Why WordPress sucks (a bit)

Technology Blog

Alan Graham has been having trouble with WordPress:

WordPress rant, additional web rants, and an exclusive!

Along with a few friends, I run a local networking organization. We have a blog, and it fell unto me to give that blog a facelift. So after doing some Photoshop/Illustrator work to make a new “theme” for the blog, I went into WordPress to do just a few tiny changes. Now I’m relatively new to […]

I sympathise. While I really like WordPress for daily use once it’s installed and working, the template system is a nightmare for anyone who’s not a PHP programmer. I’ve recently been doing a lot of work with Drupal, and it suffers from the same issue: it’s extremely customisable for skilled users but anyone else has either got to use a ready-made template off the shelf or employ an expert.

For techies like myself this can be seen as an opportunity to sell our services, but I don’t think we should be too complacent about the situation. There are content management systems out there which are much easier to customise than our favourites and we should not assume that our skills will always be required. (Last night on TV there was a programme in which Ken Stott discovered how hard his tailor grandfather had to work, in the days when every man wore a suit and every suit was hand-made. Then there were thousands of tailors in every big city: today there are just 20 companies doing hand tailoring in the whole of Scotland. The same can happen in any industry.)

I don’t think web development is likely to disappear altogether in the near future, but will we still be hand-customising templates in 10 years time? I hope we’ll all be doing things that are rather more interesting. And because WordPress, Drupal and their ilk are open source, community efforts, we can help bring about the changes that’ll make them truly easy to use. The separation of presentation from content is a good thing, but it’s not the same as making presentation an irrelevance.

Not long ago any change on a website had to be carried out by professionals, expensively. Now we sell the idea of user-maintainable content, but many web designers are still trying to keep hold of the job of looking after the presentation of a site. Sure, there are good reasons why site design should be done by skilled people, but those don’t necessarily have to include technical ones. Aren’t computers supposed to remove barriers, rather than erect them?

21 Responses to “Why WordPress sucks (a bit)”

  1. Neil

    I think that guy’s mistake was to go from Illustrator/Photoshop straight to WordPress. If he’d made a html page, it would have been a doddle.

    I know little about php, but I am glad to have learnt from mucking about in WP. Having used comparable lightweight CMSs, like Textpattern and Expression Engine (Drupal feels v.different to me), which don’t overwhelm users with php, I much prefer the WP template system. It’s so flexible!

  2. Alfred Armstrong

    Good web design is hard (because it combines a range of disciplines), but I think it’s harder than it ought to be.

    HTML is far from an ideal vehicle for structured content, CSS is a pretty feeble medium for the expression of visual styling and PHP and its rivals are dreadful at representing interaction. Let’s not mention Javascript!

    Everything is abstracted at far too low a level which means that we all spend far too much time fiddling with technicalities. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hacking, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s the best way for a grown man to spend his time.

  3. Wayne Smallman

    My experience with WordPress has left me with a luke warm feeling towards it.

    There’s a lot of work still needs to be done to make WordPress adaptive enough to meet the needs of the vast majority of ‘bloggers who really don’t care to skim through Knowledge Base documents and figure out the inner intricacies of PHP…

  4. Gabrielle

    I consider myself to be slightly smarter than the average bear. And I’m comfortable writing code. However, after difficulties with WordPress, rewriting code, and spending over two days trying to get some help (their “support” is a joke), I moved on. User beware: WordPress SUCKS!

  5. Alfred Armstrong

    Gabrielle, you aren’t the only one who feels that way, judging by the number of hits this post gets. True, WordPress is not great if you try to make it do anything very clever, but for a blog-centered site with a few static pages, it’s fine.

    What were you trying to do, if you don’t mind me asking?

  6. Anime fan

    I’d say, try NucleusCMS blogging tool. Their template/skin system is excellent. Although it’s somewhat lacking in other areas.

  7. Caballito

    Every updgrade in WordPress is a nightmare,, thing don’t work anymore, templates are broken.. and if you work with foreign characters such as íñê, etc.,, backup and restore is a pain in the ass and I’m not mentioning the lack of translations. So, yes, wordpress sucks!

  8. Alfred Armstrong

    The backup/restore problem you mention is almost certainly down to issues with whatever tools you use with MySQL. A lot of DB software doesn’t handle UTF strings correctly. I have had exactly the same problem with Drupal, for example.

    Often it’s the hosting to blame, either for not having the mbstring extension installed or for providing only an old version of phpmyadmin. If you are backing up a DB where there’s multi-byte characters in the data, you need to pay attention to exactly how you do so, and then again when you restore it. I’ve found SQLyog to be one of the best programs in this respect. Some DB programs I’ve tried also claim UTF compatibility but fail in the event, so you need to test them for yourself.

  9. James

    Take it as a hint that the ante is about to up itself one or two notches in the very immediate future.

    Thank god for wordpress, joomla and the other duct tape solutions out there which have permeated the market and given us “techies” a chance to move ahead…

    WordPress creates jobs for us… lets take this as an opportunity to make machines which manufacture suits…

    Let the bloggers waste their time hand stitching patches in their installations for the next five years to come.

  10. Lori

    I thought that WordPress would be wonderful and soooo easy. Wrong. I had set up my blogger page in not time at all and in a few days had already customized it totaly. I don’t do html or whatever and I still managed.
    I loaded up my blogger page to WordPress and that is all I have been able to do. I have bought a book, scoured websites and read help forums and posted questions to no avail. I can’t get WordPress to do anything. I am not dumb but I can’t do this. I give up.

  11. dk

    wordpress is the stupidest piece of crap I’ve ever worked with. I’ve been able to learn 3d animation software, but I can’t figure out how to do the simplest of tasks with wordpress. Everything about it is unnecessarily unorganized and confusing.

    Sh#t..even adding a freaking image with a border and padding didn’t work as it should. I can say with a fact that WORDPRESS SUCKS.

    I can’t believe there isn’t a cms out there that allows someone to design a fully functional site with all the bells and whistles, and not have to know a bit of code to do it. It boggles my mind this hasn’t been created yet.

  12. Alfred Armstrong

    I can’t believe there isn’t a cms out there that allows someone to design a fully functional site with all the bells and whistles, and not have to know a bit of code to do it. It boggles my mind this hasn’t been created yet.

    The reason why it hasn’t been done is the same one that WordPress isn’t as bad as you imply – creating general purpose web software is hard, especially on a non-budget. What you think of as simple tasks really aren’t: they involved making different technologies work together smoothly across a wide variety of environments.

    WordPress is free, and it asks a bit of patience and study from its users. But I get the feeling you’d be moaning about it even if it came with a cash giveaway attached.

  13. Steven Howell

    I have to agree with a majority of the posts in here. WordPress is discouragingly difficult to customize. Sure, there’s a lot I don’t understand, but I generally have a hard time understanding code that isn’t written by me.

    But even then, I could tell that a lot of the code is disorganized. I’ve spent most of tonight trying to create my own template. I got about 70% of the way there, but I’m starting to realize it’s not worth the effort, and I’m running into difficulties that are making me pull my hair out!

    I’m done. Time to find something easier and better.

  14. Shauky

    Hmmm… I dont know about customization, but all things considered, developing a high maintenance ‘blog’, shouldn’t be a “grown mans job” regardless of what CMS he’s using. Everything on the web is a bad joke programming languages non-withstanding. Still, does a normal person actually ‘want’ to look at all the bells and whistles?
    That being said I love the hardworking techie tailors of today, most of my friends are techies, and they are generally good-natured, beautiful minded people. Does WordPress Suck? I honestly wanted to find out. Thats why I googled the question. A lot of people think so. If I was a more technical person, I would be obliged to agree with ‘some’ of them. That being said, I love this post, well said – the notion that the web is going to a constructive well-oiled place, a haven for techies and noobs alike. Where we could be doing ‘more important’ things than developing templates. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see. http://www.pathf.com/blogs/2008/05/wordpress-sucks-but-it-doesnt-matter/

  15. Andy

    There is something illusive about “free” software. It should be something that anyone with basic technical knowledge can download, install, customize, and use. I haven’t felt too much trouble customizing WordPress, but then again, I am a professional web developer. The flipside of this complaint is among companies who want a blog but think that if they choose something like WordPress, it should be very cheap or totally free. Well, the fact is that whether the software is free or not, you still have to pay some expert to make it work for you. That’s the way every technology is. Sorry. If they made cars free, mechanics would make a lot more money.

  16. Michael

    This has been very informative. I’ve experimented with many “drag and drop” website builders. I recently tried Drupal and WordPress and discovered that they are laborious, archaic, confusing, boring and unproductive. I’m glad to see the views posted here, I’ll keep on with the drag and drops, I can make a beautiful website in a day.

  17. Alfred Armstrong

    Michael, that wasn’t the intended message of this posting. There are considerable advantages in using a software platform such as WordPress over the DnD tools. It might take a few days to put together a site, but in the longer term WordPress will generally save a lot more time and trouble, and offer possibilities that these supposedly simple tools do not.

    From experience I would guess that your “beautiful” websites might look rotten and load slowly on mobile devices. Try solving that problem using Drag and Drop!

  18. Amy

    This is crazy. WordPress is so conterintuitive, I want to pull my hair out. I know enough html to do a simple webpage, but with wordpress you are always asking yourself, how in the world can I get this catagory to link to this page or make the menu work. It is poorly written for the average blogger. I sure hope it’s as great at seo as people say, if not I have wasted my time.

  19. james

    word press for me as some one whos not overly html knowledgable, but i know how to do some basic pages in html , and php or what ever the hell mysql is and why i need it, is a useless pile of cow dung , its not intuitive its messy and has way to many things to look at all at once.

    and so i went to blogger. found it intuitive easy to use ,fast, above all way better for the average blogger.

    wordpress is just a horrible , down right mess and the temlates are needlessly complex.

    editing a blogger template is as easy as clicking edit /html. and save or preveiw before saving, all at simple point and click options.

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