I love WordPress.
I’ve been using it for more than 5 years and think it’s a great way to build websites.
However, there are new technologies on the horizon that might threaten WordPress’s market share.
GatsbyJS, for instance, deployed via Netlify, leaves standard WordPress sites in the dust when it comes to performance.
And, since performance is such a hot topic for today’s impatient, mobile world, it makes me wonder about the future of ye olde WordPress.
Will the CMS behemoth be replaced in the coming decade?
Let’s find out.
Why WordPress Dominates 25% of the Internet.
WordPress brings tons of features to the table:
- It’s very easy to install, set up, and use
- Hosting providers around the world offer optimized WordPress hosting, one-click installs, and cheap hosting packages
- Non-programmers can learn WordPress and use it to build stylish websites quickly
- It comes with an ocean of plugins that can instantly add functionality (or remove it)
Despite these boons, WordPress does have disadvantages.
Where WordPress Doesn’t Shine
Here are a few reasons why companies don’t use WordPress:
- It’s not the fastest car on the block
- Though scalable, it is still “monolithic” – that is, it is a very centralized application
- It was originally designed as a blogging platform, which it does very well – but it isn’t always the best choice for other applications
For 25% of the internet, WordPress’s pros outweigh its cons. Which is why so many people continue to use it.
But lately I have been looking at options other than WordPress.
Mainly because I:
- Want complete, precise control over the look, feel, and functionality of my website
- Know that PHP is not the future and I want to use other languages
- Want more speed
As I mentioned above, speed is important to today’s internet user. And that’s why it’s so important to me.
Fractions of seconds impact abandonment rates, which directly impacts sales. The larger your traffic volume, the larger the impact.
Looking for Speed, Like Me? Think JAMstack
Traditional websites are monolithic – they are housed in servers, generate HTML dynamically, and use up memory, processing power, and server resources.
Requests are sent to the server, then returned to the client after the request has been processed.
I’ll explain what I mean with an example.
A Few New Hot Rods: Gatsby, ReactJS, GraphQL, & Netlify
Rather than dynamically generating web pages at every request with a server-side language, what if you pre-built your HTML pages?
That’s the goal of static site generators like Gatsby.
It uses ReactJS and GraphQL during build time to generate web pages. And it has handy plugins that make your website load very, very fast.
Netlify, a global CDN, hosts static websites, such as those built with Gatsby.
Here’s how they work together:
- You create your web project with Gatsby
- You use React for page layout and GraphQL to populate data
- Data sources can include anything – from markdown files to databases to an existing WordPress blog (via WordPress’s new REST API functionality)
- Gatsby puts all the pieces together for you during build time, using React and GraphQL to generate the pages, then creating a static website, ready for deployment
- Netlify can sync directly with your repo, rebuilding your site every time there is an update
Non-technical readers … if there are any still reading at this point … may wonder what’s so great about this approach.
Ultimately, it’s speed.
Netlify is delivering content to you via its global CDN. And Gatsby’s fancy plugins help your site load “blazingly fast,” as fans like to say.
Since your site is static, you don’t have to wait on a server to process anything … a server which could be bogged with other requests or sitting in a data center in another hemisphere.
I’ve done web speed tests on my WordPress sites and my Gatsby test sites.
Needless to say, my Gatsby sites are way faster.
Why I Haven’t Switched to Gatsby Yet
To be honest, I am considering it.
Or another static site generator – perhaps one that is a bit more robust.
I have built a couple blogs already, but it comes down to time and functionality.
Gatsby is still pretty new and doesn’t have nearly as many plugins, widgets, or functions as WordPress. Adding simple things, such as scheduled posts, can take hacking and time.
And Gatsby does have a learning curve. But a toddler could learn WordPress.
Adding other elements to Gatsby – such as recent post widgets, social media integration, comments, etc. – also takes more development time.
Sites perform much better, but the learning curve is steeper and time-to-market is slower.
It’s a trade-off.
After exploring the JAMstack, static sites, and microservice-based app architecture, I began to wonder about the future of WordPress.
Then, coincidentally, I noticed that the WordPress community was excited about its newest features – the REST API and Gutenberg, its latest editor.
Which brings me to the title of this article…
Will Gutenberg Save WordPress from the Future?
Gutenberg aims to be a drag-and-drop page builder and a WYSIWYG editor rolled into one.
Some bloggers appear to be excited about this inevitable change, but Gutenberg isn’t being well received by users.
As of this writing, Gutenberg has 912 reviews and 522 of them are 1-star reviews.
Drag-and-drop page builders are great, but I think the poor reception has to do with Gutenberg’s poor execution. Or its poor introduction to the community. It doesn’t feel like an editor or a page builder, it feels like a confusing mixture of the two.
Currently, I would rather write in Google Docs or the old editor than in Gutenberg, because it doesn’t feel like an editor.
But if it works out its kinks and pulls through, it could make web publishing easier than ever before.
And, if anyone and everyone can drag-and-drop a site into existence, it would further cement WordPress as the de facto website builder for years to come.
WordPress is still the fastest, cheapest, easiest option when it comes to website development.
And I still recommend it for 99% of basic websites, from blogs to business sites … precisely because it is so easy to use and customize.
When speed testing JAMstack sites or simple static sites against WordPress blogs, static sites perform way, way better.
However, these new platforms aren’t accessible to anyone but developers. And their development cost is much higher.
So, as long as none of these lightning-fast static site frameworks create Gutenberg-like site builders … and as long as Gutenberg reverses its downward spiral … I think WordPress will safely stay on top for years to come.