Comparing WordPress and other CMSs
Why closed CMSs like Squarespace and Hubspot are better than WordPress
A question we get asked a lot is “why should we use a Squarespace or Hubspot as a CMS when WordPress allows us to do everything and is cheaper”. It’s a good question, and the answer is, while WordPress has a low barrier to entry and a lot of choices, in the end that very choice means you’ll end up with a monster of a site that is full of band-aid solutions and “temporary code” that will make management untenable.
WordPress: A myriad of choices
WordPress, like most CMSs provide people a myriad of choices of how to appear online.
Want a blog? Done.
Want to sell things online? Done.
How about showing off your best work? Yeah, you can do that too.
The best thing is that you get all these choices for practically nothing (excluding hosting and premium templates) and, because developers have built this stuff, and then people rate how useful the plugin or widget is you can easily find amazing things to put on your site.
The issue is that WordPress also allows you to, once you’ve taken these plugins into your version of WordPress, change basically everything about how things are configured and styled.
This is where the issues start. This openness invariable leads to someone saying “yeah we can do that, it’s a bit of a hack but we can”. This is how most issues with WordPress start.
The Alternative to the WordPress style
If WordPress is the Android of website building tools then closed options (like Squarespace and Hubspot) are the iOS. What I mean by this is that they are closed systems that only allow you to do certain things, in certain ways. This may sound limiting but through this comes simplicity, re-usability and scalability - all things that a year after your new website build you’ll be happy you have.
While you may not be able to get that “thing” looking exactly the way you want it, you know that blog that you’re posting, because you’re using the system the way it’s meant to be used, is getting crawled correctly by Google, is automatically being shared perfectly with your social media and is loading quickly on mobile.
These CMSs enforce best practice on you by not letting you mess with the underlying base level configuration of your site and styles.
Much in the same way an iPhone is a better choice for your 63 year old dad who wants to check “the Google” these systems suit smaller teams who don’t need all the bells and whistles.
I mean, yeah, it’s great that I can change the brightness of my Android automatically if it detects Wifi, but really, do I need to do it?
WordPress: Hidden Costs
One argument that sometimes gets overlooked in this closed vs open CMS debate is the hidden costs of WordPress. By this I don’t mean the plugin costs, because they’re usually fairly reasonable. What we mean by this is that because WordPress has so many options everything takes longer than in a closed system like Squarespace or Hubspot.
Let’s look at an example.
We have a client who have a WordPress main site and then a sub-brand site that is hosted on Squarespace. They asked us to create a landing page for their Xmas creative. We made the exact same page on both sites. The time taken on WordPress was 4 hours, the time taken on Squarespace was 30 minutes.
Now, take that example and multiply it by how many times you update your website each year - that’s a lot of money.
But what if I set up WordPress Properly?
Usually after we say to people “don’t use WordPress because in a year it will be a mess and you’ll spend all your time hacking away at it to make it work”, people say “what if we only do things properly”.
There are better ways to set up CMSs and there are less great ways but the answer to this one is fairly simple.
WordPress has a low knowledge barrier to entry yet it also provides an amazing level of up front access to change core functionality. What this means is that people, who are 100% trying their best but aren’t as technically savvy, will, over time and with more control, make mistakes. More over, more experience operators, who are working under deadlines will, knowing how to hack the system, will hack the system and put in band-aids.
The end of the story with most WordPress sites is the same. A site that has multiple styles, fonts, colours and interesting issues on different devices.
The reality is, because people can do something (whether it’s the right idea or not) means they will do it.
Most Important Point
WordPress may be appealing because of what it allows you to do (basically anything), but leave it to the experts (practitioners like Squarespace and Hubspot) and you’ll save money in the long run and you won’t need to throw your site away in two years because it has become Spaghetti.