This article is part of our ButterCMS vs WordPress Series
As we saw in the previous article, in a typical project journey with WordPress, getting WordPress to look and behave the way you want it to look and behave will involve a great deal of customization (i.e. developer) work. This time spent customizing WordPress is time your developers could be working on more important core problems that will drive revenue. Looked at this way, WordPress is a cost-sink. But this isn’t the way most people think of WordPress. Why? There are several WordPress fallacies that obscure the true costs of using WordPress as your CMS. This article explores WordPress fallacies and shows how ButterCMS is a better solution for your CMS needs.
WordPress Fallacy #1: We don’t need a developer
The first WordPress fallacy goes something like this: “Themes and plugins allow me, the marketer, to do everything I need to do to set up CMS. I don’t need a developer at all.”
This fallacy is based on a mistaken premise: that a marketer can, with a few simple clicks, choose a theme, add some plugins, and voila - a functional blog that fits into the existing website and behaves precisely how you want it to behave. In practice, this simply isn’t true.
You’ll always need a developer to customize WordPress, fix plugins, and do other work to ensure that your WordPress site behaves exactly as you want it to behave.
Since you’ll need a developer no matter what, this leads to a number of other questions:
- What is a better process or system for them? Is it to work in a system they may not be comfortable with (like WordPress’s underlying millions of lines of code), or is it to work in a language they already love working with?
- Which tech stack (WordPress or their own) will they be more proficient (read: cost savings) with? Which will they enjoy more?
- Which CMS - WordPress or headless - will do more for them (maintenance, scaling, hosting) and free up their time for more important and more interesting work?
The answer to all of these questions is that a headless CMS is likely your optimal solution. It means your developers can work with a tech stack they already love, meaning they’ll be more satisfied and efficient. Developers are less likely to push back when they are working with something they already love, and the marketing team will have an easier time working with happy developers. And developer time saved is a huge benefit from a cost perspective.
The reason ButterCMS exists is because the WordPress architecture isn’t optimal for every scenario. In fact, it’s suboptimal for scenarios where you want full control over the presentation layer (i.e. design of your website) and deep integration with your existing tech stack. In other words, once you have a need beyond hosting a simple WordPress install and purchasing an off-the-shelf WordPress theme, you enter into a scenario where diving into the guts of WordPress becomes required.
Below we’ll be reviewing in-depth some of the problems with WordPress and how a headless CMS solves these problems.
The problems with WordPress
When an off-the-shelf template and basic plugins aren’t going to make your blog look and behave the way you need it to look and behave, some of the problems of WordPress become more obvious.
WordPress is bloated
A complaint that developers often raise about WordPress is that it’s bloated. They aren’t wrong. WordPress has been around for 15 years and has amassed over 1.5 million lines of code. Its themes have additional thousands of lines of code. And it isn’t just the sheer amount of code your developers have to work through if you stick with WordPress. The bloated nature of WordPress means that it can be slow.
When discussing WordPress with ButterCMS, many customers have concerns about WordPress’s speed: “We've historically used WordPress REST/JSON APIs (with the front-end disabled) for the comfort of our writers but are finding it is having significant impact on page load times because the API is slow, isn't really customizable and we are limited in the ways we can query it.”
WordPress requires a lot of security upkeep
WordPress is open source software, which means it is especially vulnerable to hostile attacks. It’s certainly possible to do everything you can to protect your WordPress site from malware or hacking, but it requires a significant investment of time and resources to do so. As an example, here’s a 2018 guide to keeping WordPress secure (warning: it’s long). Failure to keep WordPress updated can open up your site to significant security vulnerabilities that can create real costs (developer time spent dealing with the security breach, paying ransomware, losing business while the site is down).
WordPress Fallacy #2: WordPress is “free”
WordPress has a lack of transparency about total cost of ownership
One of the biggest draws of WordPress is that it’s free. But is it really?
The short, WordPress sales pitch answer is, “yes.” It’s not a lie: you can get the files you need to set up WordPress and run it -- on a basic level -- for free. However, when you are using WordPress in any way other than a very simple blogging tool with minimal to no customization, the total cost of ownership is significantly more than $0.00.
As we’ve already discussed, developer time is a significant cost if you want to customize WordPress to match your existing site. Some simple math will tell you the approximate cost of having a developer (even a freelance developer) dive into WordPress to customize it for you by ripping out the parts you don’t need, fixing buggy plugins, etc. If it takes three full weeks (a conservative estimate) to customize your WordPress blog, take those 120 hours and multiply it by the developer’s rate. Suddenly you’re looking at thousands of dollars just to get your WordPress site to play nice with your existing site.
On top of that, there are other “hidden costs” associated with WordPress once you step outside the off-the-shelf templates and basic hosting. This article does a great job of shining a light on some of those hidden costs which include, but are not limited to:
- Domain registration
- Premium theme
- Premium plugins
- Developer fees
- Security services
- Storage and backups
Most critically, WordPress’s “free” model doesn’t take into account the most invaluable resource you have: time. Software is only really free if you don’t value your time.
A Butter solution
Puns aside, ButterCMS was created to be a better solution for your CMS needs. Butter is a professional, scalable platform that allows you to smoothly integrate CMS into your existing tech stack in a matter of minutes. Butter handles the infrastructure side of things so you aren’t wading through a DevOps nightmare when your site starts to grow. Butter also offers professional support, including 24/7 chat support, integration help, and more.
Additionally, you don’t have to worry about the hidden costs of WordPress with Butter. Here’s how Butter compares on the hidden costs of WordPress:
WordPress Hidden Cost
No cost - use your existing domain
No cost - nothing to host
No cost - Butter doesn’t require them
No cost - Butter doesn’t require them
Butter secures the CMS platform, saving you time and headaches
Storage and Backups
Butter handles all of it for you, freeing up developer time
And by saving you time and the opportunity costs that come with time spent customizing and worrying about WordPress, Butter offers you peace of mind and the opportunity to do more interesting and profitable things.
How to switch to ButterCMS
At this point, Butter might seem like the right ingredient for your website. But how do you get started with Butter? We’ve laid out a few scenarios depending on where you are.
No existing WordPress site
If you don’t have an existing WordPress site, you can give Butter a try for free here. You can get setup in minutes and start publishing content.
You already have a WordPress site
Butter can help you transition from WordPress to ButterCMS with no switching costs. You’ll just need to follow a few simple steps:
- Send us your export. You can access this here: https://en.support.wordpress.com/export/. We handle importing everything (text, seo meta, categories, images, etc.)
- You implement Butter into your site
- Implement URL redirects (optional)
- If your blog is on a subdomain (blog.yoursite.com) you will want to implement 301 redirects to your new improves URLs
- Butter lets you keep your same blog URL slugs (i.e. blog-post-slug). The difference (and one that will improve your SEO a great deal) is that you will switch from blog.example.com/blog-post-slug to example.com/blog/blog-post-slug
- If you’re currently on a blog subdomain (like on WordPress), you can find a WordPress plugin that helps with 301 redirects
You are using a non-WordPress CMS
You can also make the switch to Butter from other CMS systems out there. If you’re using something like Hubspot or Medium, the switch to Butter is just as easy. Send us your export file and we’ll handle the rest.
A smooth transition
Butter was built to make developers lives easier. By extension, using Butter instead of a traditional CMS like WordPress will save your team time, headaches, and money. WordPress has been around for 15 years at this point, and while it is often the default CMS for businesses and individuals, it may not be the right fit for you. Butter is a modern approach to CMS and will save you from having to churn through customization and security headaches.