Debunking WordPress Myths

Francesca Marano is the WordPress Community Manager at SiteGround. She travels the world discussing WordPress, community, open source, women in tech, and small businesses. Prior to SiteGround, Francesca spent years as an independent consultant, building websites with a focus on helping women starting their own career journeys.

One-third of all live websites on the Internet are powered by the open-source website-building platform WordPress. There are literally millions of websites built on it, and probably hundreds of thousands of people who earn a living developing WordPress-related product. Yet, surprisingly, you can see many people still harbor misconceptions about it. In a way, it’s understandable; we can’t really know something well unless we dedicate a lot of time to make ourselves familiar with it, and many users just don’t have that time. They just want a comfortable, flexible CMS that will allow them to conduct their business in the simplest way possible. Well, if you didn’t know already, WordPress is exactly that. 

As the WordPress Community and Partnerships Manager at SiteGround, a WordPress contributor and someone that does a lot of social listening and networking as part of my job, I seem to bump into the same myths surrounding its capabilities over and over again. Before I joined the SiteGround team, I was a freelance web designer that created websites for other freelancers. The main reason why I decided to join a company was because I wanted to be helpful to people that use WordPress as the base of their online presence at a scale. I wanted to be able to reach more people and help as much as possible. What a better place to do so than a hosting company with hundreds of thousands of customers?

Since joining the company, I have travelled across Europe, Asia and North America to attend conferences and be at the SiteGround booth: that is one of my favorite tasks – it really allows me to keep my ears to the ground and hear what people think of the latest changes of WordPress, how they use the software, etc. In addition, my involvement with the project, both in the Community and Core Team, really gave me a bird’s eye view of how to use, talk and make the software. Most of the myths in this article come from conversations I had over the years or threads that I see over and over on social media. Here are the most common of them, laid out, explained, and in the end, completely busted.

Myth #1: WordPress is just for small, DIY or blog sites

Quite possibly the biggest and most popular myth of all is that WordPress is (just) a blogging tool or only for small, DIY sites. The reason for this is quite logical; indeed the project originated in 2003 as an instrument that was meant to help bloggers with limited coding skills to create their own site. 

Since then, WordPress has developed in ways that probably neither of its creators would have ever dreamt. Thousands upon thousands of extensions and add ons have been created in order to expand its possibilities and today, WordPress is being used for all kinds of websites. Notably, some of the biggest brands in the world use WordPress, including the likes of the New York Times, Disney, Sony and Microsoft, to name a few.

The WordPress repository currently offers over 56 000 plugins, all designed to help you transform your WordPress into whatever you want. From blogs, stores, booking sites, and portfolios to CVs, directories, business websites, the possibilities are almost endless! And given that this is the most popular website-building software, they will continue to grow.

Myth #2: You either need to know how to code or you’re stuck with template-like production

Until a few years ago, you had to be either a developer and create a custom theme for yourself or buy a theme, risking ending  up with the same website design as others who bought the same one. There were always possibilities for customization, but these were somewhat limited – the color palette, the media files, the content within, etc.

Enter Page-builders, which completely changed the game. Their block-like construction allowed a completely new way of designing, giving the standard users new freedom when it comes to arranging the structure of their website. Creating blank spaces, adding or removing elements and sections, and even functionalities was made easy, and this is perhaps another reason the use of WordPress skyrocketed.  

With the latest built-in WordPress core editor, Gutenberg, users can now use ready-made blocks and sections as well. Since Gutenberg was released in December 2018, multiple add ons have been developed and with their help, “building up from scratch” takes a totally new meaning. The block editor boosted by the add ons gives you a rough outline of the site’s design and leaves the creation almost entirely to the user’s imagination.

Myth #3: WordPress limits ability to personalize templates to align design with intent 

When you first install WordPress, you’ll be provided with a basic, free theme for your site, but you are not limited (nor encouraged) to stick with this generic template. With a vast array of themes available, users have the ability to choose and adopt a theme that aligns with the overall branding and supports specific business needs. Different templates provide different design aesthetics and features that facilitate a brand’s ultimate ‘call-to-action’ – i.e., why an end-user is visiting the site. Moreover, when choosing a template on WordPress, the “Feature Filter” allows you to select templates that include certain features and functionalities, including contact forms, e-commerce capabilities, a portfolio, and more to help drive business goals and user experience. By using countless plugins, widgets and add ons, WordPress sites can be further scaled and personalized to drive business goals. 

Once a template has been selected, WordPress allows users to add brand assets, including a unique URL, logo design, trademark, custom brand color palette and fonts to further personalize the look and feel of a site.  

 Myth #4: WordPress updates often break the site

Being the most widely used website-building software out there, WordPress is regularly updated with both new features and security updates, aiming to prevent vulnerability exploits and hacker attacks. Because of these updates (which also extend to themes and plugins), people need to regularly check for new releases and apply them, when available. 

Many users disregard this practice and then at some point find themselves updating the platform from a very outdated version to the latest one, which can sometimes cause issues. It’s like missing several updates on your smartphone software and then expecting the process to go smoothly when you finally install the updates.

This creates the illusion that the problem is the action of the update itself, but this is incorrect.  If you update the system regularly, it’s unlikely that you’ll run into big problems and you will also ensure the best possible performance and security for your site. Alternatively, it’s highly recommended to look for a quality website hosting provider that offers an opt-in auto-update WordPress feature, ensuring that even if you forget about updating, your sites are taken care of.

Myth #5: There is no support for it because it’s a free/open-source tool

While it’s true that the open-source WordPress project doesn’t offer paid support, it has a large WordPress community of users, WordPress professionals and WordPress hosting providers that specialize in this field. In addition, fans and users volunteer their time, effort, and skills to help the project and its users continue to grow together. Not only can you rely on tons of useful documentation, but there is also a support forum where developers, designers, and marketers can help with your questions or issues. 

You can also find hundreds of blogs packed with super-useful posts, guides, how-to’s, FAQ, etc. If you encounter a WordPress problem, Googling it will probably help you solve it since it’s very likely it was discussed already in a forum or a blog. This is also true for the Facebook groups, which aren’t always being indexed in Google, but you can search directly within them. 

Some quality hosting providers that offer managed WordPress hosting services also provide support for specific technical issues related to the CMS. And finally, there are a vast number of companies and freelancers who offer paid support, if you don’t feel comfortable digging too deep into the technical matters.

Myth #6: WordPress is not reliable for big (high-traffic) projects

Many people still think of WordPress as something suitable only for small sites. The reality is that WordPress can be a pretty sturdy solution, capable of great accomplishments in terms of functionality and traffic. A testament to that is the growing number of WordPress design shops and agencies, which specialize in large enterprise or even media projects built on WordPress. 

One of the platform’s current benefits is that you can start small and expand as your business or website grows or start big – the platform is very dynamic and flexible to accommodate projects of all sizes. In fact, people may not realize it, but there are some high-profile companies whose sites are being powered by WordPress. Amongst the biggest names are BBC America, The New Yorker, Disney, Sony Music, and others. Big companies favor it for its usability and flexibility, and since they usually have several people managing their sites, the user-friendly website management interface is not something to be overlooked.

Myth #7: WordPress isn’t very secure

You may find an excessive number of reports about WordPress sites being hacked, but you also need to consider that many more people use it than other solutions. WordPress currently holds about 60% of the market share within the CMS market, while other site builders typically hold about 2-5%. It’s understandable that the number of reports is disproportionate. 

The reality is that WordPress is one of the most secure solutions you can use, as people constantly work to improve its security. Because the software is open-source, anybody could take the code and dig for security holes, so the WP core developers are always working to patch things up and ensure that if there are any, they are promptly fixed. 

This is why keeping your WordPress up to date is crucial, and of course, there are other best practices you should keep in mind, like regular backups, malware scanners, and website firewalls. Long-term managed WordPress hosting providers additionally ensure a great level of security. For example, security best practices in SiteGround cover an incredibly wide range of factors; from smart server-level Web Application Firewall, to scheduled daily backups to ensure quick recovery if needed, AI to block malicious traffic, and real-time server health checks. This creates an unparalleled level of protection for your WordPress site and ensures its smooth operation.

Myth #8: WordPress can’t be used for E-commerce

It’s truly amazing how many online stores are built on WordPress while this misconception still circulates. You can absolutely build your online shop on WordPress! This is done through adding an extension (plugin) that can transform your WordPress into a stunning, fully-functional e-commerce site. 

Furthermore, because WordPress is so popular, hundreds of add-ons are available for these plugins which can enhance your store and add custom functionalities. Do you want 3D photos of your merchandise? No problem! AI shopping assistant? Certainly! How about a personalized purchasing guide or a special delivery option? You’re on.

There are very few things you won’t be able to accomplish with WordPress when it comes to eCommerce, and even if you don’t find a ready-made solution, finding a developer who can code it for you will be easy.

Myth #9: WordPress sites are too slow

For such a heavily feature-rich platform, WordPress still offers decent speed out of the box. However, there are some instances when your WP website can indeed turn out to be slow, and this usually happens due to three main reasons:

  • You overload the website with plugins and/or your theme is unwieldy
  • Your hosting provider is not optimized for WordPress
  • You haven’t updated your site and plugins in a very long time

There are some settings you can tweak yourself to improve performance, such as caching, optimizing images, using CDN and so on. Learn more about optimizing your WordPress for speed in the free eBook, 21 Expert Tips to an Ultra-Fast WordPress Site.

The fact of the matter, though, is that your hosting service will play a major role in your website speed, so choosing a high-quality, reliable hosting provider is imperative. Servers that are specifically optimized for WordPress will absolutely outperform their counterpart, so make sure to look for that when selecting your provider. 

Proper optimization (and a good hosting provider) can make any WordPress website, big or small, lightning-fast.