For several years I’ve been scanning the support forums at WordPress.org and helping where I can. I’ve been using WordPress since it came out in 2003, and because it’s at least partly free and open-source, I like to contribute. Aside from the obvious — helping others — contributing helps me keep abreast of what’s new in WordPress and hones my skills. On top of occasionally answering questions in the general support forums, I also wrote and support two plugins in the wordpress.org plugin repository.
I frequently see quite a bit of misunderstanding on a basic level about what WordPress is and what it can do, and I’d like to toss in my thoughts about that here. I hope I can help clear up a few reasons some people think “WordPress sucks.”
WordPress is WordPress is WordPress
Not true. WordPress has two arms: WordPress.org is the open-source, free arm of WordPress. WordPress.com is not open-source or free; it is essentially a website hosting service.
Unfortunately when WordPress is recommended to people, some do not understand there is a big choice to make between the two arms. They end up at either wordpress.org or wordpress.com (hopefully now you see the difference in the URL now) and do not realize they’re only seeing part of the picture. When they are disappointed, they often throw baby out with the bathwater.
When people say, “WordPress sucks,” I ask if they are using wordpress.org or wordpress.com. When they grow puzzled, I’ve found another soul lost in WordPress world. Ideally, WordPress would make the two arms of their empire more distinct by perhaps renaming one. Heaven forbid!
I inhabit wordpress.org land, where in general things are affordable and anything is possible. When people say, “WordPress sucks,” I would hope they would make sure to use wordpress.org. I have never recommended wordpress.com to anyone. If you’re going to use wordpress.com, you might as well use WIX. Both end up being expensive and neither gives you much control.
Everything WordPress Should be Free
This is a bit absurd, because humans have to write and support all the millions of lines of code that go into making the WordPress world spin, and those people need food on the table, too.
Open source and “free” do not mean that support is free, or that all supplementary code is free. Those words simply mean that you are free to take the code and use it. An example of closed source and not free would be Photoshop. Photoshop is expensive and we are not allowed to “look under the hood” of the Photoshop application. If WordPress were like PhotoShop, imagine where the web would be now! Instead, as of October 2021, WordPress is used by 42.8% of the top 10 million websites in the world.
More and more on the wordpress.org support forums, I see people asking for help they should be paying for. It is one thing to submit a ticket when a bug is maybe identified, or to ask for help understanding a concept, or for general direction, but it is another to ask the open source community to provide free coding support, especially for a commercial project. WordPress might be one of the most well-documented pieces of software around, and chances are that in the past 20 years, your question has already been answered. I learned by “Googling it,” and I continue to Google my questions about WordPress every day. Folks asking other people to essentially do their Googling for them will eventually be rebuked or come to feel some healthy shame for having taken advantage of others’ kindness.
As a professional making a living off WordPress, I appreciate and respond best when people respect that my knowledge isn’t any less valuable than the knowledge of a plumber, electrician, baker, or musician. Everyone needs to get paid in order to get by. And ultimately, we get what we pay for.
WordPress “Experts…” Who Are Not Experts
First of all, be leery of ANYONE who calls themselves “expert.” Because to me it’s obvious that ANYONE can call themselves expert, to the point where the word is meaningless anymore. What are their ACTUAL credentials? Can they prove they did the work?
There are quite a few people who spend a lot of time at the keyboard using WordPress, and who decide to take a crack at making money with it. Unfortunately many of them don’t know what they don’t know. There are actually people out there who don’t even realize WordPress isn’t run off a file system alone. People who actually believe that WordPress can be entirely managed by clicking buttons and installing plugins!
There are a lot of unwitting imposters out there who should call themselves WordPress “administrators,” and not WordPress “developers”. This has turned the WordPress economy into an unsustainable “race to the bottom,” and further perpetuates the misconception that “WordPress sucks.” It’s unfortunate for everyone involved, but especially the unwitting customer.
Imposter “developers” will load up your WordPress installation with dozens of plugins including hundreds of thousands of lines of code in order to get simple tasks done when in most cases a couple dozen lines of hand-written code would suffice. They are unaware of how these plugins and unnecessary extra code slow down your site. To “fix” a slow site, they’ll add even more plugins. Eventually your site will break, and they will hire someone else to fix it. This should not happen.
There are no official certifications to prove a “developer” status in the WordPress world, so feel free to ask your developer to see some code samples. Have they written a custom WordPress theme or plugin? They should easily be able to show you something they built from scratch, and prove it is their work.
WordPress is DIY
Absolutely! It can be! If you love to tuck into big projects and are an autodidact, go for it. That’s what I did starting in the late 1990s. I built silly blogs and simple websites, copied website features I thought were cool into my sites until they made sense, learned HTML and CSS, and finally discovered WordPress in 2003. Since then I have learned other languages, too. But let me tell you, learning how WordPress works and how to code for it didn’t happen overnight, or in weeks, or even in years. Unless you are going to study it round-the-clock for months, it is going to take years to become a WP developer.
In the meantime, I strongly recommend that everyone with a website hire help. Especially if your website is valuable to you, or an e-commerce or commercial website, hire qualified help! Also get help if you want your website:
- to rank on search engines
- to be (handicap) accessible
- to be easy-as-possible to look at and use
- to be secure and safe for you and users
- to have custom features, such as automating signups or bookkeeping
- to build a reputation and make money
These are features plugins might claim to do, but in my experience, new WordPress users regularly fail to set up plugins correctly so their site is in fact working for them. Your website should work FOR you, not against you.
There are predictable things that new WordPress users and imposter “developers” will do to a website which will absolutely negatively affect both how that website ranks on the web and how users interact with it. If you want your website to be seen and make money, hire help. Yes, there’s a slight chance that your content is so amazing or viral that your site will grow successful despite itself. (When it does, hire qualified help.) But most unmanned, unprofessional sites will simply loiter the web and corrode, ultimately diminishing someone’s reputation.
There are basically a couple levels of professional WordPress help:
- WordPress Administrators
- WordPress Developers
If you insist on not hiring a WordPress professional, it’s wise to get up to at least Administrator speed yourself. Know what the buttons do. Know when to press them. Learn where to draw the line, where to ask for help, and when to pay for help.
WordPress Definitely Does Not Suck
That’s it! I find that some foundational misunderstandings about WordPress is what causes some people to think it sucks. I believe that if it seems to suck, it’s almost always a user error. I truly believe that anything can be done with WordPress. (Somethings shouldn’t be done, but they could!) If someone tells you something can’t be done with WordPress and they’re not a high level programmer, don’t believe them — ask a programmer!
If you are frustrated with WordPress and having trouble finding answers, please get in touch. It could be that at some point you simply took a wrong turn. I’d love to get you back on the map.