Good WordPress vs Bad WordPress

5 October 2017 #WordPress

WordPress gets a bad wrap. And some of it can be fair.

But there’s “WordPress” and then there’s “WordPress”.

And at the end of this article I’ll show you two quick tests you can do to see which bucket your website falls in.

What is ‘Bad WordPress’?

Free themes. More than ten plugins. Cheap hosting. Lack of updates.

Because it has such a low barrier to entry, WordPress can be quickly setup by someone not fully aware how to get the best out of it. It comes with no guidance or restraints. So the site is quickly filled up with handy plugins all with their own nagging notifications and security holes.

The most common themes are ‘one size fits all’ creations that demand the installation of a range of plugins — not all of which will be actually used — and each presenting their own security risk. Because these themes try to appease everyone they’re typically bloated in size and slow to load.

Cheaper or free themes are often abandoned quickly as their creators have little incentive to continue to supporting them.

Most “WordPress rescue” projects I’ve done first involve updating 20+ plugins. Then one by one disabling and removing each one that was not required. You don’t need four image slider plugins. A recent project I was asked to look at was loading per-page 30 javascript files, 20 stylesheets and wasn’t even responsive!

What is ‘Good WordPress’?

Custom designed theme. The minimum number of plugins. High quality plugins only. Kept up to date.

As of this year I only develop WordPress websites on the Roots suite of tools. This helps with site hosting, deployment and security.

Custom coding a theme ensures it only has code that the specific website requires. Wrap this up in a minify-ing plugin and you get a site that loads super fast.

It’s amazing the speed difference you get without even making specific site optimisation improvements just by custom coding.

It’s not the platform, it’s how you use it.

I’ve built several websites using Easy Property Listings. It’s a very complex, fully featured plugin for displaying real estate agency listings. Anyone can just install and activate it.

Easy Property Listings 1

Here’s one site chosen at random. It scores 2/100 on Desktop. Likely setup with a cheap theme and burdened with unnecessary plugins.

Easy Property Listings 2

Here’s a site I have created, it ranks okay on mobile but good on desktop with a 85/100 score. And this was without any concerted effort to deliver super fast performance. These are just the performance gains you get natively when using WordPress correctly.

Both sites use WordPress. Both sites use Easy Property Listings.

Often I hear complaints that WordPress is an amateur platform, just because it has a high number of amateur users. But in the hands of someone that knows how to use it properly and keep it lean, WordPress works as well as anything else.

Test your website

Here’s two really simple tests for both the page speed and SEO aspects of your website.

Keep in mind these aren’t the be all and end all of whether a website is good or bad. But they’re a good starting to see how much improvement your site could make.

  1. Google PageSpeed Insights: Will give your website a score out of 100 on Desktop and Mobile. Most of my websites hit around 70-80 without any specific optimisation and can go higher with little effort.
  2. SEO Site Checkup: This will let you run a free test once a day on your website to see how well it follows the most basic SEO coding principles.

Note that these two tools aren’t actually WordPress specific. But that’s the point. You can score really high numbers on WordPress because the platform is not your problem, it’s how it’s being used. Want proof? See this website’s PageSpeed and SEO scores.