Destroying the easy button | What WordPress can't do for you

What WordPress Can’t Do For You

We absolutely love WordPress, and we’ve pressed tens of thousands of words about why. But this article is here to help you understand what WordPress—or any content management system (CMS)—simply can’t do for you.

WordPress Can’t Build Your Site for You

It’s partly true that you can simply load WordPress with a theme and some content, and you’ve got a site; but there are a few complexities there.

Loading your site up with “some content” is a lot easier to say than to do.

First, loading your site up with “some content” is a lot easier to say than to do. You can spend literally years collecting, creating, polishing, and organizing that content. At a minimum, if it’s going to be good, you’ll probably need to spend many hours on each of those tasks. If you’re really looking to sweat the details and make a site that serves precisely the personal or business need you have, dozens of hours is quite reasonable as an estimate.

The other bit of complexity that’s easy to gloss over is that you usually can’t depend on a stock WordPress theme to work exactly the way you want your site to. Chances are good that it’ll need some tweaking—even if only the most modest amount—to really serve your needs. Again, there’s no need to demand absolute perfection, but “minor theme customizations” are a very common juncture where a supposedly short project becomes significantly bigger and more complicated.

WordPress Can’t Get Your Site Discovered

WordPress is designed to output a cleanly marked-up version of your site, just like you’d want Google to see; but there’s much more to SEO and online marketing than that.

WordPress folks (developers, for example) may try to throw you off the scent here, by talking about how WordPress has “SEO out of the box.” They aren’t lying: WordPress is designed to output a cleanly marked-up version of your site, just like you’d want Google to see. But that’s only a small part of the journey to actually getting your content discovered by real people—be they fans, customers, consumers, or readers.

So even the best content, marked up in the absolute best way for Google, is not going to automatically get you hundreds of rabid fans. Nor is your content going to rank in search without some amount of attention and interest from the outside world, which is Google’s primary way of determining search rankings in the first place.

So you need to find ways to attract eyeballs, and WordPress won’t do that for you out of the box. A pretty WordPress theme can encourage the eyeballs that happen by to stick around and spend money, but the real work of marketing belongs to you, the site owner.

WordPress Can’t Make Your Business Work

It’s tempting to think that you can just get WordPress humming along, and suddenly your business will be completely effortless and self-contained inside of it. Just about nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s tempting to think that you can just get WordPress humming along, and suddenly your business will be completely effortless and self-contained inside of it. Just about nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s take an example: an e-commerce site. It’s really tempting to think that you just need to combine WordPress and WooCommerce, and your little shop will just hum along with minimal intervention from you.

First, as we’ve covered, you’ll need to have working marketing, likely involving content creation, social media engagement, and real in-person relationship building.

Then you’ve got shipping, inventory control, pricing strategy, promotions, customer support, returns, and so on—the actual meat-and-potatoes work of running a retail business, online or not. WordPress and WooCommerce just make these things possible; they don’t remotely begin to absolve you from doing the work yourself.

WordPress Can’t Make the Web Dead-Simple

Most WordPress plugins are designed by the engineers that built them, and it shows.

WordPress has loads of quick-feature wins through its more than 30,000 plugins. When they’re well-built, well-designed, and work properly, they really can make your life easy.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Most WordPress plugins (and, arguably, WordPress core software itself), were designed by the engineers that built them, and it shows. They’re intended to be run by people with at least a little technical savvy, so if you’re scared of your computer, it’s very likely that even the most popular and usable CMS in the world (that would be WordPress) will still baffle you from time to time.

Relatedly, WordPress won’t save you from the immense complexity lurking outside its core role: publishing and displaying content. WordPress is extensible to a degree; for example, it can be coerced, by a lot of very smart people, into working as a pretty usable online store. After all, what’s an online store but publishing and displaying a lot of products, and then (the tricky part) letting people buy them?

However, as you go further afield from WordPress’s core mission, the oases of WordPress easiness become less and less frequent. Eventually (say, if you’re building Airbnb from the ground up), WordPress is actually a hindrance to you, and you’re 100% in the realm of smart people being paid lots of money to think about hard problems.

In Conclusion…

We love WordPress, with all our hearts. But no one can be all things to all people, except Beyoncé. WordPress is great, but it’s no Beyoncé, and the clearer we are on that, the more we can love WordPress for what it is.

Thanks for reading. Agree with our assessment about WordPress’s limitations? Or disagree? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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4 Responses to What WordPress Can’t Do For You

  1. Pingback: What WordPress Can't Do | WPShout.com

  2. Ranuka says:

    Oh… rellay unique post Fred.

    Every blogger write about what you can do with WordPress. This is first time I read this type of post.

  3. Joe Loffredo says:

    Nice article! It helps people understand the work involved, or rather, how if you don’t do the work, things are not going to magically happen on their own.

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