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WordPress or Bespoke Web Development: Pros and Cons

Sophia Bates1 month

We at Vasterra often get asked whether one should go for a WordPress-based or a bespoke website solution in order to get a slick, performant and overall cost-efficient website up and running.

To resolve this dilemma once and for all, our team has analysed the pros and cons of each option in detail and came up with this article, intended to help you make a decision that takes the features and capabilities of your business into account.

WordPress — impressive websites built in just a few minutes

These days, WordPress is the first solution that comes to mind when one’s considering building a website: it is a globally renowned and well-established website building platform, after all. 

The WordPress content management system allows its users to design interactive web pages by using existing templates and automatically optimises them for mobile devices and e-commerce platforms. These key advantages let even beginners create a rich variety of web content quickly.

Pros of WordPress 

  • WordPress comes with thousands of customisable themes and designs to choose from, allowing you to start building from a boilerplate that already matches your design ideas up to a certain extent. WordPress comes with thousands of customizable themes and designs to choose from. Above all, thousands of them are freely available, you can start a site with a template in no time and adapt it to your needs.
  • There are numerous plugins available to greatly extend the functionality of WordPress. It was originally created as a blogging platform and no other features were intended; thus, you will have to make use of either third-party plugins or custom-made plugins to expand your website’s capabilities. 
  • It is widely regarded as one of the most affordable ways to build a website — provided that the desired functionality of the site does not imply many of the aforementioned plugins, in which case their cumulative subscription fees could add up to a hefty sum.
  • The speed of creating sites on WordPress is impressive. This is mainly due to the fact that WordPress makes heavy use of templates.
  • There’s an admin panel ready to use and out of the box. The specificity of business processes in some niche applications — for example, online trading — may at times lead to substantial expenses related to the admin dashboard development. WordPress, on the other hand, offers a ready-made solution which is quick and reliable.
Example of an admin panel in WordPress (https://learn.wordpress.org/lesson-plan/dashboard-overview/)

Cons of WordPress

  • As easy-to-use as WordPress themes are, they have one major drawback: changing the theme can also alter your content beyond recognition. WordPress cannot adequately transfer the underlying data from theme to theme on its own and most of the time this leads to the previously functional website falling apart when its theme is changed.
  • The aforementioned abundance of plugins on the market can be both a blessing and a curse: most of the options that deserve attention are fairly utilitarian and usually fulfil a specific purpose. What that means is that an average WordPress website would normally run on 20 to 30 plugins. Considering the average monthly fees of $25 per plugin for commercial use, recurring costs of plugins alone will add up to $6,000-9,000 per year.
  • If you need a function for which a plugin has not yet been created, building one yourself will be considerably more time-consuming than just adding the same feature to a bespoke website.
  • While WordPress is famous for being a platform with a very low entry barrier, building a decently looking and performant website takes a broad set of skills in juggling your site’s theme/structure, content, plugins, and SEO — unless all that optimisation work is done properly, you run the risk of being left with critically slow web pages.
  • The out-of-the-box WordPress admin panel cannot be customised in any way for whichever specific use case you may be looking for to be fulfilled. WordPress as a platform suffers from that issue to an extent as well: the more you customise it, the more cumbersome it becomes performance-wise.
  • The ease of building a WordPress website has one major drawback — security. WordPress sites are a treat for attackers since they open a treasure trove of outdated themes and plugins, substandard security policies and more for such actors to exploit freely and easily.

Bespoke site — ultimate control over every aspect of your web presence

Effectively acting as a face of the business on the web, custom sites are the go-to means for tech-savvy entrepreneurs Effectively acting as a face of the business on the web, custom sites are the go-to choice for tech-savvy entrepreneurs to instil trust and confidence into their potential clientele through unique user experiences capable of conveying more than a page-long wall of text and striking visuals designed to not only impress, but also to make a statement on their own.

Pros of a bespoke website

  • The biggest advantage of a bespoke website is the complete control you have over it. No need to wrestle with plugins, themes and templates made by unknown creators years ago. Go in, express your creativity, and put your brand’s mission statement out there — the possibilities are literally endless.
An example of a unique design for one of our projects. Learn more here.
  • Performance of a custom site solely depends on the quality of its code. Besides, when properly optimised, such a website doesn’t have to balance between design, usability, and SEO — enjoy all of it at once.
  • Compared to open-source website platforms such as WordPress, custom-built websites are way more reliable in terms of data security and privacy from the get-go and are easier to adapt to specific existing or newly introduced regulations (take HL7, for instance). 
  • If you are after a clear overview of and full control over your operations, then you might be interested in getting a tailor-made admin dashboard for your website. Visualise your data, create custom reports, monitor KPIs in real time, manage each and every aspect of the website — feel free to get as fancy or as lean as your business calls for. Bespoke solutions do exactly what you want them to do!
A unique admin panel built specifically for our client in the real estate industry. Learn more here.

Cons of a bespoke website

  • If a truly high-end website is your goal, building one is going to take a team that includes not only programmers, but also web/UI/UX designers, quality control engineers and a project manager. Even though every respectable provider will allow you to have as much control over development as you like, it is still not quite the same as starting a site completely on your own.
  • When it comes to the most basic forms of product requirements (say, a couple of static informational pages and a contact form, for example), the cost of developing a bespoke site usually will be higher than that of using a ready-made WordPress template. 
  • Custom development will generally take longer than WordPress due to the fact that the former involves a certain amount of business analysis efforts. Take our team, for instance: Vasterra kicks its projects off with a discovery phase, which facilitates deeper understanding of the customers’ business goals and ensures that all their objectives are met by the end of the development cycle.

WordPress or bespoke website: what’s the best solution?

In a nutshell, there is definitely a time and a place for both approaches. If what you need is a simple static one-pager website or a blog that doesn’t call for unique design or functionality, WordPress is your best bet. It can also act as a decent tool for startups to rapidly launch several prototype products — albeit being rough around the edges — and test their market hypotheses that way. 

Tailor-made websites and web applications, on the other hand, are best suited for when you’re looking for unique and impressive designs, catering to less-than-common use cases, fleshing out feature-rich product ideas or generally dealing with business processes of above-average complexity. Not to mention that custom-built websites by default rank higher on web vitals — one of the most important metrics for any online business — and drastically outperform WordPress in terms of security and scalability. If yours is the kind of business that understands the value of being online, it is nothing but a rational decision to establish your web presence through a reliable and secure bespoke solution.

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