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Custom code Vs. WordPress - pros, cons, and explanation

Custom code Vs. WordPress – pros, cons, & what to choose

Ok, full disclosure – here at Over Alt, we build all of our sites on WordPress. Why? Because it’s awesome (more on that later). Now, this probably means this article is biased, but I’ll do my absolute best to be impartial when talking about the pros and cons of building a website using custom code vs WordPress.

Now, I should also say that I won’t go into the pros and cons of DIY website builders like Wix or Squarespace. Quite simply, there’s way more cons than pros and these things aren’t in the same league or planet as WordPress, and certainly nowhere near custom code (in my opinion). 

So, let’s get started. 

What does it mean to build a custom coded website? 

Quite simply, the best way to think about a custom coded website is to imagine a blank screen. Then, imagine someone sitting down and writing computer code. Finally, they click a button, a testing window opens and their code is transformed into a website. 

Basically, a custom coded site means that a website has been built from scratch, using very little, if any, out of the box elements. 

It’s a bit like a unique house that’s been lovingly designed and built from scratch. 

What, then, is a WordPress website?

Well, a WordPress website is a site that has been built on the WordPress platform.

What is this? Well, it’s essentially a platform where lots of the boring repetitive tasks that you’d have to do if custom code a website have been done for you.

If we think of it as the house building example, WordPress basically gets things like planning permission and the ground clearance done for you. 

What are the advantages of a custom coded site?

Quite simply, the main advantage is complete flexibility. A custom coded site can be literally anything you want it to be. Need a website that plays jingle bells when someone clicks their mouse twelve times on an image of Santa’s hat? Custom code can do that easily. 

Or, more seriously, perhaps you want an online webstore that is able to filter products on the front page based on the weather in a visitor’s hometown? Well, a custom coded site can do that. 

Of course there are other advantages too. Custom coded websites can often be quicker to load than WordPress sites, and sometimes a bit better when it comes to search engine optimisation (although definitely not always!). 

And, if that all wasn’t enough, custom coded sites are also unique to your business. If it’s a truly custom coded site, then each element, menu item, and so on will be completely and utterly bespoke to your business. 

Pretty cool stuff.

So what are the drawbacks of a custom coded website?

The main drawback of a custom coded website is one of time, and what does time equal…? Money.

A custom coded website can be a very significant undertaking because every element needs to be preplanned, designed and built. 

This means that they often cost many, many thousands of pounds. And the problem with this is that this cost is beyond the reach of most businesses. 

Another huge drawback with a custom coded website is that – by definition – it’s very hard for a client (and sometimes other web designers) to make changes to the site. 

To return to the house building analogy, imagine you take ownership of this beautiful artisan house and then want to build an extension. You can’t attempt it yourself as you have no clue about the foundations, materials and so on. You could ask another builder to come along and figure it all out, but then you’ll be paying them to scratch their head for a while before they can work. So, where does that leave you? Kind of stuck with the original builder.

Now, this is all well and good if you get on with whoever built you site, but sometimes relationships can break down, or they can go out of business, or move on to bigger projects. Either way, it’s a bit of a drawback. 

What’s so good about WordPress websites then?

Let me clear my throat. Ahem. Where to begin? 

WordPress is simply brilliant. First of all, let’s cover a few facts – WordPress websites make up around 43% of all of the world’s websites (this website is one of them). And, huge companies and important organisations use the platform – e.g. the New York Times and the White House. 

The central advantage of a site built on WordPress is time. 

Because it is such a popular platform there are literally tens of thousands of little plugins and apps that a web designer can use to help build a site into whatever it needs to be, without redesigning the wheel on each site they build. 

Let’s say a client needs something simple like an image slider on their homepage. Well, with WordPress, that can be done in a few clicks. Suddenly what would have taken hours can be done in 20 minutes. 

Sticking on the time theme, another huge advantage of WordPress is that the foundations of a website are already pre-built for you. A web designer doesn’t need to spend hours focussing on critical things that a client never sees, like setting up databases. 

All of these time saving features then mean that a web designer can then charge less for a website that pretty much looks the same, feels the same and performs the same as a custom coded website. 

Pretty awesome, in my opinion. 

Another big advantage of a website built on the WordPress platform is that, if push comes to shove, most tech-savvy clients will be able to manage it themselves. 

Now, whether they want to, whether they’ll make a mistake, or whether it’s a good use of their time, is another question, but the fact is that it’s an option. 

This means that should their web designer move on to greener pastures, the client isn’t left up a creek without a paddle. In fact, because WordPress is such a widely used platform, the odds are that the client will easily be able to find another web designer to take on the management of the website. 

All in all, WordPress saves time and money, and if a client has a website built on the platform they’re at much less risk of becoming over dependent on their original web designer. 

But, there are some downsides to WordPress…

In the interests of balance, it’s important to touch on some of the drawbacks of using WordPress to build a website. 

To greater or lesser extents, all of the drawbacks of the platform are connected with the fact that it’s so popular. 

Because it is the most widely used website building platform, you can find that many people will use it with no clue about how to actually build a well performing and secure website. 

Let’s call these people “wannabe web designers.”

These wannabes will do things like install untested plugins and apps on a clients website, or use slow, bloated point and click website builders to make a site for a client.

All of this can combine into a major headache for the client over time. The random bits of software a wannabe has installed will leave them exposed to being hacked, and the site will be poor performing and slow to load. 

In a nutshell: at its best, WordPress can give you a site that is up there with a custom coded site, but at its worst it can result in the poorest website imaginable. 

But the problem here isn’t the platform, it’s the person using it. 

So, it’s therefore hugely important to choose a web designer who knows their stuff… someone like, oh, I don’t know… Over Alt Web Design… (that’s us btw, in case you didn’t get the shameless plug! Check our our web design packages here)

Concluding thoughts: Custom Coded VS. WordPress, which should you choose?

Hopefully this has been a useful whistle stop tour of the pros and cons of custom coded and WordPress websites. 

But it still leaves an unanswered question… what should you choose? 

Well, even though I’m biased, I’d recommend WordPress to 90% of all people who need a website made for them. 

It’s cheaper, can be customised to suit most people’s needs, and in the right hands will run like an absolute dream.  

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