A regular question on web development forums, Reddit, as well as business owners and clients is “What are the pros and cons of using WordPress to make a website in 2021?“.
In this article, I will give you a better insight into the WordPress pros and cons in web design, debuff some common myths about using WordPress, and show you, why it is one of our favorite CMS at xApption.
I will also list some reasons you might NOT want to use it for your website project and some alternative approaches.
Disclaimer: Throughout the article, I am referring to self-hosted WordPress from wordpress.org (NOT
If you are impatient, skip straight to the pros and cons of WordPress here or use the table of contents
Content Management Systems
A Content Management System (CMS) allows you – as the name suggests – to manage the content on your site without having to directly edit the source code of each file individually.
This is especially helpful for non-coders, business owners, and businesses with many content contributors.
WordPress and other CMS are extremely flexible and allow users to build anything from simple one-pagers to complex web applications, online shops, membership sites, and even social networks.
This includes creating new posts, pages, uploading images and files, or managing users.
So-called themes provide the overall styling and structure to your sites, while plugins and extensions add functionality. (Depending on the CMS, these terms might differ, but the concepts are the same.)
WordPress is an open-source software that runs on top of web servers and provides a central place for site owners to add and edit content.
It was initially released in 2003 and as of the time of writing this article (March 2021), we are currently on version 5.7.
It does not require any coding knowledge, however, developers have the ability to programmatically add almost any feature they like to their sites.
While offering countless customization options, WordPress has long suffered from the accusation that it makes websites bloated, slow, or insecure.
So what are the pros and cons of using WordPress to build your website?
Pros of using WordPress
1 It’s Free
It’s simple: No matter the size of your company or website, the WordPress software is free to use and will always be.
2 Open Source
WordPress is open source and distributed under the GPL2+ license. This means you can alter and redistribute the code as you wish.
The same holds for any products and add-ons connected to WordPress, such as themes and plugins (even premium ones!).
Open Source also means that the code has been checked for vulnerability or any harmful features by independent developers over and over.
In times of data privacy and protection, it is good to know what the software you’re using does and looks like.
3 You own your site assets
This is something that sets WordPress apart from managed solutions like Shopify or SquareSpace.
At the end of the day, you personally own all the data that’s on your server and are free to do with it, whatever you want.
It also means easy migration when switching hosts or even (but why would you) CMS. All your content is stored in your database and due to the GPL2+ license, you basically own your copy of the WordPress software.
4 No Vendor Lock-In
Similar to the ownership aspect, you are also not locked into any specific provider.
You may exchange your theme, plugins, web host or domain registrar freely and WordPress does not care.
5 No coding required
You don’t need to be a programmer to use WordPress efficiently (but it helps).
There is a plugin available for pretty much everything you can imagine on the WordPress.org repository or from third-party suppliers.
Good WordPress themes will offer you styling and structure out of the box, while default content blocks and page builder plugins allow you to style every part of your site.
Of course, coding skills do help and allow developers to add custom features to their sites with ease.
6 No configuration needed
Just like you don’t need any coding skills, WordPress works without a long configuration process.
Install the software on your own VPS or through an auto-installer provided by your hosting company and start adding content to your site.
All within 5 minutes.
7 Highly adaptive
Arguably one of the most important features that sets WordPress apart from all other CMS and other solutions is its adaptability.
Through themes, plugins, extensions, and custom post types you can add any functionality that you desire to your site.
There are thousands of themes and plugins available for free on the WordPress repository and many more premium ones by third-party providers.
From plain text and images to videos, sliders, animations, shopping or membership features…Anything you can imagine, WordPress probably offers an integration for it.
At xApption, we use this to quickly add features to client sites without having to custom code everything from scratch.
You will see that many of the other pros (and cons) of using WordPress are based on this extensibility.
You can make WordPress websites look however you want.
It offers out of the box menu options, colors, file uploads and complete page building capabilities.
Plugin and theme developers constantly implement the newest trends in web design into their products to make sure users can create visually striking websites.
9 Actively maintained
WordPress is actively maintained and improved by a large group of developers in the open source community and companies.
This means that every new release adds new features to the software and ensures that the technology keeps evolving.
As of the writing of this article, stable version 5.7 was just released.
10 Cheap hosting solutions
You will find incredibly cheap hosting options for any website size, from shared to managed or self-managed VPS.
This means you can start hosting your website for less than 5$ per month.
While this is great for beginners to start out using cheap options, it is also one of the drawbacks of using a system like WordPress (see below).
If you want to do your WordPress hosting right, from the start, check out my advanced WordPress hosting guide.
11 Optimized for SEO
Search Engine Optimization is the bread and butter of many websites nowadays.
WordPress is great for SEO because:
- It allows you to add lots of content easily and frequently (Google likes that)
- Plugins can help you optimize you keyword strategy and meta descriptions (Google likes that, too)
- It gives your website a valid structure which is optimal for search engines (yes, Google likes that very much)
12 Community Support
WordPress itself offers extensive documentation on its software.
In addition, there is a large and active community on forums, social media, and other platforms that provide feedback and support.
You will find answers to anything WordPress related in very little time.
WordPress themes are responsive and mobile-friendly out of the box. Install a theme you like and know that it looks nice on any screen size.
Our Success Theme, for instance, features fully responsive design, mobile-first code, and mobile integration for a number of popular WordPress plugins like Woocommerce.
Shop plugins like Woocommerce and Easy Digital Downloads turn your website into an online shop with a few clicks.
No API coding required, payment gateways ready to use and customizable shop pages right away and free to use.
In contrast to other hosted solutions, WordPress does not charge for the shopping features per se and let’s you have full control over your shop.
15 Countless Integrations
Due to its huge popularity, most developers have made sure their products work together with WordPress in one way or the other.
There is a good chance that you will find integrations for all your other software tools in the repository or elsewhere.
Payment gateways, automation software, finance and marketing tools are all available at your disposal.
16 Great for Automation
Not only does WordPress provide countless third-party integrations, it is also great for easily automating your business.
In our case, for example, we extend WordPress with a shopping and membership plugin to sell our plugins, themes and other products.
Each purchase is automatically sent over to our bookkeeping software through a third-party plugin.
We can completely focus on our products and offering you a great user experience on our site. The rest is done for us.
If you want to fully automate your business operations online, talk to us and we will get you up and running in no-time.
17 Many contributors
With all the third party developers each focusing on their own products, the WordPress team can focus entirely on moving the core features forward without needing to build individual functionality.
This means less responsibility for each party and faster development.
18 Unlimited collaboration
In contrast to many other managed solutions, WordPress allows you to add as many users and collaborators as you like to your site.
You can also assign them specific roles like administrator, editor, translator or writer without paying for additional users.
19 It looks good
This is another huge advantage of WordPress over similar solutions. The admin dashboard looks clean and inviting.
Plugins and themes offer custom settings pages that make working with WordPress not only easy but fun.
And we all know that if you enjoy working on something, you will be better and more productive.
20 It’s here to stay
WordPress has an incredibly market share in the CMS world, as well as the web technology market.
Companies may fail, but WordPress is here to stay for a long time.
Therefore, you can set up your site and sleep at ease knowing that your site will still function in a year from now.
Cons of using WordPress
1 Need for maintenance
WordPress needs to be properly maintained, updated and cared for to run smoothly and not pose a security risk for your site and your customers.
99% of all hacks and other site failures can be traced back to failure to perform necessary updates and using outdated plugins and themes.
Once your WordPress integrations become out of date, they are HIGHLY vulnerable to hackers, bugs, viruses and malware.
The common myth that WordPress is insecure comes from the fact that many simply don’t take the necessary steps to ensure they run well-maintained websites.
Granted, it can be a bit tedious to update all plugins, themes and the WordPress core at all times, but that’s a small price to pay for a secure website.
If you don’t want to take care of maintenance yourself or need help doing so, check out our WordPress maintenance service and talk to us about your personal plan. 🙂
2 Large overhead
Another common accusation is that WordPress makes your site slow.
Is this true? The answer is: Sort of.
WordPress is a software running constantly on top of the web server and requires frequent database calls to deliver dynamic content.
Of course, this is slower than serving static HTML files.
On the other hand, dynamic features simply require processing power and database queries.
Without it, no online store, appointment tool or messaging service could function properly.
Despite this, many large corporations, online stores, and highly-frequented websites serve hundreds of thousands of visitors per month on WordPress.
They can’t all be wrong.
Poor performance, in most cases, is caused by too many or poorly coded plugins, unnecessary overhead, and just plain confusion of their respective owner.
First, you need to evaluate your use cases and determine if you are using the right tools.
If all you want is write articles every now and then, display your opening hours or have people contact you via email or phone WordPress could very well be overkill.
As a matter of fact, it probably is.
If you have an online shop, members, or display a lot of dynamic data, then WordPress is a very good option.
Here are a few quick tips for taking care of most of your page speed issues:
1) Use as few plugins as possible, and as many as necessary.
Buy plugins from reputable developers, don’t use anything that isn’t absolutely necessary, and make sure form follows function.
2) Check if all plugins and your theme work together smoothly
Our very own Success Theme offers integrations for the most popular page builders, Woocommerce, Memberpress, BuddyPress, dozens of block libraries, and more.
3) Limit the use of heavy Page Builder plugins
Many websites use page builders like Elementor, Brizzy, Beaver Builder or Thrive Architect.
These plugins have seen an astronomical increase in users for the last three to four years, not least by heavy endorsement by the biggest WordPress affiliate marketers.
These are incredibly versatile tools that allow users to create stunning websites without a line of code using drag and drop elements.
However, many of them are poorly coded and add A LOT of unwanted bloat to a site. Limit their use as much as possible and instead use block libraries and core WordPress features.
3 Poor Hosting
Large hosting companies and affiliate marketers like to repeat the mantra that you can host any WordPress site on 2.95$ shared starter plans (which magically turn into 10-15$ ones after a certain period of time).
The truth is: Yes, you can host a WordPress on a 2$ hosting plan.
Another one is: No, you might not want to use a 2$ hosting plan.
For super small sites (~10-500 visitors a month) that only feature a few pages and a blog, this does the job okayish.
However, here at xApption, we build sites for serious businesses with thousands of visitors per month. In addition, these sites feature online shops, member areas, analytics integrations, and more.
In these cases, a cheap plan will soon run out of resources to serve visitors with acceptable page speeds.
Small shared hosting plans are usually a way for companies to get WordPress beginners hooked in on their service before up-selling them on other, overpriced offers.
Besides that, their hosting is usually abysmal.
A few companies to stay away from if you care for having a fast website:
Anything owned by
GoDaddy, HostGator, or anything EIG.
Another failure are so-called “WordPress hosting plans” – there is no such thing as “WordPress hosting”.
It is actually really simple: If you are serious about your business, use a reputable VPS host, either managed or self-managed.
These are only marginally more expensive, however, don’t include huge upsells, poor performance, and will payout in the long run.
4 Page Builder Plugins
This is such an important point that I put it on this list twice.
There are dozens of builders available and many are heavily marketed by the big players in the affiliate marketing industry.
Unfortunately, these plugins are blessing and curse at the same time.
On the one hand, page builders like Elementor are great pieces of software and have improved many people’s lives with their capabilities.
However, it is equally true that they cause unwanted lines of code, and provoke users to plaster their sites with many unnecessary visual elements. This further increases page size and loading times.
They also tend to make website maintenance harder as all pages are individually designed and put together which makes site-wide style changes almost impossible.
Here are three tips to improve your website even when using page builders:
Chose the right builder
My personal recommendation is the Oxygen Builder (not affiliated with them, just think their product is cool). It is by far the most versatile one of them all and produces absolutely clean code.
The biggest downside to this is that it disables any theme you might be using and leaves you with a blank canvas.
My other recommendation is Elementor. By far the most popular page builder of them all, it features dozens of cool widgets and advanced functionality.
However, it does produce bloated code and should mainly be used on landing pages and not on the entire site.
Don’t go crazy on the features
Page builders are like a box full of shiny toys. Once you see them you immediately feel like thy should go everywhere on your site.
The more you get, the more you feel they are absolutely necessary on every page.
However, think again. Do you really need every paragraph to move in from a different direction while shooting purple stars around the screen?
I’m exaggerating but you understand what I am pointing out here.
Use design elements carefully and scarcely. Less is more.
Use Gutenberg blocks instead
Most website owners will find all the necessary building blocks they need inside the Gutenberg editor that’s integrated into the WordPress core.
By using specialized block libraries you can extend its features and use it like a fully-featured site builder.
The best part? It produces 100% clean code.
We are biased, but for obvious reasons we like our very own xApption Blocks a lot. 😉
Another super useful one is Kadence Blocks which is completely free to use.
5 Code quality varies
Since all extensions are WordPress are not coded the same way as the core features, there is no way of ensuring third-party extensions adhere to the same standards.
All plugins and themes that are submitted to the official (free) WordPress repository are checked and audited for coding standards.
This usually sorts out the worst examples of poor coding, however, it can still be hit or miss.
Premium products, on the other hand, don’t need to be submitted and the code quality may.
The same goes for products bought from large plugin or theme platforms like codecanyon or themeforest.
HOWEVER, popularity does not automatically equate to clean code.
Many products are popular because they are endorsed by large affiliate marketers that care mainly about their profit and not so much on code quality.
Buying from reputable developers is one way to ensure good and clean code. If you know how to code, take the time to read the documentation and check the code base.
Verdict on WordPress
Now we have looked at most of the Pros and Cons of using WordPress to build your website and it is time to get to a verdict:
20 definite pros vs 5 cons which can all be evaded by taking the necessary precautions as a user.
In my opinion, the advantages that WordPress poses to small, medium and even large businesses by far outweigh the disadvantages.
The repeated accusations of poor coding quality, bloated websites and security risks are being tackled constantly by a large number of developers.
What really sets WordPress apart is the extensive ecosystem of plugins and themes that can turn your website into anything you like.
This ecosystem has put it head over heels far above any competing CMS at the moment. Although other solutions are actively developed, almost nothing beats the combination of ease of use and extendibility of WordPress.
Taking into consideration that most people do NOT know how to code and actively maintain a site, we are convinced that it is the best solution for our clients and most business owners.
Other ways to build a website
If you have read up to this point, kudos to you.
If you are convinced that WordPress is the solution you are looking for, go register your domain, sign up for web hosting and get started right now!
To give you some pointers in regard to alternatives to using WordPress, let us now check out some other options we have to set up and manage a website.
Static HTML, CSS & JS
It is 2021 and a large percentage of websites on the internet is entirely coded in static HTML, without any CMS, database, moving parts, and so on.
All files are coded and then uploaded to the server via ftp and other means.
While there are definitely many old sites which simply have not been updated for years, many others simply don’t need much more than a few static pages and a little styling.
“Static” in this case does not mean “unmoving” or “without animations“, but that all data is set when uploaded to the server and does not need to be fetched from a database.
The truth is, most simple blogs would continue working just fine if their creators simply ran them as static files.
Static sites are 1) extremely fast and 2) don’t rely on any overhead such as intricate web servers, plugins, and page builders to look work nicely.
This minimal approach also reduces hosting costs to zero.
No dynamic content display and not very intuitive to maintain individual files.
Static Site Generators
Articles and posts can easily be added with markdown.
Great use cases for static site generators are websites without frequently changing content, pure blogs(!), and sites for representational purposes only (think local business that informs its visitors about opening hours, and lists contact information).
Besides speed and size considerations, statically delivered sites offer another great advantage over dynamic ones: Hosting cost.
Since the content never changes and does not rely on frequent database calls to run in the backend, static sites can be run on cheap hosting solutions, some of them even completely free on sites like Netlify (not affiliated, just use their products a lot).
You might wonder: “Why are static site generators optimal for blogs if most CMS were built specifically as blogging platforms?“.
The reason is that many blog owners sooner or later wish to add dynamic content to their sites, such as an online shop, user sign-ups, or a booking tool.
Incredible speed. Decoupling front and backend.
Coding almost always required and no dynamic data can be served.
Website builders are a common tool for many business owners and solopreneurs to get their first site online.
These systems are technically also CMS, however, I listed them separately due to their different selling proposition.
Website builders are great to get your business online quickly without any coding knowledge or the need for maintenance.
You sign up for their service and start building your site using drag and drop features, while the provider company takes care of all the rest.
Shopify has emerged as the market leader for creating out-of-the-box online shops, while solutions like Wix and Squarespace focus on great UI and UX to build very diverse websites.
Easy to use and set up, no coding or maintenance required.
Not optimized for speed, vendor lock-in.
This concludes this long article on the pros and cons of WordPress and some other viable options beside it.
I hope you found it interesting and are able to draw your own conclusions as to which approach is best for you.
Don’t forget to leave a comment below and share this article with anyone who might be wondering the same things.
If you are looking for someone to set up your site or help you build, maintain or improve it, browse our services and see what we can do for you.
Thanks again for visiting xApption and until next time.