This contribution comes from Phillip Koo, the founder of Zen WP, a popular WordPress support company.
“WordPress is awesome,” they said.
“It’s easy,” they said.
If you’re sitting there cursing “they” right now and about to throw your laptop across the room, I’ve been there.
To be fair, WordPress is an amazing platform. It features the most modern website functionality used in the market today such as email notifications, user management, indexing, and more.
But best of all, it’s free!
And because the platform is open-source, there’s an incredibly robust community building themes, plugins, and providing support.
What does all of this mean?
During the dot-com era, website technology was limited in that if you weren’t a developer or had any technical knowledge, you were limited to building static HTML websites through very elementary website builders.
Nick’s Notes: For me it was Frontpage 🙂
The good news is things are a lot different today thanks to WordPress.
Today, you can install a complete WordPress environment through a budget host for a couple of dollars and install a free plugin like “The Events Calendar” and immediately have a useable and complete calendar, event registration, and content management website in less than one hour and all without any knowledge of coding — something that would have taken months to build 20 years ago.
But there are a couple of caveats to all this, and WordPress can be immensely frustrating for new users.
Nick’s Notes: And even for veteran WP users too at times!
1. The Steep WordPress Learning Curve
Though you can get out of the gates with some amazing modern technology in your new WordPress site, if you’re just getting your feet wet in the website development or management in general, you’ll probably have trouble answering questions like:
- What are the best practices to managing user roles that I should follow?
- How do I ensure that transactional emails get delivered to my customers?
- How do I keep on top of security?
- How do I stay in compliance with the law regarding transactions on my site (SSL, payment processors, etc.)?
These are questions that need to be answered if you intend on using your WordPress site for anything other than a personal blog.
Every Expert was Once a Beginner…
…but being a beginner in an expert’s world is discouraging.
This is where a lot of new WordPress users or website owners get overwhelmed and give up. They realize that they have to spend months learning various aspects of owning a website for their business before it’s truly operational.
Nick’s Notes: There’s a learning curve when using any new software. Although it’s getting easier to use and many themes are getting closer to true “drag-and-drop” functionality, it can be difficult to get your website to “cooperate” and behave and look how you’d like it to.
I’ve spent hours trying to explain to Google what I want done, pasting in someone else’s sample code from some forum thread, and crossing my fingers it does what I want without breaking the site.
So I get it when some tells me WordPress sucks!
Lately I’ve been trying to get better about just asking for help from companies like Phillip’s when I run into trouble. It saves me a ton of time and headache.
2. The Cluttered WordPress Ecosystem
Anything you can imagine can be built on WordPress.
At Zen WP‘s partner agency, Fluent, we’ve spoken with a lot of clients who’ve come to us asking for specific functionality that they need incorporated into their WordPress sites. And there’s never been a time we couldn’t think of a plugin or theme that provided what they needed out-of-the-box or an existing plugin that we could customize or build on.
Plugins for Days
But while this is on one hand the biggest advantage of building on WordPress, it can also be the cause of problems and frustration with your website.
It’s very common for new WordPress users to start downloading a variety of plugins as if they’re ordering off a menu.
Here’s the disturbing truth: you don’t have to be a vetted developer or even a competent one in order to build and distribute a theme or plugin throughout the WordPress community. Because of that there are a lot of plugins and themes you need to avoid.
Granted, many of the plugins you’ll hear of or come across are going to be built by some great people who really understand WordPress and are experts in their fields. But many of them also lack the budgets to properly debug or properly test for security.
It’s the same reason why people who have given up on WordPress are quick to say that WordPress is not secure.
That’s not necessarily true. It’s not WordPress’ job to secure your site; that’s your responsibility. But it all comes from a lack of knowledge for which I don’t blame anyone.
Nick’s Notes: Ever had your site hacked? That’s a scary experience.
3. The Myth of the “Finished” WordPress Website
I mentioned our partner agency, Fluent, above. This is our full service digital agency where about 20% of our revenue comes from web development.
We work with businesses of all sizes from enterprise to sole proprietors, and we admittedly have trouble selling our monthly maintenance plans to our low-budget clients.
Are You Ever Really “Done”?
The truth is no website is truly ever “finished.” We can hand over the keys to a newly-developed site, but technology evolves and security requirements change over time.
Nick’s Notes: I make changes to my sites weekly. Sometimes it’s just adding content, sometimes it’s adding new functionality, sometimes it’s testing a different feature, but they’re in a constant state of evolution.
I consider a service like Phillip’s Zen WP to be “website insurance.” For a low monthly fee you’ve got someone on call should anything break or if you need to make any updates.
Compare it to your car. It probably costs about the same to insure, but is probably far more valuable to your business.
Making Sure Everything Plays Nice
In the WordPress world, when you have WordPress, a running theme, and 15 active plugins, what’s essentially happening is that you’re running 20 pieces of software together to make your website and you’re praying that everything works together flawlessly, which is almost never the case.
There’s always going to be plugins that go out of date and break functionality or incompatible plugins and themes, or new features you want to add.
When working with WordPress, you’ll have to fight the constant battle of updating plugins and themes, checking the site for functionality, addressing reports of bugs, replacing themes and plugins, etc.
It’s not WordPress’ fault nor is all of this unique to WordPress; it’s just the nature of open-source software and it’s the price you pay for flexibility and freedom.
So What Can You Do?
If you’re a business owner selling, say, scooters, and you want to create a website for your business, you probably don’t have time to figure all of this out. And if you’re a much smaller business, you probably don’t have the budget to hire a developer to work for you either.
This is where WordPress support services like Zen WP or virtual assistants become very useful. They’re able fill this need at a budget that’s easier for micro businesses to work with.
In the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of WordPress technical support companies enter the this niche for the purpose of meeting this very need.
Nick’s Notes: Most of these services cost less than $100 a month, which is a small price to pay for “website insurance” and to make sure you have a professional IT guy or girl on call should the need arise.
Your Turn and Next Steps
The response from the market has been tremendously positive. I think a lot of bloggers and businesses find it to be a relief and are happy to hire WordPress support companies to ensure that the digital face of their business continues to operate without having to lose sleep at night.
So if you’re frustrated with WordPress, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Because of the popularity of the platform, there’s a global network of affordable website assistants ready to help!