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My (Terrible) Experience Using Wordpress

  • By Brad Poirier
  • 10 May, 2017

Wordpress is best left for bloggers

Chances are the website you’re using for your business is using Wordpress. Why? Because right now,  Wordpress powers 26% of the web   ...worldwide. That’s an overwhelming market share. In the past, my experience using Wordpress has been for some personal blogs, never as a commercial website. For the past few years working as a web designer, I have been using a version of  Zurb’s Foundation Framework   to develop websites. I’ve stayed away from Wordpress for many reasons, which I’ll explain below.

I figured though: If Wordpress powers 26% of the web, it can’t be all that bad though right? Wrong. Sure, Wordpress has it’s advantages, namely in the blogging area. It still is the go-to platform of choice for blogging. Here’s the thing though: Wordpress was never meant to be a website builder. It just evolved that way. What started off as an independent project grew into the global name it is today. The entire platform though, is supported mainly by community members. Try calling a Wordpress support number. Nope. Doesn’t exist.

To really put Wordpress to the test though, I had to actually go through and build a full site, not just a blog page. Well certainly, I wasn’t going to waste my time at work building a client’s website on Wordpress. I decided to build one for myself. I have a photography hobby, and so I chose to build a photography portfolio. 15 hours later, I have an OK performing website with 3 pages setup plus some gallery pages. I am a professional designer and it took me 15 hours to get it somewhat polished.

I logged my experience every step of the way, and so here’s all of my pain points and some of the positives that came out of this experience. Overall I can tell you, though, it’s about as horrible as I expected it to be. I am more certain now than ever, that I never want to develop websites using Wordpress. I can see why large Wordpress sites are expensive to develop. Development costs are almost entirely billed by time. The longer it takes your web developer to get from blank to finished, the more it will cost you. (FYI, my development time and costs are substantially lower than industry averages)

Part 1 - Purchasing a hosting plan - 1 hour

With Wordpress, you are left with finding a hosting plan on your own. The pro to this is that you have several options. The con to this is that you have several options. Do a google search for “Wordpress Hosting” - yup, there’s a lot. I compared many of the top hosting companies including GoDaddy, Bluehost and WPEngine. There’s also some “free” hosting partners, but none of them allowed for a custom domain to be setup. This post will not cover the differences between the companies, but I decided to go with GoDaddy. I went with this option because one of the priorities for this website build was very low budget. This was in part because a) I really didn’t have a budget to put into this and b) I wanted to see how “cheap” I could build this, minus the time involved.


I found a great coupon code online for GoDaddy Managed Wordpress hosting. I was able to get their basic Wordpress hosting for only $12 for the entire year, that’s $1/month, and they included domain registration for the first year, I only had to pay for privacy. In total, I paid $19 for: 1 year of hosting, 1 year domain registration and 1 year of domain privacy. That is insanely cheap.

Part 2 - Picking out a theme - 2 hours

Themes are the equivalent of templates, if you have worked with DIY builders like Squarespace or Wix. I started out with a couple of the free themes available from Wordpress. At this point, it was very confusing on how to customize the look and feel of even just the homepage. The preview image they show you is almost nothing compared to when you “activate this theme”. I had some basic content to start with, but again, it just wasn’t in the areas I wanted. As mentioned I use Zurb Foundation as the framework for the websites I develop for work, but I wanted to build this website as if I was a small business owner trying to get this set up on their own.  I searched for Wordpress builders, and came across a few, but many were expensive to purchase a license for or were geared toward design agencies.


Next stop: Themeforest. Themeforest is a website where you can buy just about anything regarding the web, including Wordpress themes. They are reasonably priced and off a range of options. I searched on there for quite a while, browsing different themes and all of their options - I really didn’t want to have to buy a theme twice. I came across a theme called “Avalon” - it was listed under the category for photography portfolio. I liked the features it offered, such as full screen backgrounds, built-in visual editor, and lots of widgets. It was also on sale for $17. So at this point, I’m now into this build for only $36, still really good.


Part 3 - Installing My Commercial Theme - 7 hours

Installing a new theme is pretty straightforward. I uploaded it to my Wordpress directory and activated the new theme. Voila, I have an awesome website. NOPE. Not even close. Once installed, there is quite a bit of customization needed. At least this theme came with an editor that overlays Wordpress’s built in one. It’s not a visual editor, but it’s a bit more intuitive than the native.


The theme has a showcase feature where the homepage has a full-screen image slider with the navigation and logo on top of the image slider. This next issue was part user-error and just part a convoluted system. It gives you the option to upload a “light” logo and a “dark” logo. I had designed the logo myself and so it wasn’t difficult for me to create two versions of the logo. The purpose of this is so when you have the logo on top of a darker background, the “light” one will show, and the dark logo will show when using a light background, or perhaps a solid white background. I uploaded them both, but everytime I viewed the homepage which was using a dark background, the dark logo would appear.


I turned to the theme developer, which by the way is only contacted through a commenting system on Themeforest. He does have a help doc available, but it’s limited. So I went to the comment section and submitted my issue. He responded about a day later, but the comment was very brief and still unclear. Fortunately you can search through the existing comments and issues and I found others who had the same problem, which at least shows I’m not crazy.  Turns out, I had them backwards. The explanation of which one to upload was very unclear. Once I swapped the light for dark and vice-versa, all was good. That alone took about an hour to solve.


Now we’re moving a bit. The rest of the 7-ish hours were spent developing the other pages and it’s contents. I had some trouble setting up the photo galleries, which was one of the main reasons I purchased this theme. In the demo, if you hovered over the “gallery” tab in the navigation, there was a fly-out thumbnail images of the latest gallery posts. This took about 45 minutes to get figured out how to apply this. The comments section was again helpful in this case. It was very frustrating though, to not have a real contact for help. But, this was the limitation I had.


Part 4 - Search Engine Optimization - 1 hour

There’s no point in having a website and paying for it if there’s no traffic going to it. I wasn’t expecting much out of this website (hence the low budget), but I still wanted to set this up for success like any other SMB would want to do. I’ve heard that Yoast offers a plug-in for SEO (More on plug-ins later and how they really, really can screw up your Wordpress site). I installed the Yoast SEO Plugin, which has a free version and started to customize it. I should mention that out of all the add-ons I had to install for Wordpress, including the theme, Yoast had the easiest learning curve, and it is indeed pretty powerful. I’d recommend it if after reading this, you’re still convinced that Wordpress is for you. (I feel bad for you though, really)

Part 5 - Page Speed - 2 hours

Do you know that 60% of visitors will abandon your website if it’s taking longer than 3 seconds to load. Like it or leave it, all of us have short attention spans today. We want it now and we want it fast, nay, instantaneous. My website’s homepage was hovering around 8 seconds to load. Way too long. I had to shorten that up. I’ve found that the two biggest culprits of page speed are: 1) Large images and 2) Improper loading of website files.


The images I uploaded were optimized for web using Photoshop, but they were still coming up under  Google’s Page Speed Test  as too large. I was scoring between 40-60 on the PageSpeed test. I’ve seen most Wordpress sites score in the 70’s. Still far too low in comparison to my websites, which score in the high 90’s or perfect 100. However, I know that speed is important, so I went to work optimizing for speed.


On the websites I build, I use Amazon’s CDN. A CDN is a content delivery network. It takes all of your website’s files: the HTML, images, css files, all of the “stuff” that makes your website a website, and optimizes it for speedy delivery. However, I wasn’t going to use this since these were my own personal costs. I found a free CDN from Cloudflare though, which wasn’t very difficult to set up at all. It doesn’t do image optimization, but took care of a few other needs of mine.


I installed a couple other plugins that dealt with some other page speed issues. I am assuming that most SMB owners won’t take this step at all, but I was intent on getting this website loading quickly. I had done lots of research on which plugins to use to achieve this, I’m still testing them out as of this writing.


The next was image optimization though, I needed to solve this. I found a plugin called Jetpack, which is created by the makers of Wordpress, Automattic. One of the features of this plugin was image optimization. Great. It worked as intended, with one minor hiccup. Actually, a major hiccup. I had recently written a blog post for the portfolio website, and at that same time, Wordpress had an upgrade to it’s software. Part of the GoDaddy Managed Wordpress plan is that they will automatically upgrade the Wordpress software. Great, right? Once again, nope.

Part 6 - Dealing With Broken Plugins (And Lots of Crying) - 3 Hours

GoDaddy did as they promised, they updated it from 4.7.3 to 4.7.4. Here’s the problem with that. Wordpress at it’s core, is only a base platform. Just about everything else you want to customize it with, you have to install 3rd party add-ons. Add-ons like themes and plugins. So whenever there is a Wordpress update, the plugins need to be updated. These plugins are made by 3rd party developers that obviously aren’t required to immediately update the plugin to work with the latest Wordpress version.


Which plugin was the first to break? Jetpack. That’s right, the one plugin I had installed that was developed by Wordpress parent company. Go figure. What happened when this plugin broke? Mayhem. Absolute Mayhem. First of all, the website itself started displaying jibberish code on the front page. I went into panic mode. It looked silly and unprofessional. The short term solution was to just get rid of Jetpack. All I was using it for was for image optimization. I would deal with that again later, but for now I needed the website to appear correctly again.


Getting rid of plug-ins is normally straightforward. You deactivate it, then you delete it. I did this for Jetpack, but it wouldn’t fully commit. There was  remnant left over that was now causing errors in my Wordpress dashboard. Now this is really getting irritating. Then it hit me! Ah ha, GoDaddy also includes daily backups of the Wordpress database. Awesome. I’ll just restore it to a working version when Jetpack wasn’t installed and all should be good.


Let’s pause for a moment. I had installed Jetpack twice. Once in the beginning, but remember I had been testing different plugin arrangements out. I had previously deleted Jetpack, but this particular day that I was having trouble, I had just installed it again the day before. So I only needed to go back ONE day of the auto-backup from GoDaddy. So, I went to my GoDaddy control panel, and selected the latest restore point. This took about 15 minutes to complete, but hooray, all was normal again.


Once again, in the most painful way possible, no.


Right before finding out that Jetpack was causing an error on the viewable website, I had just finished a long-form blog post that took me about an hour and half to write. When I say “just”, I literally mean that. I had published the new post, and then I went to the post to see it in action. It was at that point, I noticed the homepage was messed up.


Guess what, GoDaddy does all of their backups once a day, and my guess is around the morning time. How do I know this? Because when I restored my Wordpress database, it essentially deletes anything from beyond that point, including my blog post I just finished. Now shame on me because I didn’t have that post saved anywhere. When I write blog posts, including this one, I write them in Google Docs. One of the reasons is for having a copy saved somewhere. Well, I can’t tell you why I didn’t write that blog post for the photography site in Google Docs, all I can tell you is, I didn’t.


So, the post was gone. I called GoDaddy (who, btw, has AWESOME 24-hour customer service), but they were unable to retrieve the post. It was just gone forever.

My only saving grace is that I had the page open on my smartphone, and I was able to copy a portion of the post before the screen refreshed itself and it refreshed to non-existing page at that point. I still had to re-write the rest of it. Pain. Tears. Coffee. Whiskey. All because of one little plugin.


Thoughts After 15 Grueling Hours

At the end of all this, the only positive I can see from this experience, is that I have a polished website. I like the design of it. I’m still dealing with Page Speed issues, but as for design and the ability to add new galleries, I like it.


Everything else and the countless nights I spent on getting it to that point, was horrible and painful. You could chock this up to my first real experience with Wordpress, but this is precisely why I did this. To see what any small business owner might encounter. Except I did have design experience, but even for me it was still time consuming. Going back to the cost of developing, if I was to start using Wordpress to develop my websites, it would get really expensive for my clients. Both in the initial costs and the cost to host and maintain properly.


Keep in mind, those 15 hours and what I have set up currently, is only a “basic” website. There are only 4 main pages: HOME, SERVICES, GALLERY and CONTACT. The other pages are gallery posts and a couple of blog posts. To make this a viable website, I would need to create content for a few sub-pages under services and also develop those pages.


This doesn’t include any further maintenance that will be required when the next plugin breaks or another common Wordpress issue.


You should be able to discern by now that I do not recommend Wordpress for a business website. If you’re into blogging, go ahead. If you want to add a blog to an existing website that doesn’t offer a blog, go ahead. If you want to spend countless hours maintaining your website instead of focusing on the core of your business, go ahead.


Here’s what I do recommend: A custom, affordable website by Breeze Digital Media.

I want to list a few main advantages over the websites I build commercially over Wordpress.


Ease of Use - If you want to make your own website changes, we hand deliver a super easy CMS, or Content Management System. It includes an easy drag-and-drop style editor for you, built in blog, easily add new pages and new content


Lifetime Support - Having a problem using our editor? No problem, I love helping my customers out. For as long as you have your website hosted with us, we’ll provide unlimited tech support for your website, no charge.


Security - All of our websites come with a free SSL certificate. SSL website are preferred by Google and your visitors. All of the data sent through, such as a contact form, is done securely. SSl certificates range from $70-200 and up, we install one at no charge to you.


Speed - Lots of work goes into each website to make it perform as fast as possible. We use Google’s own Page Speed Tool as a benchmark for our scores. Our websites, score in the 90’s frequently.


Unlimited Backups - Your website is backed up every time something new is published, whether that’s once per month, per day or 10 times in a day. You can view multiple restore points if needed.


Hosting - We provide hosting for all of the websites we build. It includes a powerful CDN from Amazon, monthly website traffic reports delivered to your inbox automatically. When we update our software, it’s tested before it’s deployed out to your site so there aren’t any hiccups.


Cost & Time  - If the previous features are beneficial to you, I imagine cost is. No matter your current cash flow, all businesses can benefit from saving money. I’m not the cheapest web developer, but I can tell you that I am certainly not the most expensive. Plus, we build our websites in a fraction of the time it takes for Wordpress sites. Meaning your new website is ready to drive new business faster.


I would love for you to be my next success story. Let’s get together for an introductory chat and see if Breeze Digital Media is a good fit for your company.


Have you had any trouble or bad experiences with Wordpress? Leave your experience in the comments or email me at brad@breezedigitalmedia.com


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Chances are the website you’re using for your business is using Wordpress. Why? Because right now,  Wordpress powers 26% of the web   ...worldwide. That’s an overwhelming market share. In the past, my experience using Wordpress has been for some personal blogs, never as a commercial website. For the past few years working as a web designer, I have been using a version of  Zurb’s Foundation Framework   to develop websites. I’ve stayed away from Wordpress for many reasons, which I’ll explain below.

I figured though: If Wordpress powers 26% of the web, it can’t be all that bad though right? Wrong. Sure, Wordpress has it’s advantages, namely in the blogging area. It still is the go-to platform of choice for blogging. Here’s the thing though: Wordpress was never meant to be a website builder. It just evolved that way. What started off as an independent project grew into the global name it is today. The entire platform though, is supported mainly by community members. Try calling a Wordpress support number. Nope. Doesn’t exist.

To really put Wordpress to the test though, I had to actually go through and build a full site, not just a blog page. Well certainly, I wasn’t going to waste my time at work building a client’s website on Wordpress. I decided to build one for myself. I have a photography hobby, and so I chose to build a photography portfolio. 15 hours later, I have an OK performing website with 3 pages setup plus some gallery pages. I am a professional designer and it took me 15 hours to get it somewhat polished.

I logged my experience every step of the way, and so here’s all of my pain points and some of the positives that came out of this experience. Overall I can tell you, though, it’s about as horrible as I expected it to be. I am more certain now than ever, that I never want to develop websites using Wordpress. I can see why large Wordpress sites are expensive to develop. Development costs are almost entirely billed by time. The longer it takes your web developer to get from blank to finished, the more it will cost you. (FYI, my development time and costs are substantially lower than industry averages)

By Brad Poirier 07 Mar, 2017
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What are some examples of good and bad website design that you have seen?
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