a page’s size. Similarly, a caching plugin might knock seconds off a site’s load time.
As a general rule, website owners should only install necessary plugins from reputable sources. There's no point in installing 25 plugins if the site could run in the same way using five.
Website owners can update everything themselves #
For anything other than blog/news updates or small text changes, you should use a designer/developer.
I believe that site owners should have full administrative access to the backend. This gives them complete control over their site and who manages the updates, but I’d encourage site owners to get an expert to handle regular maintenance and larger content updates.
Why? Maintenance updates can go wrong. Automatic updates can fail. You could attempt to update your website but if you make a mistake, your site will be down until a developer looks at it.
As for content or layout updates, a well-designed and coded site will be created in a way that allows consistent use of whitespace and vertical rhythm. This is true even when a site uses a page builder such as Elementor.
As a site owner, creating new page layouts or inserting elements risks design inconsistencies which can result in an amateur look-and-feel.
WordPress websites all look the same #
The popularity of multi-purpose themes, such as Divi, is partly responsible for this myth. It’s possible to spot many Divi-based websites without checking the underlying code.
The same can be said of other popular themes, particularly if a company simply imports the theme and doesn’t touch the design. That said, to say that all WordPress websites look the same is a myth.
The web has become homogenised, but as Jon Hicks eloquently explained, it’s just fashion. There are UX benefits to standardising some elements across the web, but that isn’t the reason so many sites fall victim to that kind of criticism. A generic design is often the result of project constraints: time and budget.
Template-based designs don’t offend me, but I’d like to see a web where the standard of typography is improved. The giveaway that a site has been built on a template often isn’t revealed by the design itself, but by the choice and quality of type.
WordPress sites can be designed and built in different ways, but the key to creating a distinct site is investing in a discovery and design phase, rather than allowing a theme to dictate the look-and-feel.
WordPress is free #
This is misleading. At the bare minimum, WordPress requires hosting which isn’t free.
Plus, you might have to pay for plugins, a theme or, if you’re hiring a pro, web design and development. Once the site is live, it will need ongoing maintenance.
Other CMSs have upfront costs. WordPress can reduce that initial cost, but that shouldn’t be the deciding factor on which CMS to use.
WordPress is the perfect choice for all websites #
WordPress is a fantastic platform for many types of sites, especially small business sites that need little more functionality than a blog. But, WordPress is not a one-size-fits-all solution and, in some cases, another platform would be a better fit.
For instance, if your site is running a store, Shopify would certainly be a better option. WordPress can be combined with WooCommerce to provide e-commerce functionality, but it becomes difficult to manage in the long run as orders/customers can’t easily be migrated between development and live servers.
Similarly, if you need a simple site with limited functionality and don’t need to update it often, a static site might work well. Or even a static site CMS.
WordPress may be exactly what you’re looking for, but don’t write off other platforms because WordPress is popular.
Is WordPress right for you? #
Possibly! It’s a good choice for many.
WordPress myths crop up because of poorly designed or developed sites. Given the number of WordPress sites out there, it’s not surprising that some will be low quality, but that’s not necessarily a reflection on the CMS itself.