Let me tell you a story about WordPress. Because it’s free and popular, this content management system (CMS) gets sold as the king of website platforms. It’s not. While WordPress is a great choice for many websites, it spells disaster for some. How do you know if WordPress is bad for your business? Listen to this tragic tale of partners who grew apart, but parted ways too late:

A small business partnered with a local web developer to built a new website with WordPress. A simple website was completed and the owners enjoyed a trouble-free first year and many compliments.

The business grew tremendously the year after that, adding several offices out of state. Their website needs expanded to include e-commerce and a membership database. A freelance developer added these features using various WordPress plugins and paid services. He assured them it would all run smoothly on its own. Then everything went wrong.

Membership records grew difficult to manage. Important customer information was lost in the shuffle. E-commerce transactions failed and no one noticed. New marketing ideas could not be implemented because both the original website developer and the freelancer had vanished. No other developer could support the previous customizations.

Here’s where I’ll stop to say I love working with WordPress. Building sites and training clients with this CMS is a pleasure. But WordPress isn’t right for everyone or for every stage of your business. The example above is fictional, but represents the real danger of misusing it. If your website needs get complicated, there’s a point where I no longer recommend WordPress.

What are “complicated” needs?

  • Database intensive website features, like thousands of member profiles and media uploads
  • E-commerce product catalogs with thousands of items
  • More than 20 individual pages of content
  • Revenue generating advertisements
  • User generated content (forums, social network-like posting)
  • An advanced level of website security
  • Highly customized webpage layouts

It’s not that WordPress is bad at any of these things. It’s just not the best choice for every combination of needs and circumstances. The small business in the story above should have recognized these limitations before burdening their aging site beyond its abilities.

WordPress can be outgrown and overextended. If the business in the story came to me to update their site with all of those advanced needs, I would recommend they choose a different system. Indy has a great community of web developers who specialize in more robust CMS choices.

However, there’s three big ways WordPress helps small businesses with more simple needs.

  • Own everything about your website. I train non-programmers all the time to edit WordPress webpages on their own with minimal need for outside support.
  • Get started with inbound marketing. At its core, WordPress is a platform for blogging, which is at the core of inbound marketing. With the right combination of trusted plugins and services, you can quickly expand your marketing mix online.
  • Stay light. A fresh WordPress installation is nothing more than the simplest blog. With the right theme design, it can shift to a business homepage with a built-in blog. And it’s easy to make WordPress more useful. Carefully select plugins to add only the features you need.

When WordPress is misused, websites become a tangle of frayed and buzzing wires. You don’t want that. Consider what your true website needs are and ask a web developer if WordPress is good for your business.