Top 10 Misconceptions About Websites in WordPress

Ever since I adopted WordPress as my website development platform of choice back the spring of 2008, I have heard some crazy notions with regard to what WordPress is and is not, what it can and cannot do, and whether or not it’s a “proper” way to build a website. Let’s debunk the most common misconceptions about websites in WordPress now, shall we?

#1: WordPress is just a blogging platform.

Granted, WordPress started out as a blogging platform, sure enough. But in the years since, WordPress has become a full-blown content management system able to handle an ever increasing variety of website requirements, all while retaining its strength as a solid blogging tool. Undoubtedly, this is one of the greatest factors in its popularity and growth.

#2: All sites built in WordPress have that “WordPress look” to them.

Again, back in the day, this might have been true. But, certainly no longer! Does this site have that “WordPress look”? Or this one? ‘Nough said.

#3: Hosting your own WordPress site is expensive.

First of all, “expensive” is a relative term. What is expensive? For the purposes of this discussion, let’s say anything over $100/year is “expensive”. Then…hosting your own WordPress site is not expensive, as you can do so for less (sometimes way less, depending on your host) than $100 all day long and half the night.

WordPress, itself, is free. Yes, you read that correctly: FREE.

All you have to pay for to have a self-hosted WordPress site is a domain name (currently @ $12/year) and a hosting account. (I personally have several hosting accounts. The least expensive of which is only $30/year. The others are still less than $100/year, and yes, they are shared hosting accounts. VPNs and dedicated servers will obviously cost more, but when you’re just starting out, you likely won’t need any of that.)

Getting your site like you want it might require hiring the services of a web developer like myself, depending on what you want and how technically savvy you are, but the actual hosting of your own site is not expensive.

#4: The more plugins you install, the slower your site is.

Technically true, but then again…

The speed of your site depends more on the quality of the code involved than the quantity. I’ve seen creepy-slow sites with less than a dozen plugins installed, and I’ve seen fairly zippy sites with over 40 plugins installed. So, obviously, there are other speed factors at play than simply the number of plugins installed.

Because WordPress is open source software and developers – of all skill levels – all over the world can contribute plugins, there is a wide variance in the quality of the plugins found in the WordPress plugin repository. Yes, they go through a review process before being added to the repository, but there’s still a variance. Some plugins are written efficiently, and others are not, and there’s really no way to tell for sure except to try them out.

One thing that can help you find out where the “slow” parts of your site are is a plugin (developed by GoDaddy, amazingly enough) called P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler). This plugin creates a profile of your WordPress site’s plugins’ performance by measuring their impact on your site’s load time. I’ll warn you, though – the output report this plugin generates is fairly technical in nature. But if you run it once, then deactivate a plugin you suspect may be slowing down your site, then run the P3 report again, you can tell – even without being particularly tech savvy – whether the removal of the plugin in question improved things, or not. (And of course, you can always contact me for help.)

Some good rules regarding plugins are:

  • Make each plugin earn its keep. (If it’s no longer needed, remove it.)
  • Get your plugins from reputable sources offering support.
  • Regularly review the plugins you have installed, and once again, make them earn their keep.

#5: It’s ok to ignore upgrades to WordPress, themes and plugins.

Uhhh…NO! It is most definitely NOT ok to ignore the upgrades available. Especially when you know WHY there are such frequent updates to them: Security fixes!!

Let’s face it, the rate of change on the web is pretty breathless. There’s a vicious circle that exists on the web, and you’re caught in it, whether you know it, or not.

Reputable companies and service providers of all sizes diligently work to make the web a safer place for you and your site. And as soon as someone develops the latest, greatest security measure…some little knothead out there in cyberspace decides to see if they can hack it, break it, or get around it…sometimes with malicious intent, sometimes just to see if they can.

Then, the reputable company/service provider releases an upgrade to close that security hole, and the dance begins again.

So, really, we ought to be jumping for joy every time we see an upgrade available, because most of the time, security is the reason behind it.

Want your site to remain safe and secure? Keep up with your updates, or let me keep your site secure for you.

This falls under the category of preventable disasters, folks.

#6: It’s ok to leave deactivated plugins and unused themes installed.

Adding to #5, it’s not ok to leave deactivated plugins and unused themes installed…unless you’re going to keep them upgraded, that is. Better to just remove them if you’re not using them.

#7: WordPress doesn’t scale.

This one is so untrue, it’s actually funny. Here are some BIG sites running on WordPress:

WordPress.com, itself, has over 35 million blogs within it…yeah…35 MILLION. I’d say WordPress scales pretty well, wouldn’t you?

#8: WordPress isn’t the right platform for an e-commerce site.

Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, this might have been true. But not anymore. Today, there are themes specifically designed to make e-commerce easy with all kinds of features (payment gateways, etc.) built right in.

PremiumPress.com offers such themes, for instance. I have used a couple of their themes, and I’m here to tell you – they are powerful! Want to run an Amazon affiliate site? You can literally add hundreds of Amazon products to your site, all coded with your Amazon Associates ID, with just a few clicks. And this is just one example!

There are also great plugins that make e-commerce easy. WP-ecommerce is the most popular free option, but there are others, like ECWID, for example. In the premium plugin category, my favorite with great features, documentation and support, is Cart66.

E-commerce sites in WordPress can be visually appealing, too, just in case you thought you had to trade looks for functionality. Check out this site, and this site. (Both done by moi, of course.)

#9: WordPress has little to no documentation.

Yeah, right. Anyone telling you this has been living under a rock, I assure you. If the WordPress Codex and support forums aren’t enough for you, wade through these book options or videos.

#10: There’s only so much SEO you can do on a WordPress site without diving into code.

This one probably comes from web developers who know diddly squat about WordPress, to be quite frank. Most often, SEO on WordPress sites is accomplished through the use of a plugin, but in the last couple of years, I’ve seen an increase in the number of premium themes with SEO capabilities built-in.

I do SEO on WordPress sites all the time and have not had to dive into code yet. For anyone who wants to tell you your SEO is limited because you’re on WordPress, send ’em to Yoast.com to be schooled in WordPress SEO.

So, there you have ’em – my top 10 common misconceptions about websites in WordPress. Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments below.

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