WordPress is one of the world’s most brilliant open source software applications. Boasting a 41% market share, it’s clearly become the world’s favorite content management system (CMS).
Favorite or not, WordPress isn’t the end-all-be-all solution for every website. In terms of being the go-to solution for businesses, it might be time for WordPress to take a backseat to other platforms.
Before getting into why, let’s look at the history of WordPress and how it changed the world. Then, we’ll explore where it falls short and how platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Squarespace do better.
- A brief history of WordPress
- May 2003 – WordPress launches
- May 2004 – WordPress adopts plugin architecture
- February 2005
- June 2010
- 2011, 2012, and 2013
- Why WordPress is no longer the ideal CMS
- Plugins make WordPress less ideal for online businesses
- eCommerce platforms outperform WordPress where it counts most
- Simplicity is king
- Need an eCommerce website? We’ll build it for you
A brief history of WordPress
A blogging platform called b2/cafelog (later called b2evolution) was set to be a reliable alternative to Blogger, which was full of bugs. However, two b2 users named Mat Mullenweg and Mike Little were inspired to make something even better.
Mullenweg and Little had been using b2/cafelog for a long time and wanted to create a comparable content management system for bloggers, but better. At the time, they didn’t know how big their project would get.
May 2003 – WordPress launches
Mullenweg and Little launched the first version of WordPress on May 27, 2003. It boasted all of the features found in b2/cafelog and Blogger, but with additional improvements.
At this time, WordPress was a simple blogging platform with basic features, a few templates, and a simple post editor.
May 2004 – WordPress adopts plugin architecture
WordPress version 1.2 added plugin architecture that was embraced by users worldwide. Being open source, developers jumped at the chance to extend WordPress’ functionality by writing custom plugins.
At this time, the creators of another blogging platform called Moveable Type introduced unfavorable licensing terms that drove even more users to WordPress.
The company, Six Apart, introduced two versions of Moveable type – a free version with limited features that prohibited commercial use and a paid version with more features designed for commercial use.
Many users rejected the licensing terms and moved to WordPress. Not only was WordPress free – it was easier to install and use, so they never looked back.
WordPress 1.5 introduced Pages in addition to Posts, the ability to moderate comments, and a new theme system. This was the first release to come with the famous Akismet spam control plugin. This release also made the platform more dynamic by isolating the header, footer, and sidebars into separate PHP files.
In December 2005, a new admin dashboard was launched that included the ability to add and edit categories and tags within the post editor.
The WordPress admin interface got a professional facelift by a web design company called Happy Cog after an in-depth usability study.
Other notable additions included one-click updates, automatic plugin installs, and the use of shortcodes.
WordPress 3.0 was released with features that began turning WordPress into the ultimate content management system. New features included:
- Custom taxonomies
- Custom background images
- Custom headers
- Custom menus
- Custom post types
- Contextual help on various screens throughout the admin panel
2011, 2012, and 2013
As time went on, newly released features kept making WordPress better. In 2011, the floating admin bar appeared on every page for logged-in users. Other additions included eCommerce plugins and post formats.
eCommerce plugins were a game-changer in 2011, since it was previously difficult to launch an online store without hiring a professional developer. There were no simple, affordable, user-friendly, out-of-the-box eCommerce platforms at the time.
By 2012, user-friendly image galleries appeared along with theme previews. And, by 2013, WordPress became the world’s most popular CMS.
Since 2013, WordPress releases have included phenomenal features, and you can find an endless number of well-built, stunning themes. There’s no doubt that WordPress a powerful platform. However, the business needs of today have outgrown its original design.
Why WordPress is no longer the ideal CMS
Why would such a powerful, dynamic CMS no longer be ideal for businesses? The answer is multi-faceted, and it doesn’t apply to all businesses. Generally speaking, it’s eCommerce businesses that no longer fully benefit from using WordPress.
This doesn’t mean you can’t run an online business on WordPress – you can. In fact, running a business on WordPress is easy and relatively simple. However, for eCommerce businesses, there are better options.
Plugins make WordPress less ideal for online businesses
There’s no denying that WordPress is a fantastic platform for businesses. If you can follow simple directions, you can install WordPress yourself. You can also buy and install your own theme, install all the plugins you need, and populate your content through a visual editor.
However, when it comes to eCommerce, plugins can unnecessarily complicate an online store. The core WordPress installation comes with limited features that don’t include the ability to run an eCommerce store. If you want to run an online store using WordPress, you’ll need to install a least one plugin, but probably more.
While there are plenty of eCommerce plugins for WordPress, each plugin you add to your installation does three things:
- Increases your risk of a cyberattack by expanding your website’s attack surface. Anytime you install a plugin, you have to constantly stay on top of updates. If you don’t update a plugin, you risk getting hacked. Even with an updated plugin, you risk falling victim to a zero-day exploit.
- Complicates how you’ll need to manage your website. Although WordPress is easy to use, plugins have their own administrative systems. It’s all located inside your admin panel, but you’ll need to learn your way around the plugin.
While plugin admin tools are usually easy to use, being contained within your WordPress admin panel or WordPress multisite admin makes them harder to use than a CMS that comes with eCommerce features built into the platform.
- Impacts your website performance. Each plugin you add to your website will create a heavier load on your web server, which can slow down your website.
Granted, not all plugins will drag your site down. However, if you need 20 plugins to meet all of your website needs, you can guarantee your site will be slower than it would be without all the plugins.
Although there are WordPress plugins made by popular eCommerce platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify, the CMS platforms will perform better than the plugins for WordPress. This is where today’s eCommerce platforms come into play.
eCommerce platforms outperform WordPress where it counts most
Usability is the main reason platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Squarespace outperform WordPress for eCommerce businesses.
In simple terms, usability makes it possible to edit and update your website without a developer. Easy-to-use eCommerce platforms give business owners several advantages in their business, including:
- 24/7 support. At some point, you’ll need some help with your website. For instance, you might get stuck adding new products to the proper categories or changing prices.
WordPress doesn’t come with any official support. However, when you’re using a platform like Shopify, you’ll have access to technical support 24/7.
- No need for any technical knowledge. With platforms like BigCommerce, you don’t ever need any technical knowledge. If something goes wrong with your website, you can call tech support to troubleshoot and fix the issue – even if it’s an issue with your web server and not your shop.
All-in-one eCommerce platforms are hosted, which means you don’t have to manage your own hosting account. Your platform is your hosting provider, so any web server issues you have will be resolved through the same company.
Running your eCommerce business on WordPress website with eCommerce plugins will eventually require some technical knowledge, even if only slight. At some point, you’ll bump into something that doesn’t work and you’ll need to use some technical knowledge to fix the issue.
For instance, you might install a plugin that conflicts with another plugin and breaks your website. This is common. If you can’t access your admin panel, you’ll need to deactivate your plugins from your file manager by renaming the folders one at a time until you identify the culprit. If you don’t know how to do this, you’ll have to call a developer for help.
It doesn’t matter if a WordPress installation running a Shopify plugin performs exactly like a genuine Shopify store – the hosted Shopify store will be easier to manage.
Simplicity is king
Some business professionals say WordPress is better than Shopify, but they’re focused on theme variety. Regarding your website’s aesthetics, simplicity is king.
While you have virtually endless theme options with WordPress, you don’t need a fancy theme to be successful. In fact, research has shown that plain websites convert better than elaborate, complex websites.
You’d be surprised at how much you can increase your conversion rate and revenue by simplifying your site’s design.
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