As a custom web development company, we get approached by clients all the time to assist them with their web development needs.
Sadly, we’ve also seen loads of projects where the WordPress platform has been used for a highly custom and complex site or web app, only for the project to reach a certain point and then fail due to restrictions. The problem is that the wrong platform was chosen for the job in the first place.
Why isn’t WordPress always the answer?
In our 14+ years of experience in the industry, what we’ve seen is that many web design and development agencies only know WordPress and not other real frameworks or know how to actually develop sites by writing the actual code, so they try to use WordPress for all types of projects, which is definitely not the right approach.
Don’t get us wrong, WordPress is a great platform but it should be used for what it was designed for, which typically is brochure websites, BLOG sites and simple eCommerce stores.
To offer more complex functionality and customisation, you just need to install and configure some plugins and you’re away, right? Wrong! The sad truth is that these plugins do have limitations in terms of functionality. As most plugins are developed by private individuals and companies there are often clashes that occur amongst plugins and also WordPress itself, causing the website to break. The more plugins that are added, the slower your site will work.
Plugins and WordPress need to be frequently upgraded and with each upgrade there is an increased risk that things can break.
With any website or web application, we need to think of the future and how the system will be able to accommodate more users, traffic, additional functionality and increased data. In other words, how will it scale? WordPress again is not the best platform for scalability. Yes, there are sites that handle loads of traffic but scaling in terms of increased data and additional functionality is not what WordPress does best.
Unfortunately, clients know none the wiser, so it is up to the web development company/agency to advise them on the correct platform/technology for their project (not only for their current needs but for their future growth needs as well) and not to punt the only platform that they are familiar with.
So if not WordPress then what?
As we’re talking about custom websites and web applications in this article, we should delve into what exactly these are.
These projects are typically custom-built websites or platforms, such as Airbnb for example, with some or all of the following facets:
Multiple types of users.
They generally have many different types of users (each with their own roles and permissions), in the case of Airbnb, you have public users, customers (people who book accommodation), hosts (people who offer accommodation) and super administrators (Airbnb).
Custom functionality and features:
These web apps are packed with a multitude of features and functionality, such as searches, payment processes, notifications, social media integration, intelligence (such as auto-complete, suggestions, etc.), map integration.
These platforms often need to integrate into third-party platforms, which is done via APIs. Examples of integrations are payment gateways, SMS providers, maps, video, weather, currency, etc.
Automation consists of scheduled tasks that run in the background and perform various activities, for example: sending of reminder emails.
Dashboard and reporting tools:
Due to the sheer amount of activity and data generated in these platforms, there is a definite requirement for intelligent dashboards to provide stakeholders with summarised, quick and easy to understand the information in a snapshot.
Reporting tools are vital in providing users with in-depth data that can be filtered and sorted in order to make informed decisions.
So what platform should be used then?
We would suggest that any custom website or web application be built on some sort of development framework. These development frameworks are essentially blank canvases and development companies can design and build whatever the client wants based on their unique requirements.
The look and feel or User Interface (UI) of the project can be custom designed without limitations. WordPress typically uses themes and there are at times limitations in terms of what the UI and layout can look like.
All the functionality can be developed exactly to the specifications of the project without any limitations or restrictions. These development frameworks allow for future features to be added and for scalability, which as mentioned above is crucial in the long run, as you don’t want to have to rewrite the whole platform once it starts to gain traction.
Here at Elemental Web Solutions, we do work with a few preferred development frameworks, namely: Laravel, CodeIgniter, Angular and Vue. We’ve also worked with other frameworks such as Symfony, CakePHP and Yii, in the past.
Building a new custom website or web app can be costly and you want to make sure that you make the correct decision when selecting a platform before the project starts. Choosing WordPress as the platform would definitely a big and costly mistake due to its limitations and what it has been designed for.
WordPress definitely has its place but it should definitely not be considered for any high functionality and customised websites or web apps.
For this, we would recommend working with an experienced web development agency who has successfully built projects like this in the past and will use the industry best practices when approaching a project like this to choose the right technology based on the project’s current and future requirements.