Did I mention that I listen to a lot of podcasts? Of course I did. So last week I was listening to the latest episode of Happy Monday, a web design podcast hosted by Sarah Parmenter and Josh Long and featuring guest Colin Devroe. During the course of it, Sarah expressed her belief that using WordPress for anything other than a blog was “a hack.”
Let me try and quote her accurately:
WordPress is… um… become a bit of an animal I think. It’s one that I’ve seen grow from the really early stuff when everyone was using it for the blog and everyone had that same theme for everything. And then it feels like it’s become a bit of a hack over the years and I know that people do run amazing things on it, but to me I never feel comfortable using WordPress for anything other than a blog. Um, anything else feels like a hack so I tend to steer away from that for that reason.
Granted, Colin was plugging his own CMS product, Barley, and that’s awesome. WordPress is by no means the only CMS in the world, and plenty of smart people like Colin are developing new and amazing systems to address particular problems in building great websites.
But the dismissal of building anything other than a blog with WordPress as a “hack” (and that word was clearly used in a derisive fashion) really rankled me. I’ve been in this career a very long time, and while I’ve built a lot of websites on a lot of different platforms, I’ve truly grown to love WordPress especially for the flexibility it offers. In fact, a majority of my web development work over the past few years — and into the foreseeable future, in fact — has been or will be based on WordPress.
First, some facts: Currently, WordPress is the driving force behind over 20% of the world’s websites. Not just blogs, but fully actualized websites. WordPress has long since matured from its early blogging beginnings into a feature-rich, multipurpose platform capable of powering complex websites. The majority of WordPress sites I’ve built for clients — including those for educational consortiums, the U.S. federal government, real estate firms, industry associations, etc. — have not been blogs.
The fact that WordPress started its existence as a blogging platform and grown into something more is not a hack. It’s the result of thousands of hours put in by hard-working, dedicated and passionate people. Through core enhancements such as custom post types, WordPress is equally capable of driving a foodie blog as it is the official website of an entire country. Innovations such as AppPresser — which seeks to extend WordPress’ capabilities into the realm of app development — further demonstrates WordPress’ abilities to power so much more than blogs. Again, these are not “hacks.” These people taking an already great platform and extending it to do even greater things.
I’m not sure that Sarah’s comments could be classified as among “The Hate and Vitriol of WordPress” that Tom McFarlin wrote about recently. I get the sense that it’s more along the lines of Yogi Berra’s observation, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” WordPress’ popularity has grown to the point where it at once becomes an easy target for critics who consider it too insecure, too primitive, too complex, or what have you, while also repelling away those who don’t want to be considered “following the crowd.” (Darned hipsters.)
If Sarah would like to have a friendly debate on this topic, I’d be more than happy to come onto Happy Monday to do so!
In the interest of full disclosure, Josh Long was my editor for the posts I wrote on the Treehouse blog, where I wrote on WordPress as well as front end web development topics.