News

The Hidden Costs of WordPress

Posted on: 27/06/2017

Given that 27% of the internet is powered by WordPress, there is no doubt that it is the most prominent content management system out there. Many of our clients are familiar with the brand and specifically request the platform due to its widespread popularity. 
 
Indeed, some WordPress starter themes are easy to implement and look great, with a setup cost that is cheaper than a bespoke build. They allow a user with less development expertise to get a website up and running relatively quickly, using plugins to add extra features. However, problems often arise quite suddenly at a later date when they need updating, and the associated expense of maintaining a WordPress website can often end up costing considerably more in the long term. Although the front-end might look okay, typically the websites are not very well optimised and a professional bespoke build with the same content would almost always out-rank a WordPress site. 
 
An example of this is Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care’s WordPress website, which had been worked on over the years by a range of developers. The company approached us in 2016 with a platform riddled with out of date plugins, unnecessary legacy code and excessive bloat, resulting in slow load speed and a difficult user experience for their customers. To rectify the problem, we managed to clean up the server and replicate the website to a staging server in order to update the plugins and streamline the code and styling with Sass. However, going forward we would normally always recommend clients opt for the initial cost of a bespoke build to save such an extreme rebuild further down the line.
 
A potential option that we’ve used in the past are frameworks such as Sage, which allows developers to use regular, non-WordPress processes and tools to develop themes and make development easier and more streamlined. However, in order to implement Sass it overrides the functionality of WordPress and uses build-tools like gulp or webpack inside the public theme directory, which should be avoided. Sage also doesn’t support child themes, making it difficult to carry out multiple website updates and manage technical debt.
 
Many WordPress themes are powered by Bootstrap, which is a front-end framework and includes user interface components such as buttons, navigation and typography templates. Written by a large community, there is a lot of unwanted code included which requires an override in styling and a long term increase in workload and maintenance.
 
Due to the continued client-led demand for us to use WordPress, our in-house team of digital product designers and engineers decided to create our own minimal component based framework with core functionality baked in from the start. The outcome is ‘Maxfactor’, which produces an ultra efficient and lightweight starter theme that has the starting blocks most often required for a new website build. It has a compiled output, maintaining full WordPress compatibility and the inclusion of child themes whilst working like a software as a service that can push updates into the core framework. 
 
As a result, the entire Dewsign team have a thorough understanding of how Maxfactor is built and should be maintained. Our complete code base history makes it possible to update and maintain multiple websites, whilst reducing dependencies on other out of house developers. We have a fantastic framework which makes development clean, performance optimised, professional and cost-effective, with a wide variety of front-end styles and plugins.