ONeil Interactive has designed and developed WordPress based homebuilder websites for some of the largest builders in the country. Those builders came to us knowing they required a WordPress solution and they knew of our experience making it work for the industry. Why was WordPress a requirement? In almost all of these cases it was because WordPress was the dashboard their team was comfortable using.
I understand that change is not just hard, but slow. It takes time for some users to adjust to even the best improvements.
Full disclosure; I have a love/hate relationship with WordPress. I love that it’s a powerful tool for the right needs, and there is a big team of smart people working to make it better. Unfortunately, my other list is a bit longer.
Spoiler. WordPress can be made acceptable, but there will be performance and productivity limits. It’s a more acceptable solution for the very small builder, but there are far better options for any builder needing more than a static “business card” and photo gallery website.
WordPress has some great marks in the plus column.
Without a doubt, WordPress has grown to a level where activating a new WordPress site is just a couple clicks and no need for a web developer. I don’t think another CMS has ever gotten to this level of simplicity.
Widely Accessible Website Maintenance
WordPress’s popularity also means that there’s a huge supply of WordPress developers available with a Google search. This should mean maintenance is cheaper, and it might be, but this same pro is also a con — as you’ll find below.
Plugins (The ones that work)
WordPress has over 55,000 plugins available. That’s a lot, and they enable an incredible volume of features and functions. The best plugins are often released and maintained by major companies to support your use of their platforms; i.e. Facebook, Hub Spot, etc.
I’ve worked to make my criticisms fair, but I don’t think watering down my opinion will do you any good if you’re looking for a legitimate opinion on why you shouldn’t use WordPress.
Speed and Performance
Some very high-traffic websites use WordPress successfully. Those sites tend to be sharing news, magazine, or article content. This type of content structure matches nicely with what WordPress is designed to do. The structure of home builder content does not, and this impacts performance. Your website’s performance impacts the user experience and your search engine optimization.
In an effort to avoid going full-nerd, I going to over-simplify the underlying technology and describe it in terms of a file cabinet.
Software designed to support home builders keeps content grouped together in organized file cabinet drawers. Need everything about Green Acres? Open the Community drawer and grab the Green Acres folder.
WordPress’s main file cabinet drawer has folders organized like a blog, as blogging was its original mission — title, content, author, publish date, category, etc. Consider how many additional pieces of data are needed for a floor plan listing — price, status, square feet, bedrooms, bathrooms, multiple image types, video, contact person, model homes, driving directions, and way more. WordPress can be extended to support this extra content, but it needs to keep this data in a separate filing cabinet drawer; possibly many different drawers.
The more filing drawers required, the slower the performance.
The most glaring performance bottlenecks for WordPress appear in builder’s website search features. Continuing the analogy above, when a consumer wants to see only homes in their desired price range, WordPress needs to open an incredible number of file cabinet drawers and folders. Industry-tailored software needs just one file drawer.
WordPress is the CMS that powers a very large percentage of websites. Unfortunately, this success also makes it a common sense target for hackers. The CMS has a long history of serious security vulnerabilities. While most of these vulnerabilities have been patched pretty quick, some vulnerabilities come from poorly designed plugins; many of which take much longer to be fixed or, worse, never get addressed.
Plugins that Fail
WordPress plugins are the most exciting and disappointing part of WordPress. There are well-constructed and supported plugins, but many users experience site crashes and failures from the “cocktail” of plugins they need to make WordPress do what they want it to do. Plugins often break from WordPress system updates, or they block other features from performing how they should.
The result is a very brittle website — when a small obscured change can bring the whole system down; and your website with it.
Widely Accessible Website Maintenance
Yes, this was also in the pro list. If you’ve ever had a bad experience with a web design/development team, it likely came from their over-stated skills or over-promised abilities.
With WordPress’s popularity comes an uncountable number of freelance developers and companies with skills that are impossible to audit. Most builders don’t have web developers on-staff, and are even less likely to have expert WordPress developers on-staff. In-agency WordPress teams are typically acceptable, but we’ve had venting clients refer to their developers as flakey, unreliable, and the ultimate killer… “liars.”
A Google search for a WordPress developer can bring you self-certified experts charging $20-150/hour or more. Client reviews can help, but in our experience price does not represent skill. We’ve taken over WordPress projects from seemingly credentialed development teams and found horrible things. Think of the horror stories home shoppers tell one another about trash and dead animals found in the walls of that “one house.” Poor WordPress development is like this. It may take a while before you notice a problem, but it’s there and it will find its way out into the customer’s experience.
WordPress’s popularity makes it appealing to spammers, too. Spammers that target your website forms and flood your sales team and CRM with junk leads about prescription pills. Those same spammers are skilled at finding comment forms where they can leave links to sell all kinds of things you don’t want associated with your company.
Like I said – love/hate relationship. In the end, I believe the disadvantages of WordPress far outweigh the potential advantages. Yes, you could call me biased because the ONeil Interactive team created Homefiniti and tailored it for the needs of home builders. We were strong WordPress proponents for many years, but we hit too many walls, and we developed Homefiniti because we wanted a better product for our clients.
If you’re ‘ride or die’ on WordPress, we recommend using our completely free plugin, Builder WebPress. We created it to help builders get started with a solid foundation, and included lots of documentation to help less-experienced developers create a better home builder website.