Should I Use WordPress or Build From Scratch?

In this post we look at the pros and cons of whether to use WordPress or build from scratch. We look at why you might choose one over the other.

use wordpress or build from scratch featured image

It all depends on your end goal really

About 9 min reading time

This is an interesting question indeed and the answer may very well depend on what your end goal is, and how much time you have to build your website. There’s a number of alternative ways to build a website from scratch – but I’m going to assume that you’re literally building it all by hand, as opposed to using something like Bootstrap to build it. Not that there’s anything wrong with Bootstrap, but it does take some configuring to not be a bloated mess – which would be one reason not use WordPress either.

So, here’s some Pro’s and Con’s of Using WordPress or building a website from scratch;

WordPress or Build From Scratch Pros For WordPress

WordPressBuilt From Scratch
No need to know HTML or CSSDefinitely need to know HTML and CSS
SEO is Built InSEO will need to be hand crafted
No need to know SFTP, SSH or FTPWill need to know at least one of those
No need to learn or use an Editor packageWill likely want to use some kind of specialised editor (such as Visual Studio Code)
Likely to be MUCH faster to get your site onlineBuilding from scratch is labor intensive
Easy to link between pagesInterlinked pages must be done manually
e-Commerce AddOn Easy to AddSignificant coding is likely to be required to do e-Commerce from scratch
Most Hosting Providers Have 1-Click installs, or at least very easy installsYou’re going to have to upload your site manually
Updating posts is instant and easyUpdating posts is easy, but won’t go live until you upload them manually (or use some kind of script)
No need to reinvent the wheelMay need to reinvent the wheel for some fancy features
Automated image processing (with a plugin)All images will need to be pre-optimized and sized appropriately prior to uploading
Use WordPress Or Build From Scratch – Pros for WordPress

WordPress or Build From Scratch Pros for Build From Scratch

Built From ScratchWordPress
Unlikely to be any security riskCan have security risks associated
Pages will load almost instantlyWordPress will be slower
Full control of ALL partsWordPress will do things its way
No databaseNeeds a database
Smaller memory footprint on serverNeeds PHP and a database, requires a beefier server
Easy to set up local server or use filesystemNot particularly difficult either, but perhaps slightly more than from scratch
Great learning opportunityGood learning opportunity if you want, or not if you don’t
Cheap hosting (see smaller footprint etc)Hosting can be more expensive
Use WordPress or Build From Scratch – Pros for Build From Scratch

Those are just the pros and cons I can think of at the moment. I’m sure I’ll come up with others. The thing is, it really depends on your motivation and budget. If you’re looking to build an e-Commerce store, or even a blog with a large number of pages, then WordPress is likely going to be easier to manage in the longer term. But, WordPress does come with a maintenance overhead such that in order to remain secure you’ll need to keep on top of updates. Updates can sometimes break things and that can cause a headache.

Nevertheless, if time to ‘go live’ is important then WordPress will almost always win. If absolute speed of page delivery is crucial then built from scratch will almost always win.

Is It Worth It To Build A Website From Scratch?

If your end goal is to get a website up online and serving customers / users then building a website from scratch is almost never worth it. It’s going to take a lot of effort to build it from scratch and most of the hard work has already been done for you in various other platforms such as Ghost or WordPress.

Building a website from scratch also means you have to manage how each page links to each other, and if you’re wanting to organise your content into some form of silo structure (i.e. categories or tags) you’ll have to maintain a dedicated HTML page with all those silos and links too.

Building a site from scratch is a headache and almost never worth it.

If security is your concern, or content delivery speed is an issue, I’d suggest looking into Gatsby with WordPress as a headless Content Management System. If you’re considering building from scratch, this can give you the best of both worlds. You’re in full control of the rendered HTML with Gatsby, but some of the hard work is already done for you in the form of plugins. But WordPress takes care of interlinking posts, categories, tags etc. And if you put the WordPress instance on a local LAN with no internet access it’s all just as secure as a built from scratch site. And as fast.

I use Gatsby for this site, to get the best of both worlds.

Should You Use WordPress As A Developer?

This depends on what type of developer you are and more importantly, what your end goals are. If you’re a Nodejs developer you might find Ghost more to your taste for building a blog. If you’re a PHP developer then you’ll be right at home with creating add-ons or themes for WordPress – although the latter will of course require you to be an HTML/CSS developer too.

But even if you’re an accomplished HTML/CSS developer, there’s no particularly compelling reasons not to use WordPress as a developer. It’ll come down to personal preference and looking at the pros and cons of using WordPress versus building the site for yourself from scratch – which we outlined in an earlier section.

Why Use WordPress To Build A Website?

WordPress just makes building a website incredibly quick and easy. You can literally have a site up and running in minutes on a hosting platform such as Rocket.Net and you can easily add new content as you go. If you’re looking to start your own blog, it’s easy to integrate with a service like Ezoic or AdSense to add advertising.

WordPress can easily handle MILLIONS of users per day and although it can sometimes produce less than optimal HTML, it does have the advantage that it has built-in navigation between content on your site, with built-in SEO and additional plugins such as Rank-Math which can help considerably with any SEO efforts.

Why Not Use WordPress?

Many WordPress themes do a horrible job of producing optimized HTML and can be really quite slow. Most are OK, some are almost as fast as producing your own HTML. But if you’re not really sure what you’re doing it’s worth researching the fastest WordPress themes to improve your users experience.

If you aren’t prepared to keep an eye on latest security updates and make sure your WordPress plugins and themes are up to date and not vulnerable to hack attempts then you may not want to use WordPress. Or you might instead choose a Managed WordPress solution instead.

If your website has a specific set of requirements that just doesn’t fit what WordPress does – such as a single page webapp or one that has to continue working when the user has no internet connection, then you may need to code your site from scratch or use a different platform. There are plugins that allege to help WordPress be used as a webapp, but I’ve found them pretty flaky.

Summary

If you’re wanting to learn HTML, CSS and perhaps Javascript then building your site from scratch is the way to go because WordPress will hide quite a lot from you, at least initially. Of course, building your website from scratch can then lead to you using that knowledge and even the code itself, to build a WordPress theme.

The idea that WordPress is too slow and the only way to build a performant website is to code it yourself from scratch is largely nonsense and is more as a result of choosing the right theme, reducing plugins and choosing the right host than it is of coding it from scratch.

If you want all the benefits of WordPress with pretty much none of the downsides – and you can understand and code in JavaScript then I’d highly suggest checking out either Eleventy or Gatsby. Both produce solid hand-crafted HTML using WordPress as the back end for management of your content.

Nevertheless, as we’ve shown, mostly the decision to use WordPress or build from scratch is a personal choice based on personal preference and overall end goal aims.

If you’re wanting to use WordPress with no hassle and the fastest hosting around then we recommend (and use for other projects) Rocket.Net. Their system is easy to use, fast and if you should need support they’re extremely responsive even on weekends.

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Featured Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay