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The Downside to Custom WordPress Installs

September 25, 2012

In a previous post, Why A WordPress, 42 Partner Colin Ferm described the benefits of using WordPress for a website that needs content management. But there are downsides as well that aren’t nearly as obvious as the upside. Today, I’ll be exploring those.


I don’t want to rehash all of Colin’s points but, quickly, let’s review a few:

WordPress, like almost every other content management systems (CMS), provides a set of administration tools from which users of varying permissions can write, edit, and publish content from.

This system allows for a hierarchal publication system that almost anyone who’s worked, or heard of, a newsroom might be familiar with. One WordPress site can have dozens of writers and a handful of editors checking the content before determining when it can be seen on the site itself. Obviously, on a site run by a single person writing and publishing, this model flattens, but it allows a lot of collaboration by many different people while ensuring that content is of a certain level.

That it also stores content in a display neutral way (ie. without the site’s design embedded) is also a major feature but one most people probably won’t take advantage of unless the site’s look and feel changes on a regular basis.

Other built in features that are useful for publishing is the ability to categorize and “tag” content with various “taxonomies”, each of which can be used to organize and display the content with other like articles. This becomes extremely important as the amount of content on the site grows and readers need a quick and easy way to find related material.

Lastly, WordPress (again, like many other systems) offers the ability to upload, display, and attach media to posts for display.


While WordPress has evolved from a simple blogging platform into a full-featured, mature CMS, the complexity of the admin tools and plugins have grown as well. For even a relatively inexperienced web-developer, these tools are still simple to use, because web-developers are comfortable with reading the information on the screen and the concept that it all works the same way even if the names and labels of the fields may vary.

These two ideas, while obvious to those of us used to abstracting and templating, can be a major hurdle to a person with little to no developer experience who needs to administer their website. Even though the internet, in it’s current form, has been around for almost 20 years, a lot people don’t read what’s on the screen in front of them. This can be because of the way the information is presented or because there’s simply too much of it to digest easily. Pushing buttons and making “magical” changes can be daunting, because inexperienced administrators don’t want to mess things up and, more than likely, don’t understand what is actually happening when they push buttons.

Communication is the Key and Patience is a Virtue

42 Solutions has performed many custom WordPress installs for a range of clients, many with negligible internet experience and we’ve found a common thread with all of them:

1. Clients don’t know nearly as much as you do – I may be Master of the Obvious here but you’re the one being hired to perform a service they can’t do for themselves and it’s important to remember this when communicating how the CMS, or anything you built, functions. Don’t talk down to your clients, they’re not stupid (Once again, they hired you, so they can’t be dumb.), they just don’t have the same skill sets as you. Be patient with questions whether on the phone or emails. An easy way to avoid frustration is to prepare a cheat-sheet or customized, abbreviated manual that you can send to clients filled with FAQ’s and common functionalities.

2. Be prepared to answer a lot questions – Whether over the phone or email, you will probably need to answer a lot of questions that you think are obvious or ones already answered. But it may take more than once for the concept to be understood. Most worth learning do.

3. WordPress can do almost anything, but the client probably doesn’t know that. – Make sure to scope the project as accurately as possible and suggest existing plugins wherever possible. Connected to this is that it’s also important to communicate to the client that WordPress is a framework and that it generates pages “automagically” based on the the theme designed. Many clients get hung up on the number of pages of their site and how much “design” needs to be done, while in reality, because of theming, the bulk of time will be spent on loading the site with data. To avoid doing the data loading yourself, again, communicate clearly and effectively how the system works, so the client can add their own content. This cuts down on your work and allows them the time to learn the system.


The biggest problem with WordPress isn’t really WordPress. And it certainly isn’t the client. It’s usually with the consultant. The consultant assuming too much while not being patient enough. However, this is easily overcome with proper preparation, project planning, and building in the time to train the client on the system that’s been delivered. This is the surest way to ensure maximum client satisfaction and a consultant who hasn’t pulled out all his hair.

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Working with 42 Solutions, you’ll find that it’s not the technology that’s important, it’s the idea. Regardless of whether your company is based on proprietary software or open source, we will find the right tools to get the job done.

Invite us to your office and we’ll send a pair of consultants armed with laptops and bright ideas, ready to solve your problem and offer solutions. We pride ourselves in getting to know how you do business and integrating into your process.