At the risk of being controversial, I don’t feel that self hosted WordPress is the right platform for everyone. This is why.
Self hosted WordPress is known for it’s flexibility and power.
It started as a blogging platform and quickly became popular with with all types of websites. (People that have been using it long enough will remember when WordPress introduced the ability to use a static page as the homepage – this one feature was a game changer).
As it became easier to use, more people began to use it to power their own websites. I am a huge fan. But I think that there are some people that are better off using a different platform.
Is Self Hosted WordPress Right For You?
1. Are You Willing to Learn The Tech Stuff?
Just this past week I have worked with more than a few people that have self hosted WordPress sites but
- don’t really know anything about WordPress
- have no desire to learn about it
- have various volunteers working on the site
- are shocked at how much it costs to pay someone to take care of it for them, and
- want to use it, more or less, to represent an offline business or organization, and/or
- belong to a volunteer organization – where the webmaster changes year after year.
If you don’t want to learn about WordPress – then stop right here.
This first point is really the prelude to all the rest.
2. Do You Know the Difference Between Self Hosted WordPress and WordPress.com?
I hope that you will take this in the right way – I do not mean to ridicule. Rather my purpose is to warn.
If you don’t know the difference between self hosted WordPress and WordPress.com – you will likely find yourself in over your head with a self hosted site.
This week alone I spoke to one person that was trying to log into her self hosted site using WordPress.com and another that had repeatedly tried to “call WordPress” when her self hosted site crashed.
Of course, neither will work.
When something doesn’t work, there is no ONE person to call.
3. Are You Aware of the Costs?
WordPress has often been thought of as a “free” platform.
When people say this, I am not quite sure what angle they are coming from.
I don’t know if they are thinking of WordPress.com (which offers a free account as well as a premium version) or if they are thinking of self hosted WordPress which is open source and free to download – but is actually far from free.
At a minimum you must pay for your
- domain name
- hosting account (check out SiteGround for WordPress)
- premium theme like the Genesis framework with a Studio Press child theme (I don’t recommend using a free theme)
Here is a list of blog tools that I pay for and use or have used for my WordPress site.
4. Will You Perform Site Maintenance?
WordPress.org (as opposed to dot com) periodically pushes out updates to the platform.
In anticipation of these platform updates, theme developers and plugin developers will push out updates to their themes and plugins.
Generally, themes and plugins are NOT automatically updated.
In your self hosted WordPress dashboard, you will likely see that there is an update available. But you must manually go into your dashboard and install the updates.
The process is relatively simple, if all goes well.
But sometimes it doesn’t.
On the other hand, some hosts will automatically update the WordPress platform.
Here’s the kicker – if you don’t update your plugins and theme before the WordPress gets installed, it is possible for your theme to break. If your theme or plugin developer does not issue a theme update in anticipation of a WordPress update, it is possible for your theme to break. (Which is why I don’t like free themes nor do I care much for custom themes. I would rather see people use a strongly supported framework like Genesis with a StudioPress child theme that is slightly modified for colors etc. using CSS or the Genesis Design Palette Pro plugin)
Aside from the whole breakage thing – if you don’t keep your site updated you are making it more susceptible to hackers.
5. Don’t Forget Backups
Some hosting plans like those offered by SiteGround include a regular backup of your WordPress site.
But some don’t. Especially hosting plans that were set up many years ago or that are, to put it bluntly, dirt cheap.
YOU need to know whether
- your site is being backed up
- how to gain access to that backup, if need be
- and, if your host will help you install a back up if needed.
6. Are You Willing to Pay Someone to Maintain Your Site?
As you can see, site maintenance is important.
If you don’t want to do it yourself – it still needs to be done. So, are you willing to pay someone for their time to keep you site updated?
Often there is some sticker shock involved.
If you have ever sat on the phone with customer service, you know that minutes can tick away. If you have ever dealt with technical issues, you know that time flies.
The people that can maintain your website should have the technical ability to handle it but at the same time their work goes far beyond the click of a button.
7. Is SEO Important to You?
Now don’t answer this one too quickly.
Of course, you want people to find your site – and self hosted WordPress with the right theme is well optimized already.
But, if you are a volunteer organization that uses your website to communicate with your existing members – then maybe you don’t need all that WordPress has to offer.
Or, if you don’t regularly add new information to your website – then again maybe WordPress is too much power.
The search engines feed on new info, new blog posts, – no matter how well optimized your site is, it will stagnate without new content.
8. Do You Plan to Blog?
I think that WordPress is top notch when it comes to blogging.
If a blog is going to be a big part of your website, then maybe you do need it.
But, you should be willing to learn (back to #1) how to add posts and media. For an active blog, it may not be cost effective to run to a VA every time you need to publish a post.
9. Will You Be Adding More Functionality to Your Website?
If you have plans to add a podcast, a shopping cart, courses, forums, or membership functionality to your website then you should evaluate different platforms based on these needs.
By itself, WordPress does not offer this additional functionality. But there are premium plugins (yes, you have to pay for them) that you can install.
Once again, we full circle to maintenance where you will need to keep these updated and make sure they play nice with the other plugins on your site.
10. Do You Want One Stop Shopping?
If you answered yes to this, then self hosted WordPress might not be right for you.
It definitely is not one stop.
You pay a monthly fee and they take care of all the updates on the backend.
Yes, there is a monthly charge. But we’ve already established that WordPress isn’t free either.
Will You Have Turnover in Your Webmasters?
If your organization is run by volunteers then sometimes one stop shopping is best.
Because self hosted WordPress has so many moving parts, it is hard to take control of the beast.
What are the passwords for the domain account, the hosting account, and the WordPress website? (No they are not all the same.)
And, equally important, who is paying for each of those accounts in a volunteer organization. If you lose control of even one piece, you could lose control of your website.
No More Negativity
Sorry to sound so negative.
Believe me, I am a huge self hosted WordPress fan.
As powerful as it is, I just want to make you aware of the responsibilities involved.
Just like you take your car in for regular maintenance, you must do the same for your website.
Did You Decide Against WordPress?
If you considered WordPress but ultimately chose a different platform – I would love to hear your story.
Please leave a comment below and tell me what platform you chose and why.