The advent of open source, templated WordPress websites that non-programmers can create and maintain has been revolutionary. But beware, there are some very scary things that can go on behind the scenes you need to know about and prevent!
I’ve been working on and around WordPress sites since 2000, and I’ve seen some great successes and real nightmares with this particular technology. Today we pretty much only create websites in WordPress, because it is so cost-effective and flexible. But, it’s not right for every project, and there are some things you need to watch out for.
WordPress is an open source technology. That means that the source code is available to anyone who wishes to modify or expand upon the code. It is widely used and relatively easy to access and modify. Because its open source, programmers have developed design themes that your can purchase to quickly implement and website with a nice design. They have also developed add-ons for the websites called plugins, so that depending on what features you want to create on your website, you can pick and choose plugins to install without having to program the features yourself. Many templates and plugins are free, which can be very cost-effective.
But, here are some of the nightmares that I’ve seen:
1. Because WordPress is open source, it is often hacked.
But, you say, “I’m a small business, and I don’t do sales transactions on my site. Why would someone hack my my site?”
Because! (Really, some hackers hack WordPress sites just because it’s there.) Some hack sites so that they can install malware or use the site to conduct attacks on other sites or programs.
This became really clear to me when a web developer casually mentioned he had noticed some malware on a client’s WordPress site and removed it.
All businesses could be hurt by malware inserted into their website, but in particular, this was a business for which reputation was critical! There are standard security procedures to help prevent this (like don’t use the User I.D. “admin”), and regular reviews of your WordPress site for malware and hacks are a must.
2. WordPress templates or plugins can result in a bad website.
There are good templates and plugins and bad ones. Don’t buy a bad template or plugin! Have an experienced WordPress programmer evaluate it first. Check to make sure the author does regular updates. This is one reason you may want to buy your template instead of using a free one. At least with a paid template, it is more likely that there is someone with a financial skin in the game who is incentivized to maintain it properly.
I just learned from my WordPress web developer that recently when they download templates, they have seen that some WordPress template creators load in a bunch of plugins, which they don’t disclose pre-purchase. Even if you do research on the template, now you have the plugins on your server, and you don’t even know who created them or if they are maintained.
Oh, and I’ve run into several businesses that updated their site this year with a non-responsive template. A responsive template automatically adjusts for whatever device (desktop computer, tablet or phone) is used to view the site. Google announced this early this year and said sites that are non-responsive will not rank well in the search results. The change took place in April 2015. What a shame to invest money in a new site or site update and not have it responsive, when Google pre-announced the change to give everyone time to update their site – something Google rarely or never does!
3. In general, there are many bad WordPress developers.
Today, almost anyone can say they are a web developer and create a website. But, does it have search engine optimization? Is it secure? Are the images and graphics design and optimized for the web? Does it have loads of plugins and widgets that slow down the performance (another factor Google takes into consideration when it evaluates websites for search results).
This is a huge nightmare. I have seen countless websites that were set up incorrectly. Sometimes the templates are modified, and if you install an update to the template (critical to plug possible security holes). In one case, the business’s home page was heavily modified so that the client could not modify the content and we could not optimize it for the search engines. Graphics are not the correct resolution and load slowly.
Take it from me. Some graphic designers do not understand how to create graphics for the web. Most graphic designers and some web developers do not understand SEO at all. Programmers are not always good web developers and are not experienced in WordPress. And, now that content marketing and social media make a difference in how a website gets found in searches, I would say that many web developers and graphic designers don’t know how to integrate this into a WordPress (or any) website.
OK, this is not a blog post written with the sole purpose of bashing web developers, programmers and graphic designers. There are good ones out there that create good, optimized, well-performing websites. But there are probably more bad WordPress website creators than not today. And to me, that’s very, very scary.
If you need a new website or wish to update your existing site, contact us at New Incite today. I have made it my business to identify a stellar team of designers and developers who create great websites that generate results. We’d love to work with you on yours!
Photo by David Goerhing on Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.