Ah, WordPress. When it comes to building a website the open-source platform often gets mentioned. The allure of an easy and cheap website is appealing, isn't it? You'd think modern society would know better, but with the prevalence of "instant abs" gimmicks and various instant fixes out there it's obvious that people are still a bit slow to learn.
Don't get me wrong. WordPress is a great platform for it's intended use, blogging. I've had a few WP blogs in the past. It's great for that. As I learned to code and develop actual websites the appeal wore off though. A lot of people use WordPress, so it must be good, right?
You can have a site up and running in a single day without even looking at one line of code. All you have to do is set up a GoDaddy account, pick a domain name, and click the WordPress button. Get a free theme or pay for one, fill out your title, add a few pictures and you're off to the races. All of that is true and your site will probably work. For some people that's enough. The trouble comes when you want to change things.
You need a plugin for everything.
You need a WP plugin for a contact form, user accounts, Google analytics, image gallery, SEO, etc. That probably still sounds OK to some people. Most plugins are free after all but you very quickly slide down a rabbit hole of plugins and compatibility.
A business owner that I know, named Angie, knows the type of WordPress pain that I'm describing all too well. She is the kind of person who wants to do everything themselves. WordPress clearly appeals to that crowd. Angie runs a local market that has grown to be fairly large. She uses the website to advertise and book vendors for the market.
That's where things get weird.
Angie got her friend to help with the site "design". I added parenthesis there since you don't really design in WordPress, it's more like choosing options. Before I get blasted by thousands of WordPress developers out there, I know that you can modify the CSS and PHP code to make WordPress do whatever you want. That would undermine the entire point of using a WYSIWYG website generator though and that's not why people use WordPress. If you know PHP and want to code you'd use Laravel.
Angie needs custom form data for the sign-ups on her site which is pretty straightforward on a web application. However she is terrified of code, even the word freaks her out, and she's using WordPress. So she bought a paid plugin to generate the forms.
The problem is that the plugin will only do certain things and you can only customize a certain amount. Now she's in a bit of a pickle, she paid for the plugin and can't really customize it enough. All she really needs to do is keep track of the people who signed up for her market. Simple stuff if you're a developer, hours of frustration and workarounds if you've hitched your boat to WordPress.
So she has invested a ton of time and money into something that doesn't actually work properly. Angie is not alone in this story, the prevalence of paid WP plugins speaks for itself.
Being afraid of code is like being afraid to make your own cheeseburger.
Sure, you can go to McDonald's and buy a cheeseburger. It won't be great but it's available. Like WordPress, McDonald's will change certain aspects if you ask for it but the burger is still largely the same.
If you buy your own ground beef, buns, lettuce, etc you can build a much better product. You can add stuff to the meat to get the taste that you want. You can toast your buns the way that you want. More Mayo? You don't have to ask anyone just scoop it on.
There are tons of people that don't want to invest the time or effort to make a burger from scratch. That's why McDonald's is a multi-billion dollar company. When it comes to a website you can slop together a Big Mac like everyone else or you can do it properly and enjoy a clean, properly functioning site that looks and acts the way that you want.
I recently built a new website for a client that had a severe issue with his WordPress site. He runs a local repair business and depends heavily on Google Ads. It turned out that several of the plugins that he was using on WordPress were flagged by Google as having malicious code. As a result, Google refused to run his ads. The business was at a standstill. I built him a brand new site with no plugins that looked, better, ran better and performed awesome on Google. His business was back running in a couple of days.
Who doesn't want an easy, quick fix for every problem in our lives? Most people see a red flag when they see an Instagram ad for "instant weight loss" or those ever-present ads on Facebook that show a housewife who changed her life to make $6000 per month. When it comes to WordPress, Wix, Weebly or any other instant noodle website makers it's easy to get suckered in.
I have to say I'm thankful for WordPress' shortcomings since it provides me some work as a web developer. I get calls every week from people who need help fixing their overly complex WordPress sites.
Like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. Building an awesome website is like building an awesome cheeseburger. You need to start from scratch with the right ingredients and get your hands dirty. If you don't have the knowledge, the time or you're scared to death of code, like Angie, then hire a web developer. You're way better to spend the money on a professional than to spend three months pulling your hair out, buying plugins that don't work and ending up paying a developer in the end anyway.