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To program a blog or to use wordpress?

To program a blog or to use wordpress?

The other day a person asked me why I use Wordpress for my blog if I could develop a website by myself. In the post where I explain how I learned to program I even talked briefly about my lousy experience with PHP. So why did I choose Wordpress instead of developing my own blog from scratch? The answer to that is simply that, for this blog, I want to write text, not code. I don’t want this blog to become a project to develop along with creating posts. I want something that works with a couple of clicks and forget about it completely. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the purpose of a personal blog is to write on it constantly, not to program it constantly. It’s sad to see so many developer blogs using the newest technologies and super up-to-date, but with very few entries.

What I miss when using wordpress

Certainly when using Wordpress you lose a lot of customization power, both at code and design level. I can only access what is already available, modifying the wordpress core would be a task that would not pay the right dividends. In the same way, by using Wordpress I am giving up new features in the programming world, such as SPA (out of the box, of course), SSR and other wonders that are probably not available for Wordpress. I also miss the pleasure of writing modifications using languages like javascript or Python, instead of PHP.

What I earn by using wordpress

Wordpress is a very popular system on the Internet and already has thousands of solutions to the most common problems. There are plugins to check my SEO, to correct my writing, to prevent comment spam, to integrate Wordpress automatically with MailChimp, to link post scheduling with social networks using hootsuite, to optimize images and thousands of templates made by designers much more talented than me. Yes, I know you could schedule all that too, but it’s time consuming and that time could be used to write more posts or schedule other websites.

My experience so far with wordpress

To tell the truth this is the first time I create something with wordpress. Installing it in Digital Ocean was quite easy and in less than 5 minutes I had a perfectly functional blog online, ready to start publishing in it and with an arsenal of tools to facilitate my work. My only two problems (if you can call them that) were two; the first one, the high spam content; the second one, apache2 does not serve content using http2 by default, so I needed to go to the terminal to modify the Apache2 configuration. Other than that, I have not had any problems with Wordpress, no data loss, no bugs in the code; my website runs relatively well, with very good metrics in lighthouse.

Web core vitals de coffee bytes

Developers’ hatred of wordpress

I’ve heard that hating Wordpress among developers is all the rage and I understand their sentiment but only to a certain extent. I think Wordpress is an excellent system for blogging because it is super friendly to the end user. I have been in charge of a company and I know that the end customer does not want to understand technical terms, he is not interested in what is node, nextjs, vercel or what is an XSS attack, what the customer wants is to be able to modify a site at will without having to call a web developer every week. Is it the right thing to do? Well I think it depends on the project, for personal blogs or smaller projects yes, for something much more sophisticated you would have to educate the client and explain the pros and cons of using a CMS like wordpress in the short, medium and long term.

On the other hand, I totally agree with the developers when they say that using Wordpress for ecommerce, photo galleries or any other application is a lousy idea, I totally share their feeling. As I wrote before, I think that in those situations where you need a much more customized solution you have to move on from Wordpress completely. However, it is the developer’s job to explain to the client the added value that a customized website, programmed from scratch, can bring to their brand.

Rapper wordpress meme

TLDR;

In short, I would use wordpress only for personal blogs. However I would avoid using wordpress for photo galleries, ecommerce or any other type of website that requires a bit more customization.

Upgrade

Update 18-Feb-2021: I decided to combine the best of both worlds; a frontend written using the new Javascript technologies and a robust wordpress backend. To do this I used Frontity, a React framework for wordpress. The navigation is much smoother and I can customize it to my liking. And, since the backend of my blog is still wordpress, I can still use Yoast SEO and the wordpress post editor, from which I am writing this post.

Apr-2022 update: I switched to Hugo, an SSG written almost entirely in Go, generates static sites in about 1ms per page, uses Markdown to generate the pages and has a lot of built-in features, I really love it! Hugo allows me to forget about multiple security issues, and keep package versions up to date in npm and so on. I have been using it for a short time but I love it, the only bad thing is the learning curve. But make no mistake, I still consider Wordpress to be the best option for most bloggers, Hugo requires too much technical knowledge to be useful for everyone.

The code is in my github, so if you are curious you can check it out at any time.

Eduardo Zepeda
Web developer and GNU/Linux enthusiast always learning something new. I believe in choosing the right tool for the job and that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. I'm under the impression that being perfect is the enemy of getting things done. I also believe in the goodnesses of cryptocurrencies outside of monetary speculation.
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