Is Wordpress a good solution for my project?
Websites can be built in many ways but Wordpress is probably a platform with most installations in the world. That's not a surprise since it's free, open source and very flexible. With only few technical skills you can build a complex web site, quickly and at low cost. Who would resist such temptation? Besides, why should we even resist it?
From our experience, Wordpress is an excellent solution for some projects, but we also run into websites who end up in trouble because of it. People sometimes choose Wordpress simply because they have heard that others use it and because they are now aware of other options. That is the reason why it's good to make an analysis of pros and cons of Wordpress before choosing it as a platform for your next project.
Challenges of Wordprss
It takes certain skills to install Wordpress, but it's a simple task that can be handled by more less anyone with enough motivation and a bit of technical affinity. There is a big and active user community which shares a lot of valuable tutorials, advices and information, so it's easy to get out of problems if you get stuck. It's really not that hard to achieve the level that's required to build an online project in Wordpress.
Unfortunately, real problems start only after a certain period of time. The software constantly changes, adapts, improves. Since Wordpress is open source, all security leaks are visible to hackers. As soon as a vulnerability is detected, it starts a race between those who build and those who demolish. Until developers do not fix the security issue, all Wordpress installations are at risk. Even if you installed the latest version of the software, you are still out in the open. Your only defence is to secure a regular and reliable backup, but then again that's something that needs to be taken care of and organised. The problems builds up if you neglect the need to maintain Wordpress core, it's plugins and themes up-to-date. In that case it's just a matter of time before hackers or script-kiddies ie. kids who learn about security by taking down websites just for fun, do the same to you. After that, to clean a compromised Wordpress installation and restore website's reputation is sometimes both hard and expensive.
Another problematic aspect of Wordpress emerges from its flexibility. The system can be expanded and upgraded through plugins. While the core is developed and maintained by a company named Automatic ltd. plugins can be build by anyone who wished to do so. This is at the same time an excellent and a horrible feature. Thanks to its plugin eco system Wordpress can have additional functionalities. Although it was initially built to make blogs and pages, by using plugins one can build web shops, social networks, address books, calendars, classifieds and many other things. This is a very practical feature which provides quick and cheap project realisation. An excellent feature, so excellent that you have to wonder what could be the problem here? What's so horrible about it? Well, since plugins are built by different actors, companies, individuals, enthusiasts, professionals, some of them are plain badly done, others become obsolete or unmaintained. With time, this results with them becoming incompatible with Wordpress' core or with conflicts between plugins. In the end they will take the website offline. Its biggest advantage is at the same time its biggest flaw.
When to (not) choose Wordpress
If you want to create a website that is not going to change, you do not need Wordpress. For those who plan to build, publish and forget about the page and at the same time do not have the need or capacity to update it we recommend to build a so called static solution, plain HTML without any programming. If you want to be even more efficient and do not need anything too original, you can use a ready made HTML template. There are free ones as well as can be purchased for a couple od bucks.
If you need a CMS, have the capacity to update the software or resources to hire somebody to do that for you, if you can take care of backup and what you want to build can be done through existing Wordpress capabilities with using only a smaller number of reliable plugins, that we will recommend Wordpress.
If you are building a more advanced system that needs functionalities that do not come out of the box, if you need to integrate existing systems and data, if you are considering safety and speed, if you want to be able to quickly change your project, then you need a custom built application.
We have seen cases where customers insist on Wordpress in conviction how that would be cheaper than to make a custom app. If you have to "bend" Wordpress or if you neglect it or outgrow it, the price of such exploit will often be higher and the result will be worse than with custom apps. Another thing we should warn you about is that sometimes Wordpress websites look a like line an egg to an egg. That is the case when they are build by using themes that do not allow simple customisation. Then content is adapted to the theme and not the other way around, as it should be. Of course, Wordpress is not all bad. In case when needs of the project match platform's capabilities and the production teams know what they are doing, Wordpress is an excellent remedy.
Slobodna domena Coop uses Wordpress. We do not force it, do not hate it. Just trying to optimally use technology and reduce cost. We will use Wordpress where that makes sense.
Some examples from our practice
Case of Novosti
Novosti, a weekly journal published by SNV has for some time hesitated to go digital. They were focused on their print edition. They were not certain if they even had an on-line audience. Although everything suggested that digitalisation can not be avoided, it was hard for them to decide to spend their stretched budgets to build a portal. Something less ambitious, should we not say less expensive, was in order. The intention was to start slow, go digital, test if there is audience and how much stress will the portal put on the collective. We did not make a mistake when we recommended Wordpress. Between 2009 and 2014 Novosti had a rudimentary but updated on-line edition made with Wordpress. By using it, course was set towards the first version of a real news portal which followed in 2014 and was once more renewed in 2020. Meanwhile, Novosti have learned how to deal with digital, have built an audience a became a recognised web news portal. Wordpress was for them an important starting point and even today it keeps an archive of older articles.
Case of Multimedijalni institut
Pioneers of digital culture in Croatia, Multimedijalni institut and club MAMA from Zagreb, have launched a vivid and active scene some twenty years ago, a scene which has se its foundations in alternative culture and activism. The influence of this group of people on the development of local un-institutional culture is huge. During this period a large number of members and ideas have passed through the organisation. They often used Wordpress as a good tool to present their projects on-line. It was fast, cheap, open source. Unfortunately, as it sometimes happens with NGO's, flux of large number of members sometimes leads that certain tasks and obligations fall out of focus. In case of Multimedijalni institut this resulted with hacker attacks on a number of their unattended on-line projects. In a short period all their servers got bad reputation and so once excellent websites that got forgotten became a big burden. At some point even the main website of the organisation was compromised and unavailable. A quick decision had to me made. Main website was isolated from other web resources. It had to be cleaned from malicious code and domain's reputation had to be re-established. Older websites remained hacker's pray. Some of them had to be taken done, other were archived. A lot of time, energy and money was spent to fix the problem which emerged because old Wordpress websites were not maintained properly. Another layer of the problem was that Wordpress worked well for a long long time, until it was too late, until the incident destroyed a lot of efforts. today, Multimedijalni institut has a functional website in a secure environment. Slobodna domena helped them achieve that. Still, their Wordpress installation has a technological debt accumulated over the years and because of it building the next generation of their website will have to be more complex that it was supposed to. Although Wordpress was an appropriate solution to start with, in this case TCO (total cost of ownership) ended up high.
Case of Bilten
Regional portal Bilten uses Wordpress from day one. It is a relatively simple portal and Wordpress offers everything they need. During 2019 we have answered their call for redesign. Since it's an open source solution there was absolutely no problem for us to take over and continue working on the website initially built by somebody else. Also it will not be a problem when another party continues our work. Our task was to build the third generation of the portal with special care on classification of articles, one which will enable advanced search. After many years of existence Bilten has collected a large number of articles and they were not accessible. We approached the problem through visual redesign and by building an advanced search engine. We used standard methods to introduce article classification and organised them in a database that is searchable by topic, geographical focus and genres. Methodologically, everything was done in line with Wordpress ways and the result was satisfactory. If they will keep the same publishing concept, we can assume that Bilten will stay on Wordpress as it's giving them everything they need.