One of the things that happened last year was that I had a number of interesting conversations with a client seeking a quote who had been navigating the process of choosing a developer for their simple business website.
I was one of three people up for the job.
The client had come to me asking for a WordPress site as they’d used WP before and were a little familiar with how it works. But they were uncertain because the competitors touting for this work had rubbished WordPress as a viable option. So I found myself having to defend my choice of WordPress as a credible CMS, not to mention defend myself as a credible developer!
From the emails I received it seemed to me as though the client felt pressured by the strength of the arguments that were being raised against WordPress. The whole process was raising doubt as to whether WordPress sufficient for their needs.
Let’s be clear about what those needs were:
- Taking content from an existing static HTML site and putting it into a CMS
- Having an easy to use system to add or remove staff members to accommodate changes in their provider lineup
- Being able to insert in the code that was given them by their bookings provider so they can offer online bookings.
I don’t have any problem with people preferring one CMS over another, but the responses that were relayed to me seemed rather intense.
(As an aside a friend had a similar negative response from a web host who had seen their customer updating a site to WordPress from a different (obviously the host’s preferred) CMS. The host actually went so far as telling them they were making a mistake… Since when do hosts tell a client what to use?)
I replied to the client with a comprehensive breakdown of why WordPress was actually ideal for their needs and at the end of the whole discussion they had reached the conclusion that WordPress would be a good fit and that I was the girl for the job.
Fast forward a week to when the deposit had been paid and I was ready to start work and an uncertain email arrived in my inbox.
Another website company had rung, also saying that WordPress is not the way to go.
The criticisms of either competing parties seem to have been that WordPress is free, is restricted in its design options and that it’s complicated to use. The solutions they were offering were proprietary systems, one of which was a fully hosted platform for large scale enterprise business, the other was an in-house custom CMS.
I think that a situation like this can leave people who are approaching the process of working with a web professional feeling as though they are diving in, and swimming around with sharks. This leaves me, their developer needing to offer reassurance that I am going to be able to solve their website issues and not take advantage of them while doing so.
In response, the following is what I think; first about the kind of developer sales talk that is in fact, all about the developer rather than the client, and then about why WordPress is a credible CMS.
As the developer, the job is not about you
In pitching for work, the needs of the client ought to be the whole focus of what you build. It’s their site, it represents them and needs to attract the right audience and it needs to convert. Furthermore, as it’s the client who is going to have to use the CMS in the long-term, it needs to be easy for them to grasp and quick for them to feel confident using.
What I heard in the arguments I read from the competing developers was that they were explaining why their systems were better than WordPress rather than why their solutions were going to do a better job of answering the client’s needs. They were focused on what they themselves wanted, rather than what the client needed.
Empathy over fear
The other thing that burned me up about these sales calls was the kind of language used to convince the client that they were the best people with the best tools to build this site. Some of the words being used were things like “manipulated… restricted… complicated.” No wonder the client came away conflicted. My competitors were trying to influence a choice in their favour using fear, rather than presenting an understanding of what the client needed and how the client felt and speaking instead to that.
In the end I carefully outlined my defense that WordPress is a credible CMS much along the following lines…
WordPress is no longer JUST a blogging platform
It is true, when WordPress first originated 11 years ago it was a tool specifically for blogging, however it has been a very long time since it was just that. While it has evolved from a blogging engine to enterprise level CMS, these days advanced developers are even using WordPress as a framework on which to build full-fledged web applications. Yes, it is a blogging tool, and is still a good one, but it is so, so much more than that.
More sites with a CMS are built on WordPress than anything else.
There’s no going past the fact that more sites use WordPress than any of the alternatives… According to W3Techs, 23% of websites are using WordPress, 7.5 times as many more than its nearest competitor Joomla at 3%. If you restrict the count only to sites using a CMS WordPress’ market share is in fact 60.7%.
Why are so many people using WordPress? The barrier to entry is low for users and developers alike; it’s easy to use for the non technical user. It does the job well and does it accessibly.
WordPress is Open Source
Both of the competing developers downgraded WordPress’ value simply because of its $0 price tag. However open source software is ever so much more than just its cost. Its value is actually in the free (as in freedom) aspect of its nature.
Open source gives users and developers alike the freedom to do with the product, software or tool what they wish. This is a state that fuels innovation. No one is telling you what you’re allowed, or not allowed to do with their software. Better still you are actively encouraged you to do whatever you want with it, the sky’s the limit!
WordPress comes with a Community
Because so many people are building together for WordPress there is a huge, connected community that come with it to your project. A community of people who help each other, teach and learn from each other and who all get excited about the possible solutions for you and your clients that WordPress can provide.
If you get stuck using it, you’re never too far from someone else who knows how to use it and who are happy to help. If your developer for whatever reason becomes unavailable, there are a mind-boggling number of people who could pick up where they left off.
Furthermore, the community has created an incredible number of plugins (to extend functionality), themes (to change the look of your site), podcasts, tutorials and resources for both users and developers of WordPress. So using it and building for it is as well supported as the software itself.
Ubiquity has its benefits.
WordPress is Updated Regularly
One of the advantages of having such a huge community behind WordPress is that behind the scenes there is a constant group of people evaluating the software, finding and fixing bugs, and proposing new ways to improve the functionality of the software and user experience of the software. This community knows WordPress isn’t perfect and they’re constantly looking at ways to make it better. As a result major releases of new versions of WP are brought to market as often as 3 times a year, with minor releases for security and bug fixing happening in between.
WordPress is Easy to Learn and Use
This is the no brainer for me. I think the experience of using WordPress for publishing web content just keeps getting better. I’m not going to be a complete fan girl and say that it’s perfect. WordPress is not perfect, but the people who build WordPress are the people who use it too, so they’re highly invested in improving the experience for everyone.
It’s also, I believe, my responsibility to make sure my client is confident enough to use WordPress to do what they need when I hand a site over into their control. Sometimes this will even mean editing the admin section of the site, or customising the back-end experience for my clients so that WordPress isn’t overwhelming to them. This is just one more thing that makes WordPress awesome… it’s entirely possible to customise it to that extent, and it’s actively encouraged.
I realise that as a WordPress professional I’m predisposed to find solutions using WordPress, and honestly, 9.9 times out of 10 I can. However, I like to think I’m platform agnostic enough that if I knew a solution elsewhere that would be better for the client’s needs that I’d send them there.
In this case, there was no clear need to do that. It was not a complicated project, and WordPress was actually perfectly suited for it.
I guess the moral of the story is this; if you’re a developer, put your focus squarely on your client and think through how you present your solutions… are they for the client? Or are they for you?
If you’re the client… listen to the developer and try to interpret whether they sound like it’s you they’re thinking about or if it’s themselves. If they’re not thinking about you, maybe you need to keep looking…
Finally, in the end, the client chose me; we made a beautiful site and it’s doing exactly what they needed…
… on WordPress.