Why is it so complicated to do the simplest thing on my WordPress website?
WordPress is such an easy content management system to work with, from both a developer and client point-of-view, so it often amazes me when I get asked to look at a WordPress site and discover that it’s hugely overcomplicated.
I’ve seen some pretty shocking things when it comes to making a WordPress site difficult to manage by the people the site was built for.
So why is it often very complicated for you to manage a website you paid to have built?
There are 100s of potential answers to this question, below are a few real-world examples we’ve personally come across at Toast:
1 They’ve (the developers) done it on purpose (possibly).
Why build a website where your client can manage 99% of it themselves when you can build an overly complex theme that relies on hard-coded scripts and functions? The answer is that you want your client to have to pick up the phone and call you every time they need to do anything on the website.
The more calls you have to put into the agency to update the site, the more money the agency makes, and this is exactly why they do it – to tie you into the agency and clock up some hefty fees paying for updates and changes you should be able to make yourself.
If a lot of the work they’ve done is bespoke code (when a plugin would have done the job) you are into dangerous territory.
Firstly they’ll charge you for everything, and secondly, what happens when the code they wrote two years ago stops working (a good example of this that I have seen on many sites is bespoke work in PHP 5.7 that breaks completely when your server upgrades you to PHP7.x). Guess what, everything is going to have to be reworked at a pretty hefty cost to you (even though the site is not that old).
One thing that is very important to point out here is that in certain circumstances your developers may have had no choice but to hard-code parts of your site. If you have very specific requirements for functionality, it may only be possible to achieve it using bespoke code and scripts.
2 The ‘developer’ isn’t really a developer.
This is another one we see a lot. You’ve been promised an all-singing, all-dancing site but all that’s happened is that someone who ‘sort of’ knows WordPress has cobbled something together for you using a freebie theme and a bunch of plugins that don’t play nicely together.
The result is an unstable, slow, mess of a website that breaks whenever you try and update it – your WordPress developer isn’t really a developer – just someone who knows a little bit more than you do about WordPress.
This is the total opposite to point one above – rather than coding everything bespoke, they’ve added about 100 plugins to the site to try and get it to do what you want.
There’s nothing wrong with WordPress frameworks and premium themes, but you need to bear in mind that they are designed to try and do everything. They need to in order to be all things to all people and sell more.
If your WordPress developer starts telling you ‘that can’t be done’, there’s a good chance that they ‘sort of’ know what they are doing and actually mean they can’t do it themselves.
This leads into the third common answer to ‘why is my WordPress site so complicated’…
3 They’ve outsourced the build (in full or part) of your website.
Another one we hear quite often is that the design agency that told you they were designing AND building your site actually outsourced the build stage.
There are some awesome individuals out there that do provide this sort of service to agencies, but there are also a lot that outsource it to the cheapest supplier they can find, wherever that might be.
This basically ends up causing no end of problems during the build stage and moving forward. As you have no direct communication with the people building your site, and your agency contact has no idea what the outsourced developers can and can’t do, you end up being promised one thing and delivered something completely different.
I’ve spoken to a lot of people that have half-finished websites as the agencies developers went AWOL and they then can’t deliver the site.
Even when they are finished, they tend to be a mashup of points one and two above – loads of bespoke coding AND loads of free plugins. This equals what I call a web-shite.
So should WordPress be complicated?
No, and yes is the straight answer to that question.
From your point-of-view as the client, NO, WordPress should be very simple and a pleasure to use. You should be able to update it easily, add new content, sections and navigation and you shouldn’t have to call the developers every day (if you’re doing this, you might want to get an independent audit of your site to show you how well it’s been built).
The only part of a WordPress that should be complicated is planning the best way to build it for you so it is fit for purpose. And that’s why you employ WordPress experts.
Experts that will listen to what you want to achieve and how you need to manage the site and your content and then build you something that is fit for purpose, not a rehashed theme that’s overflowing with plugins and overly complex code.
Five questions to ask your developers – before you commission the agency.
There are 1000s of awesome WordPress developers out there, all suited to different types of project and budget, but the important thing with any new project is to make sure you know what you are getting.
Here are five questions to ask a WordPress developer or agency before you commit to anything.
- How are you building my site – on a bespoke or off-the-shelf theme?
- Do you lock-down anything on the site when the project has been completed that means I will need to contact you for any changes or further development?
- How do you plan to implement the functions I have requested – using plugins or via bespoke coding? If this is via plugins, do you use free or premium (paid-for) plugins? If it’s bespoke code and/or scripts, how do you future-proof these?
- How will you manage the adding and organisation of content to my website – will this just be via the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, will you use a page builder plugin or will you create something specifically for my requirements?
- Is all the work that you will do on my site carried out by you and your team or do you outsource any part of the project elsewhere?
Pretty basic questions, but the answers should give you some insight into what you are going to get before you start the project.
Do you already have a problematic WordPress site?
If you’ve had built, or have inherited a WordPress site that’s a nightmare to manage, there are a few things that can be done to help you improve it.
Depending on the size of the site, it’s always possible to move it to a new theme and rework the content into a more manageable structure.
If you have a very large site that’s built on a page-builder, this might not always be possible as your site will be riddled with shortcodes that control the display of the content. In these cases, it can sometimes be better just to try and best optimise the site as much as possible, audit the plugins and open up any sections that you are locked out of.
If you have custom code aspects of your site that no longer work, it’s also possible to swap these out for plugins that do the same (or better) job – the key benefit here is that the plugin developers will keep these plugins up-to-date.
Keep it simple.
It’s really easy to make a WordPress site a nightmare to manage, so if achieving anything on your site feels like a week-long task, go back to your agency and ask them why that is.
If you don’t get the answer you deserve, get in touch and I’ll take a look at it for you and run you a free website audit to see just how bad (or good) things are.