WordPress or Hand-coded? That is the question. At least, it is the most critical question when you first decide to hire a web development company in Toronto.
Neither option is best for all individuals or businesses under all circumstances. Instead, it depends on several factors, such as the scale of your operations, your short and long-term budget, and your overarching goals.
Understanding each approach’s pros and cons will help you make an informed decision, so that’s what we’ll help you with here.
First, let’s cover the pros and cons of building your website on the world’s most popular CMS, WordPress.
In-house content creation
The most significant benefit of WordPress is that it provides graphical interfaces to manage and create content for your website. That’s why WordPress powers over 30% of all websites. With a bit of time and the willingness to learn, anyone can create posts, pages and even add simple styling to their website.
Without any experience (or free time), it may be challenging to design a whole website that looks professional and functions well. However, after being handed over a complete site, clients will keep adding to their website without the need for help.
Confident website owners can even add functionality to their site in the form of one-click plugins and themes.
Easy to manage
Similar to site construction, WordPress websites are also easy to maintain. For the most part, regularly updating plugins and themes is essential for maintenance. Many hosting services even do this automatically. Except for potential security events or malfunctioning plugins, troubleshooting issues is also typically more straightforward.
Cost and time-effective
Because the foundations are already there, it takes much less time and effort to build a website using WordPress. Unless there is some unique requirement or feature needed for your website, developers can source third-party plugins and themes. Even if these are premium add-ons, the cost usually pales in comparison to developing functionality from scratch.
For the same reasons, it’s usually quicker to develop a website using a builder or CMS. If you need to source expert services for ongoing maintenance, these rates should also be lower than for custom-built sites.
Yes, there might be hundreds of thousands of WordPress plugins and themes. However, there are millions upon millions of websites. Unless you put considerable time and effort into a custom design for your website, it will still have that “WordPress-built” look and feel.
Even plugins that add particular features will work in specific ways, depending on their creators’ needs. It might not be possible to alter them to suit your vision or needs precisely. If you’re particular about what you want, you might find yourself requesting more and more custom work, which will ramp up the development time and cost.
Performance and SEO
Because WordPress builds on PHP, a server-side language, it’s not optimal for performance, particularly at large scales.
Because WordPress (and other CMSs) operate with a standard code base, it’s also harder for developers to make the kind of changes that would improve performance significantly. CDNs or performance plugins can only go so far. According to Google, this is terrible news because slower loading times negatively affect the user experience and increases bounce rates.
The same goes for SEO. WordPress wasn’t built with SEO in mind from the very beginning. Due to legacy reasons, you will never be able to optimize for SEO as well as with custom-built sites. Furthermore, this is particularly true as performance has become a key SEO ranking metric.
One constant concern with WordPress websites is surrounding security. Because the underlying code is open-source, attackers view them as soft targets. They are more likely to be victims of cyberattacks and hacking attempts than custom sites.
With 73% of active WordPress sites having exploitable vulnerabilities, the problem is widespread. While regular updates and security plugins can address most issues, these platforms will probably always remain an easier target.
Custom Website Development
Now, let’s see how that matches up with building a custom website from scratch.
Performance and SEO
Standard HTML is a client-side language. That means the code for these websites runs on each website visitor’s computer. This feature drastically reduces the strain on the server and generally leads to faster and more responsive websites.
Using frameworks like Next.js using the same principles, as developers in web design Toronto use can create highly dynamic and interactive pages with the same performance benefits.
Standard coding builds the website from scratch, and this gives developers space to optimize individual websites’ performance. For example, each website will only have the files and code it needs, without any code bloat.
As our technology and infrastructure change, you can adjust the website to perform optimally. The same goes for SEO, with HTML websites generally having cleaner code that’s easier for search engines to read and index.
Bespoke customization and functionality
The best part about a custom-built website is that you will have a truly authentic online presence. By starting with a blank canvas, designers can tailor-make a design that’s completely novel and unique to their brand and vision.
Each element and page layout will be handcrafted. With most webpages powered by WordPress and other CMSs, you will genuinely stand out. A custom-coded site will give you that authoritative and established feel.
Particularly for B2B or large-scale retail websites, designing around a specific user journey to optimize your sales funnel is crucial for success. WordPress might not be customizable or sophisticated enough to replicate this user journey fully, but a custom site will be if it’s part of your requirements.
Proprietorship of your site and data
Whenever you use third-party software, you deal with vendors with their terms, usage limitations, and data ownership clauses. Furthermore, many do not consider this fact when commissioning a new website.
Even though the downsides are not apparent immediately, they may become more prominent as your website grows. Proprietary services can also go out of businesses or change their direction, leaving you stranded or having to adapt to them.
You won’t have to face any of these concerns with a custom-built site. Unless you integrate with other third-party enterprise applications, you will have full control and ownership of everything that goes on within and through your website – from the nuts and bolts to visitor analytics.
Expensive and time-consuming to build
Building a custom website is inherently more time-consuming. It requires a higher level of developer expertise and technical know-how. More detail and brainstorming are needed from a design perspective to develop a unique and practical design.
Once you finish the product, it also needs to be thoroughly tested to ensure it works as expected. Furthermore, the client may also need to debriefing. Moreover, the project handover might also entail liaising with the internal IT team to ensure proper infrastructure creation.
Requires ongoing expert maintenance
As you might expect, this also carries over to the long-term maintenance of the site. Unlike with WordPress, you likely won’t have the expertise to manage a custom-built site without your own IT staff.
It may also be challenging to switch to a different web development agency as they don’t have the original developers’ foreknowledge. Any changes or updates will likely have to be handled by professionals (preferably the original developers, if possible). This service will come at a higher rate than for CMS websites and likely take longer as well.
So, which way is the best way to build a website?
There is no single best way to build a website. Sure, a custom-built site has the potential for better performance, SEO, and a more bespoke look and feel. However, it will cost more to develop and maintain, and you will have a limited capacity to edit and manage the site yourself.
For most applications, the differences will be marginal, and you can still get a well-rounded and performant WordPress-built site if you work with a quality-focused Toronto web development agency.