WordPress Is Horrible, Except When It’s Awesome!

Fun fact: WordPress is a polarizing tool in the developer community.

As a consultant who is often involved in helping clients decide on the correct architecture for their project, I have been in a lot of meetings where WordPress has been essentially the primary point of contention. Split about 50/50 between the times I need to explain to someone why the architecture doesn’t include WordPress and the times I have to explain why it does.

Countless experiences have lead me to conclude that often WordPress takes heat not so much for any specific technical reason as its ubiquity. As any band who has “made it” can tell you once something goes mainstream there is a vortex of backlash, overhype and resentment that leads to pushback. There is usually someone involved who is eager to prove they are a Real Developer(tm) and expound on what that means for the project.

Real developers(tm) don’t use WordPress. Real developers use __insert pet technology here__.

The pet technology in question varies depending on the year, the Reddit hive-mind and what was on Slashdot the week before. For those of us who have been doing this a while, it all starts to sound hilariously familiar. At one point or another most tools face the same objections varying in details but not tone. You can boil them down to some variation of:

Real developers(tm) hand craft each byte on raw silicone, using only a set of tools they carved themselves from a pure white ash planted by the light of the moon on the eve of Charles Babbage’s birthday. Wrapped in unicorn hair, of course.

Don’t misunderstand, WordPress is far from perfect. There are significant issues that always need to be considered before it is selected as part of a technology stack.

  • The codebase is a mess
  • The quality of the ecosystem can be charitably described as “inconsistent.”
  • It has performance problems
  • Any security flaw is often widely exploited
  • PHP predates the dinosaurs
  • It is dependant on MySQL, which a lot of issues

The flip side is that when WordPress does fit it can be a huge win for everyone involved. Correctly employed it cuts development time, shortens the training cycle and eases staffing issues. The trick is knowing when WordPress fits when it doesn’t, and exactly how far you can push it before it slips over that line. In the right hands, WordPress far more adaptable than its detractors realize.

Be just as wary of anyone who claims WordPress is never the answer as someone who claims it always is.

I have used WordPress to run sites for national brands that handled the traffic from a Superbowl campaign easily and disqualified it from blog projects where others would consider it a slam-dunk. Ultimately the decision is always driven by the specific needs of the project and the client.

My advice to other consultants is simple; make your best recommendation regardless of what the Real Developer(tm) in the meeting will say. Your reputation and the client deserve your integrity.

Go ahead and comment below, let us know what you think below or on social media. If you have a great story about proposing WordPress go ahead and tell it!

Samurai Ken

Serial-entrepreneur and Modern Samurai, Ken has spent the last few decades building narratives, software, machines, and companies. He has a passion for constantly improving himself and helping others to do the same.