9 Misconceptions By Clients Looking For a Web Platform

The sales process for web development businesses may be confusing. There are endless misconceptions we’ve seen during sales calls and presales meetings, some more common than others.

What Makes Web Development Confusing?

Unlike buying a physical product or a service that brings an obvious impact on a physical item (like your home or a car), gauging work quality or time frames is nearly impossible.

I’ve discussed the challenges of estimates several times and this is the leading reason why 95% of our business now is formed by WordPress retainers.

Fixed-fee estimates are hardly successful.

  • Tons of unknowns are revealed in custom projects
  • Libraries and frameworks receive numerous updates, introducing new features or constraints
  • Server access problems may arise
  • “Common sense” may yield different expectations
  • The granularity of implementational details may vary

Here’s what often happens during the website sales process.

Misconceptions For WordPress Sites

Recently we had an inquiry by a customer for a classifieds website. The customer pitched a good number of agencies and independent providers for quotes, looking for the best and most affordable solution that would scale well and be as stable as it gets.

Escalating issues isn't for everyone. http://dilbert.com/
Escalating issues isn’t for everyone. http://dilbert.com/

While WordPress is mostly promoted as a platform for blogging and small business websites (due to the massive marketing worldwide mainly in that direction), we do specialize in high-end solutions such as Software as a Service platforms, large membership websites, media networks and the like – some getting over 400,000,000 page views a month, or handling thousands of subsites in a Multisite environment.

Scalability is totally doable within the WordPress context, but the general perception of WordPress is that it won’t handle a real production project for a successful business.

That said, a good number of companies we are talking to pick enterprise-grade platforms that offer less than WordPress and costs up to 6 figures a year in staying afloat – simply due to their adequate marketing targeting the right enterprise crowd.

Here are some of the questions/opinions that our prospect shared with us during the process.

1. WordPress Can’t Scale

A WordPress website won’t scale at 100,000 visitors a month

That should be pretty easy to counter, especially given a popular number of well-known websites and news outlets receiving millions or even tens of millions of visitors a month.

Most publishing websites out there are built on WordPress. We’ve got several publishing clients serving hundreds of millions of monthly views each. And a number of SaaS businesses or multisites generating hundreds of thousands or millions of monthly views.

2. WordPress Doesn’t Work For eCommerce/Membership

Yes, but those websites are news websites or multi-user blogs. WordPress can’t handle a membership site / eCommerce website / any other non-blogging platform

In fact, the underlying architecture of WordPress is content-driven, and content isn’t limited to just blog posts.

WordPress provides two types of public-faced content: Posts and Pages. There are several other default post types used for menus, attachment and revisions, but we won’t touch them for the time being.

There are several great APIs for creating custom post types such as Products, Ads, Real Estates, Profiles, Locations, Courses or anything that your site needs that has a title and content, and a number of required fields (text, checkboxes, dropdowns and so on).

WooCommerce is now a leading eCommerce platform along with Shopify or Magento. And sure, you’ll need to bump your server up if you expect a large volume of concurrent customers or logged-in users, but this doesn’t mean WordPress can’t scale well (yes, it does scale).

3. WordPress Isn’t Mobile-Friendly

The website should be mobile-friendly – can you create a mobile-friendly website in WordPress?

I admit, we used to get this a lot back in the day but it’s becoming less common (especially given the fact that the majority of web traffic is mobile now).

With 35% of market share, WordPress powers more websites than you think. Odds are, you’re browsing the web on mobile quite often, too. Which is why you’ve seen thousands (or more) WordPress websites rendering just fine on mobile.

Responsive websites (or the mobile-friendly ones) depend on the presentation layer of a web platform which usually caters to the design considerations and front-end development (building a theme with the required templates).

Unlike many other platforms, WordPress has zero constraints when it comes to building the markup. Designing anything and tailoring it for any mobile phone, tablet, or another terminal with a display is just a matter of technical implementation, and is not limited by WordPress in any manner.

4. WordPress Updates Are Dangerous

Regular WordPress updates are dangerous for my business and can easily ruin it

WordPress releases 2 or 3 major updates a year. Those are functional updates that include additional features and tools, as well as API improvements and simplifications for the dashboard user interface.

We have migrated dozens of WordPress websites through 10-15 major releases without any regressions. Think of upgrading WordPress 2.9 to WordPress 4.6 which runs smoothly with no updates needed.

In addition to that, major updates are not mandatory. While some 3rd party plugins (which are completely optional) may officially support only the past 2 major versions, they often work with no issues for older WordPress versions. Adhering to the WordPress standards ensures longer lifetime with no needs to update as WordPress focuses on backwards compatibility as a major product decision.

Minor versions are automatically updated – these only cater to security issues here and there which are often hard to exploit, and cause no regressions for existing customers.

Granted, there are some exceptions here and there. Maintenance is something that we’d recommend to every single business owner. Primarily due to the theme and plugins built by 3rd parties that don’t necessarily play along very well. They do (most of the time) but going through a proper QA process is the right thing to do (and use a staging environment).

5. WordPress Features Are Inside of The Theme

Customizations in WordPress are introduced in the theme, which affects the portability and causes regular regressions

Bringing functionality in a WordPress theme is considered a very bad practice, and should be avoided at all times. This only happens with a number of multipurpose premium themes or when working with inexperienced service providers.

New features should be built as custom plugins, and they normally keep working even if you change the presentation layer (the WordPress theme) at some point in time.

Updating functions.php or anything else inside the theme is not the right way to develop for WordPress.

6. WordPress Plugins Break Sites

Adding plugins to WordPress causes incompatibilities and breaks down the site

There is no guarantee that different plugins from various authors around the globe will work smoothly with one another. That said, at DevriX we do build custom plugins on a daily basis for customer needs. All of them comply with the WordPress Coding Standards which prevents them to collide with other plugins (unless the other plugins interfere with the normal life cycle of a WordPress request).

Using established and proven plugins is preferred, and carefully assessing and testing solutions at a staging environment should you choose to add several 3rd party off-the-shelf plugins to your website. Properly-coded plugins that solve different problems are not supposed to interfere with one another (when picked carefully).

And more plugins don’t cause more problems. A single complex, bloated, heavy, buggy plugin is enough to impact the entire platform.

7. WordPress Is Insecure

WordPress is inherently insecure

WordPress, as a platform, is one of the most secure web content management platforms out there. Being open source and used by 35% of the Internet, it’s a common attack target for hackers.

That’s why it has been tested continuously by both malicious hackers, and professional security experts who have been hardening it constantly for well over 10 years now.

There are best practices for hardening WordPress that should always be implemented in a solution, and failing to comply with these is not a problem of WordPress itself.

I’ve also discussed security considerations for enterprises when it comes to deploying WordPress.

Hacked WordPress websites are usually breached due to one of the following reasons:

  1. Using a low-cost shared hosting that could be breached through a completely different website on the server – or a loophole in the server itself
  2. Poorly chosen passwords or wrongfully assigned privileges are the way to get hacked
  3. Using insecure wireless networks may intercept your password
  4. Hack through a 3rd party plugin or a large bloated theme may lead to accessing your website, but those are external add-ons that you choose to install yourself, unrelated to the Core itself
  5. Cracked themes and plugins (meaning illegally installing a pirated version)

Those issues can easily be mitigated by carefully assessing any third-party additions to your website and choosing a reliable VPS or dedicated server provider that has been configured securely, and complying with a legitimate security policy for your passwords and access control, just as with every other website out there.

As seen in DX Summit, WordPress ranks as a lower end platform when compared to Drupal, Crafter, epicore or Typo3 in the higher-end market, as well as sitecore, Adobe ECM, Sharepoint and others ranked high for the serious business fields:

8. Building On WordPress Is Easy (And Cheap)

Since WordPress is free, the cost of building a web project (or performing updates) is perceived as a quick patch.

You know, if WordPress solves 95% of the problems for free, how much should the other 5% cost?

Without referring to Pareto’s principle, building on top of hundreds of thousands of lines of code (or millions when you account for multiple existing plugins) is far from easy. Causing regressions is only expected unless you REALLY know what you do (and what each of the plugins does as well).

Especially if you are about to customize a complex plugin. Oftentimes, it’s cheaper to build the whole thing from scratch.

But more importantly, building the know-how of interacting in complex code bases is far from cheap. You can keep cluttering your platform with yet another plugin, but don’t expect any stability in the long run.

9. $59 WordPress Themes Are The Industry Standard

ThemeForest and several different marketplaces have established this price perception. Since beautiful and functional themes sell for $59 or so, why pay for a custom design (or a theme)?

It’s rare to connect with a prospect and find a properly developed custom WordPress theme. Bloated, multipurpose themes are so common that “industry standard” does define them more or less.

But in terms of stability, security, and performance, you may find yourself struggling on multiple fronts.

A single Avada theme may trigger so many requests to stylesheets and scripts that a regular site with a standard theme would generate less even with multiple heavy and complex plugins within.

This inevitably impacts the load time of your website, resulting in poor user experience, worse SEO scores (since Google cares about speed) and probably a larger hosting bill. The short-term savings are rarely worth the long-term hassle — and I won’t even touch on stability.

What were the most challenging or interesting problems that you’ve solved with WordPress?

Your thoughts?