Kira Leigh

Weeb trash marketer and creative full-stack nightmare:

As a builder of Wordpress websites, I need to speak my truth

This is why Wordpress sucks and you should probably stop using it

Let me preface this article with a disclaimer: If you need a solid blogging-website-combo solution, need plugins, need a CMS to do the heavy-lifting, like Yoast (yup), and do not need super complex Web App stuff, do use Wordpress.
With a Wordpress website, small businesses don’t have to worry about editing static pages, or messing with Laravel or something else that has a steeper learning curve.
Wordpress is also free and comes standard with most hosting plans.
That being said, there’s a reason I shifted THERE IS NO DESIGN to a simple WYSIWYG combo code editor solution: 

Wordpress is a nightmare for people who know how to code the same solutions, faster.

I have created many, many, many Wordpress websites and regularly make aesthetic updates to several others. This works for some clients, definitely.
However, as someone who’s been building websites since the early 2000s, I need to come clean here:

Wordpress sucks for front-end developers. It just sucks. 

And I’m about to tell you why.

For people who know how to code from scratch, the roadblocks Wordpress hands you can be summarized in one question:
Why did this update thingy break the thingy?
If you’re building a Wordpress website, it’s probably because you need the accessibility, the blogging, the plugins, and the WYSIWYG editors.
Because if you don’t, I don’t know why you’re using it.
Plugin conflict happens, and it wastes time disabling plugins to figure out which one is bleeding like a stuck pig. 
Sure, yes, okay, we can go in and mass-nuke them.
But why should we have to do that
If you’re already on a deadline, chances are you are not going to want to build your own Wordpress theme. And I don’t blame you.
Even Wordpress theme development is a royal pain in the butt compared to using Laravel, which acts more like a ‘wrapper’ for your layouts with modular blocks involved. 
TextPattern is even easier to develop themes for than Wordpress, and it has the crappiest documentation in the world.
Grav theme development is even easier than both, and I literally just installed it a while back to poke around (A++ Grav Team).
Also, if you disable many WYSIWYG page builders for Wordpress, you often lose your efforts, and have to start from scratch. 
That is not only annoying, but rude.
Something like creating a full-width carousel, that can be spun up in Bootstrap in less than 5 minutes, can take 30+ minutes of fiddling in your Slider Plugin (from hell) of choice.
Don’t act like you haven’t spent countless minutes sitting there clicking and clicking, then giving up and going into the Custom CSS editor to paste the small line of code that will fix the problem.
We shouldn’t have to be doing this. It should work as intended.

Designing in Wordpress can feel like Frankensteining a web design project, and honestly, it is.

I am not inexperienced with Wordpress. I’ve been using it since I was a tween, and it’s only gotten more problematic over the years. 
Wordpress is excellent for blogging, which I’m currently using on my own to write up some goofy op-eds that don’t fit elsewhere (mostly honest anime reviews).
But as a blogging platform, it was not initially made to handle all of the stuff is offers.
You can make child themes in Wordpress so when the Theme updates, it doesn’t erase your custom Frankenstein work altogether. 
Okay, great, sure, why not.
But even that is a royal pain in the ass, when simply cloning your files in your development environment to edit is 4594% easier.
If you eventually end up smacking custom CSS / PHP into Wordpress to fix design and code flaws anyways, there’s really no point in using Premium Themes that say perfection customization is included.
It is not. It is mostly broken.
Another huge problem, outside of the design aspect is Wordpress Security.
I’ve had my Wordpress website hacked before, despite using all available resources to prevent it. 
There were boobs everywhere.

Wordpress has gaping security flaws that make designers like me paranoid as heck.

Once I’ve set up the Firewall plugins, throttled out the spammers with login-limiters, and installed Updraft, etc, I hand it off. I give the option for Wordpress maintenance help, but I’d be lying if I said it was taken very often.
You already built the thing, it should be gucci, right?
Because each time core Wordpress, plugins, or themes update, there’s a potential for back-door exploits to crap all over your website.
I’ve gone in to do damage control on my own dime and time.
But there’s only so much a designer can do when it’s out of scope, and nobody seems that worried until something gets hijacked.
Check out this iThemes quote about Wordpress security flaws:
It’s important to note that WordPress security vulnerabilities extend beyond WordPress core into the themes or plugins you install on your site. Of the 3,972 known WordPress security vulnerabilities:
52% are from WordPress plugins
37% are from core WordPress
11% are from WordPress themes
After my website got hacked, I lost my entire design portfolio, and over 8 years of hi-res scans of my artwork (many of which I can’t get back).
Because of this, I bailed on Wordpress for anything but blogging. It just wasn’t worth the heartbreak.
The artwork loss alone had me sobbing after the initial hysterical laughter at my site becoming filled with boobs.

That is literally me, above. Running from the disaster that is Wordpress.

So please, if you don’t have an admin or IT department, and you’re working with a front-end designer who has the skillz to keep your site as safe as possible, just put them on a maintenance retainer.
Please take the retainer hit so you don’t come back to us upset. 
Because freelancers doing free work is not going to happen.

Want another reason why Wordpress sucks for developers? 

The API is a crapshoot potato bucket and the documentation is arse.
Wordpress is just like my other dreaded WTF-DEV situation: ClickFunnels (which is ugly and pretends to be easy when it’d be easier to use Instapage or Mailchimp Landing Pages.). 
Wordpress at some point decided it’d allow functions that made it into a website builder. 
Just like ClickFunnels expanded past its initial intent.
Sadly, it just piled crap on top of crap, just like Windows 10's awful spaghetti code.
Don’t just take my word for it, I’m going to copy this right out of a Reddit thread because I’m super not into digging into the documentation.
Reddit user Sloat had this to say:
I’ve done dozens of WP sites and the single biggest problem I have with it isthe API and its associated terrible documentation. There’s the ones that are totally unhelpful in their names: get_children (get what children?)
There’s the ones that are deprecated maybe: is_post (on the function ref page it says deprecated — that word is not on the page for the function)
Conversely, the popuplinks function is not deprecated in the list, but is on the page.
There’s the verbose: see the sanitize_* functions. Surely that could have been one function with different flags, like I dunno, the ones in the stdlib. See also the esc_* functions.
There’s the ones that seem wholly unnecessary: absint. Then there’s ones that I just don’t trust: wp_hash (who would use this?)
And I’ve barely scratched the surface of my hatred. As far as application architecture goes, it’s a steaming mass of worst-practices and global variables. The codebase is stuck in 2003 and probably will be forever.

Read that. Then read it again. 

The Wordpress codebase is stuck in 2003 and probably will be forever. 
But don’t just take Sloat’s word for it either, here’s some more Wordpress hatred from the same thread:
Reddit user Ithika has this to say about Wordpress:
When you need a list of things to do and avoid which live outside of the capabilities of the application itself then you know the fault lies with the application. 
It doesn’t matter how many established practices an experienced development environment has to mitigate the built in problems since the fact the problems are always there is the bigger problem.

The fact the problems with Wordpress are always there is a bigger problem. 

Wordpress just was not built with contemporary standards involved. Wordpress’s Gutenberg is trying to make some things easier, but it’s still a long way off (no built-in way to make popups or Flexbox fun? Barf). 
Believe me now. 
I have been staring at Wordpress since I was a twee Neopets hacker renegade
Believe me now. Now, believe me.

So what can be done about Wordpress being mashed potatoes most of the time?

It’s fairly simple, and I absolutely need you to just pay attention: Decide first if you really need Wordpress.
  • If you’re building a standard landing page, there’s Instapage, Unbounce, and the amazing Assembly builder to save the day.
  • If you can live with literally any other CMS, do that.
  • If you must use a WYSIWYG editor, but don’t really need a blog, Mobirise is free to start and has premium options as well.
  • If you’re 100% sold on Wordpress be aware of its limitations.
  • Make sure the host you’re installing your Wordpress installation on is fast.
  • Make sure your host on has regular root backups.
  • Make sure you disable user sign-up if you don't need it.
  • Install Updraft and get Updraft Premium so you have a way to remotely fix problems.
  • Have whoever is making your Wordpress website provide a monthly maintenance and security retainer. Take that money-hit. It’s worth it.
  • Monitor everything. Install Wordfence and enable Security Email Updates.

And ultimately, if you must use Wordpress, know this:

Your designers-slash-developers care about you and the success of your project. 

We want to provide the best solution possible for you, on the platform that is easiest for you to use.
But at the end of the day, Wordpress has an awful lot of flaws, and we all need you to understand that at an atomic level. I don’t aim to scare you away from it or throw garbage all over the work I’ve done and will be doing.
Even when I don’t think Wordpress is the best option for website building, I will make one for you, the best way I can.
Fundamentally, myself and people like me, want you to be happy. 

If Wordpress makes you happy, that’s what we aim to provide for you.

I only aim to show you there are other options available to you, that might be better than Wordpress.
If you’re still convinced you need Wordpress, please hit me up, and keep a maintenance retainer in mind if you don’t have an admin or IT department.
But if you think you want something else, something fluid, fast, and chill to develop, actually hit me up
I’ll even teach you to use something you’re unfamiliar with, like Bootstrap, as long as it truly, truly makes you happy.
I am not affiliated with any of the products I linked to above and make no money promoting them :)
Kira Leigh is a snarky marketing nerd, awesome anime review writer, and artist. See her work here and send her a message if you want to work together.
Special thanks to Renato P. dos Santos for his continued support.



August 11th, 2019

Well, yes, Wordpress might not be a great match for expert coders, maybe not even for those who know the basics of coding, but the majority of the population do not know how to code. And it’s built for them.

On the same note, it would be wrong to say that Wix and Squarespace suck. Because they don’t. They were built from the view point such that non-techies ca build websites easily. Yes, that cuts down on the flexibility, but at least it eases the process of website setup.

It’s all about who is using them. No one opinion makes a lot of sense here. Not mine, not yours. It’s the collective opinion that matters.

August 11th, 2019

Tell me to go deep into the technical stuff that comes tagged to building a website, and I would rather jump off a cliff. I, and I believe most people like me, would never want to see the complexity that goes behind building a website from scratch. Seriously, coders are superheroes. Even if I accidentally look at a few lines of codes, I start feeling useless. So, I don’t. lol. And that’s the reason Wordpress rocks.

August 11th, 2019

Even as a rookie coder, I absolutely agree with what you say. Wordpress has quite a few weak points. And your suggestions, I feel, are great. Thanks for sharing.

But what about those who do not want to trouble themselves with these things? Wordpress is great for them, isn’t it? What do you say?

August 16th, 2019

" After my website got hacked, I lost my entire design portfolio , and over 8 years of hi-res scans of my artwork (many of which I can’t get back)."

After you were hacked, did you do a post-mortem to figure out exactly what happened, how they got in? Was this a recent intrusion? We are conservative about adding plugins, and always do our security updates quickly but I have nightmares about the above…

August 16th, 2019

You will want to check Roots awesome Trellis, Bedrock and Sage that builds upon wordpress and makes working with it fun again… Sage will borrow from Laravel and put you on the right track with automation, Trellis brings (amongst others) ssh deployment and dev/staging/prod parity. Working with a staging really did the trick for me: testing ahead of pushing live means no more update nightmare under pressure…

Additional super mega extra: the super helpful community will help you catch up on advanced topics (url rewriting and routing for wordpress, ansible and yarn and automate everything, multiple remote environment with database and assets synchronisation from cli-just to name a few)…

Oh! — Did I mention easy cert for ssl?

Have fun!

Edit: i should mention that the server being provisioned with best secure practices (ansible love!) you greatly reduce threats; production install wont auto update, ever and your client won’t be able to mess with much or even update anything…

October 24th, 2019

I agree 100%. And I still gravitate towards Wordpress. I tried to find a better alternative when working with a publication with a relatively low budget and a small to non-existent development team, and it proved itself the best option. Especially thanks to its back end.

I was able to prevent most issues by updating, using GeneratePress instead of a clumsy “multipurpose” theme packed with 100 thousand plugins, and by being very conservative with plugins in general.

November 6th, 2019

For the record , for the amount of time it now takes to actually use a wordpress site, you could learn to code a better site that does exactly what you want in Laravel or Cake :slight_smile:

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