Is Your Website Built Using A WordPress Template?
Key things to watch out for….
WordPress is a very popular website building tool, indeed over 20% of all websites and blogs use it as a platform. This is also the case for a lot of dental websites where designers have chosen WordPress as their tool of choice.
However, as we’ve covered previously in the Dental Media blog, there are as many if not more downsides to using WordPress as there are advantages. Too many dentists simply accept what they are told and often simply fall into a WordPress website rather than fully understanding the implications before they sign up to the designer’s services.
With this in mind, here is a listing of the key pros and cons of using WordPress for your dental surgery website to help you make an informed decision before you use it.
Main Advantages of WordPress:
- A free platform which is widely used and supported
- Many thousands of websites providing free or inexpensive pre-built templates to get you going quickly – as little as $40 for a “pro” theme
- Lots of “plugins” to extend the functionality of the platform, from contact forms to ecommerce and more
- A broad user-community and design community
- Integrated blog alongside website pages
Main Disadvantages of WordPress:
- A poor track record for being hacked – WordPress is the most hacked web platform by a long way
- Maintenance intensive. To try to keep the platform secure, WordPress needs updating numerous times per year
- In line with the maintenance requirement, expensive service contracts are often necessary
- Pre-purchased templates can look very “samey” and not a bespoke feel
- Without a lot of development intervention, templated WordPress websites can be very poor from a technical perspective. This impacts on SEO and usability
- Themes can become outdated and “break” when the core WordPress engine updates – this is a regular occurrence
- Similar to the design themes, the plugins which WordPress relies on can fall into disrepair, break the website, or worse get hacked
- The content management system which allows users to edit the site content is not as easy to use as many designers might have you believe
- Designers tend to make a huge profit margin by making websites quickly using pre-purchased templates and marking up many fold – most WordPress websites are not truly bespoke
So do you invest in a WordPress website or use an alternative?
I think the key to this is if you are prepared to pay a lot of money to have a truly bespoke WordPress site built i.e. not a commercial template, and then if you are prepared to spend significant amounts of money on ongoing maintenance to keep the site up-to-date and secure. WordPress is definitely not “fire and forget”.
What tends to happen is that designers who use WordPress will try to tie their clients into quite expensive service contracts. However, even the most comprehensive of these often fall short simply because the designer may not know when the theme or plugin they used will become defunct and no longer maintained by the third-party developer. This is when so many sites fall into disrepair and either get hacked or break. Indeed, we’ve helped numerous dentists when their sites have broken, even where they’ve been paying large monthly maintenance fees to other designers.
From a technical performance perspective, WordPress is often very poor when combined with pre-purchased themes. This is simply because the theme contains lots of unnecessary elements which drag load speed etc right down. Most designers won’t have the wherewithal or inclination to address this so launch the site anyway in a non-optimised form. The site owner doesn’t really see the problem because they typically view it on a fast connection. However, if you evaluate against Google’s guidelines and using Google’s testing tools, you will find that most of these types of websites perform really badly and often in the lower decile of all performance grading.
Of course it is possible to build good websites using WordPress but please be aware that to do so requires a lot of intervention, both to make them truly unique as well as performing well and keeping them secure. It’s the initial finesse and ongoing work aspects which so many owners don’t appreciate and this is where they ultimately get caught out when using WordPress.
What are the alternatives?
If you want a quick and easy website then WordPress coupled with a commercial theme is likely your best option. But please don’t pay over the odds for this! Many designers take the quick and easy route and still sell the finished product for many thousands of pounds; even though the development time was relatively minor.
Another sensible route that many of our clients take is to allow us to build the website and then carry out the maintenance for them. These sites are truly bespoke and don’t suffer the maintenance issues that come along with WordPress sites. Plus they never get hacked. In most cases, you will spend much less on website maintenance using this strategy than you would paying monthly for essential WordPress maintenance.
There are also hosted website solutions primarily aimed at DIY website builders, for example Squarespace and WIX, but as we’ve covered elsewhere, these are not really recommended solutions for businesses wanting a professional and flexible web presence.
Key learning points
To summarise, here are the key issues to consider when considering a WordPress website:
- quick and easy to get up and running – but look out for design companies charging way over the odds
- typically poor technical performance, particularly where commercial themes have been used
- be prepared to invest to get a truly bespoke development
- understand and budget for essential ongoing maintenance to keep the site functional and secure from hacking
- the website may still break when components outside of the designers control become defunct and are no longer maintained
- don’t expect to be able to use the content management system other than for very simple changes – web experience is required
If you are considering a new website for your dental practice and have heard about WordPress but aren’t sure if it will meet your needs, please get in touch with the web team at Dental Media to discuss the pros and cons in more detail – you can reach us on 01332 672548 and we’ll be pleased to go through the options.Google+