Should I use Wordpress or a custom-built website for my business?
May 28, 2014 10:03 AM   Subscribe

I am planning a new website for my business. My web designer of many years does really stellar sites which Google seems to love. However, some of the Wordpress templates out there at the moment are superlatively great. The site is going to be purely a brochure / information website. So some advice please. Are custom-built websites old hat for the purposes of a brochure site or do hand-crafted websites (right-term?) still hold a lot of merit? (PS: the cost is not important. I am quite willing to pay the same for both types of architecture)
posted by jacobean to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How are you planning to maintain the site, such as updating information and adding additional pages? The big advantage of a content management system (which Wordpress would function as in this case) is making it easy for a content owner (you) to update the site. So, if you want to add a page for a new event or widget, it's trivially easy with Wordpress. If you have a hand built website, you'll either need to learn HTML, or hire someone who knows it to do even simple work.
posted by instamatic at 10:41 AM on May 28, 2014

I do both Wordpress and custom sites for a living!

Pros of Wordpress:
- Assuming you use a reputable theme, your site will always run the latest and greatest code.
- It's easy to do updates yourself or delegate them to someone non-technical.
- If the information on your site will change frequently, Wordpress' built in blog functionality is priceless.

Cons of Wordpress:
- Some templates can really be a pain to implement.
- Once you choose a template, it's difficult to change the layout.
- Since Wordpress is popular, it's a target for crackers.
- Your site will run slower than if it were hand-coded.

If cost is no object and you don't care about updating content yourself, definitely go for a hand-crafted site. It will look exactly how you want it to, load a little faster, and be more unique than a templated site.
posted by Sullenbode at 10:44 AM on May 28, 2014

I sell Drupal development for a living. I'd go with Wordpress or Squarespace. A hand coded site is going to be a PITA to update and manage. If it grows significantly you'll probably be moving into a CMS at some point anyway, so why not start there. Are you sure your web developer doesn't do Wordpress sites? Most indie developers I know are competent to spectacular with Wordpress.
posted by COD at 11:57 AM on May 28, 2014

Why not do both? You can have the functionality and convenience of WordPress but with a custom theme.
posted by cedar at 12:04 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have been on both sides of this, as well as being the volunteer web admin for a non-profit. That site was a.) first written as a custom php app, which was only easily maintainable by its author
b.) then rewritten by a designer who handcoded every single page
c.) then I inherited it, and spent a year or so manually updating it word by word deep inside the HTML template ("The Board meeting was changed from Monday to Tuesday night.") which took at least 30 minutes for each change, between emails from the director to me, me changing the code, pushing it to the test server, emailing for proof reading, changing the code again, pushing it back to the test server, proof reading again, and finally pushing it live
d.) and finally, me getting so sick of it that I migrated the custom design to a custom wordpress theme for free because that was less of a pain in my neck than continuing to support updates to a custom website.
posted by instamatic at 12:57 PM on May 28, 2014

Go WordPress. If you want to be bespoke, find a well-supported theme you like and get a designer to build a 'child theme' based on it, which will minimise issues around updates while preserving your unique appearance.

I agree with all of Sullenbode's points, apart from his last one; a well-deployed WP-SuperCache will give you equivalent speeds to a hand-crafted static site, quite possibly improving on its performance, depending on whether further optimisation plugins are deployed - comparing against a *static* site. There are other cacheing solutions for WordPress, which can cache down to the component level, providing a high level of cacheability for highly dynamic sites (such as those with shopping carts).

The other benefit of WordPress is that it provides excellent multi-user administration and content editing out of the box; what do you do if you have urgent changes and your designer is away? Go WordPress and invest the money you'd have spent on building a custom CMS in developing a custom theme and the exact functionality you want on top of it.
posted by davemee at 1:14 PM on May 28, 2014

came in to say what's essentially already been said: you do both, really. You get your designer to come up with the basic design to your specifications, then you give them some more money (or hire a separate person/company) to add in the bits and pieces necessary to make it a WordPress template. That'll give you the bespoke design you want, as well as an easy way to update it that is not just straight HTML editing (or some sort of home-grown solution, which can be actually be a potentially worse idea). If you need help with something on it, or you want to expand the site into some new area, you're already on a base that allows for that and is very popular and has a pretty extensive community around it. The only time I'd go with a straight static HTML page is if it's going to be two or three pages that are never edited again..but, then, usually what tends to happen is there's a lot of "I wish I had X" or "I need to add Y" and then yeah you really should have used WordPress anyway. (You can feel free to swap out WordPress with Joomla or Drupal in here as necessary. I do a lot of Joomla stuff that's sometimes this exact process - the designer ships me off a PSD, I cut it up and template-ize it, and they get a fully functional website.)
posted by mrg at 2:05 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

In contrast to most of the answers, in the situation you describe I would stick with your designer, especially if it's not going to be updated much. I work with Wordpress and love it but it may present your designer with a learning curve that could throw your workflow off. I know many web shops that simply don't work with Wordpress or Drupal because they can whip out their own CMS made to their exacting specs in less time. I assure you, your awesome designer is well aware of Wordpress. Have you asked them their opinion?

Wordpress is good if you need a one-click solution for theming, SEO, and updating content. It sounds like you already have that in your designer or don't need it for this project. A lot of the things people are crowing about with Wordpress just don't apply here. Multi-user administration? Content management? Is anyone actually listening to you?

If you DO decide to go with Wordpress site later, the HTML and CSS for your site can be pretty easily moved to a theme.
posted by dozo at 5:41 AM on May 29, 2014

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