Should Wordpress installers really be calling themselves web designers?

As a professional coder and developer I have no issue with the Wordpress platform in general, if you want a cheap or free - depending on whether you purchase a premium theme or not - way to get online then Wordpress may be for you. Of course you'll need to use an industry leading hosting company - cut price offshore hosting simple won't cut it - and you'll need to keep any plugins to an absolute minimum.

Should Wordpress installers really be calling themselves web designers?

The web design industry in the UK has grown year on year since about 2001... Prior to this there where very few web designers and web design agencies simply because not every business had or in fact needed a website, only large companies or savvy internet gurus had websites, no local locksmith, plumber or electrician had a website because before 2001 these types of businesses still used local newspapers and local business directory advertising.

Once the internet revolution was in full flow and having a website was on every businesses 'to do' list - regardless of the size of the business, its niche or its annual turnover - web design became big business and coders/developers could demand huge sums for large complex websites and modest sums for basic local business websites. It was skill and skilled people get paid well.

The web design industry was new, it was unregulated but it was safe, you could either write web design code or you couldn't, there were no amateurs or 'have a go' designers simply winging it, if you where a web designer/developer you simply had to know what you where doing even basic/static websites took knowledge and skill, there where no open source web builders or freely available web design software tools allowing anyone to get in on the industry, not like today.


The Birth of the Personal Blog and the launch of Wordpress

As well as business and official company websites a few people wanted their own personal website and decided to start blogs (this word comes from the term web log, an online log) initially people who wanted to launch and run their own blog learnt very basic HTML allowing them to upload  simple pages to a sever.

When Wordpress launched in 2003 it was a godsend for the humble blogger who could now simply install/upload Wordpress and then make live 'on the fly' updates from an easy to use online interface - now more commonly know as a user dashboard, CMS (content management system) - without needing to keep duplicating and uploading new pages.

Written in the server side language PHP and utilising a MySQL database, Wordpress was serious code but it was coded/designed as a blogging platform, not for commercial websites, so the professional developer/coder didn't see this as an issue, if you just wanted a personal blog then you used Wordpress, if you wanted a business/company website you used a professional developer and this was the case for a number of years.

However with the release of Wordpress 2.0 in 2005 and then Wordpress 3.0 in 2010 and all the enhancements and features that now came with it, the once humble blogging platform could now be used for standard websites and people started installing and using Wordpress for their own small business website, sometimes not even using its blogging capabilities. They did this instead of paying a professional web developer and because Wordpress was and still is FREE their only outlay was for hosting which on average costs around £50 per year. Now anyone and any business no matter how small could have their own website, of course this wasn't professional, bespoke design, plus due to its large code footprint Wordpress was notoriously slow so there was still plenty work for the professional coders and developers.  


Wordpress Theme Creators a new lucrative business model

Because Wordpress was becoming so popular and the open source structure allowed coders and developers to skin (create themes) Wordpress making it nicer and more designed a new business model was launched and some coders became Wordpress theme creators/sellers.

Professional coders and developers saw a gap in the market and decided they could make a lot of money creating nice, new, fancy themes for the people who wanted to go down the DIY route and install Wordpress rather that employ a professional designer. Wordpress themes range from £15 to £60 so it was still affordable for the Wordpress user. The theme creators business model was to sell the same theme multiple times thus recouping their development time and eventually turning a profit.


The Problem with Wordpress sites in general

Wordpress is a cheap, sometimes free way to get online although the platform is not without its issues. Since its launch way back in 2003 the code footprint - the base code that runs it - has become very large, which in conjunction with excess plugins, generic/redundant code that doesn't contribute to the overall functionality of the website and cheap hosting, some Wordpess installs can have extremely slow load times.

At best, slow loading times can cause frustration. At worst, it can turn-off visitors altogether and cause them to leave your site, costing you potential business. Additionally, today, Google uses page load time in their ranking algorithm, and penalises websites that load slow.

There are also a number of security issues that bespoke code simple doesn't have. WordPress uses an open source structure, meaning that programmers can access the platforms raw source code to see how it works, adapt it based on their needs, and share their code online with other coders.

However, this open source structure can also leave your website vulnerable to being compromised. Having all your sites code available online makes it that much easier for hackers to find security holes in your code.


The Rise of the Wordpress Web Design Agencies

As a professional coder and developer I have no issue with the Wordpress platform in general, if you want a cheap or free - depending on whether you purchase a premium theme or not - way to get online then Wordpress may be for you. Of course you'll need to use an industry leading hosting company - cut price offshore hosting simple won't cut it - and you'll need to keep any plugins to an absolute minimum.

However I do have an issue with the growing number of companies who are calling themselves web designers and developer, charging their clients thousands of pounds and then simply installing Wordpress, some of these companies are so hard faced and without morals that they don't even spring for a £50 premium theme instead choosing to use a free theme.

With reference to the title of this article, No, Wordpress installers are not web developers.

This article has explained enough about the web design industry and the history of Wordpress to conclude that Wordpress installers are as much web designers/developers as they are formula one drivers.

If you can use Outlook to answer your emails or Microsoft Word to write letters and articles can you call yourself a C++ or Visual Basics coder ( the languages used to develop these type of programmes) simply because you can use them? No of course you can't, that would be silly.

I'm not saying that companies shouldn't exist that offer to install Wordpress and get it up and running of behalf of a client, but what they shouldn't be doing is charging bespoke web design prices. It should be charged as a service and cost no more that £300.

I personally would never use Wordpress for a company/business website, but if someone comes to me for a personal/business blog, I do recommend using Wordpress to keep costs down and even suggest they install it themselves, if they want me to install it I tell them exactly what I'll be doing and charge a flat fee of £250 for the domain, hosting, install and configuration, I even add dummy content to get them going. Yes this is all anyone should be charging for a Wordpress install, it's half a day's work, if that and is NOT web design.

My company develops complex bespoke websites, portals, membership's sites and more using programming languages such as PHP, JavaScript, Ajax etc for this we do charge a premium rate, we also develop smaller local business websites, also using bespoke code because bespoke code is faster, more streamlined and performs better in the search engines.

No legitimate, professional web design company uses Wordpress for commercial, business websites, let alone for their own website! Yes this happens; these companies or individuals promote themselves as professional web designers get couldn't even design their own website, instead choosing to install Wordpress. Seriously, have a search for professional web design in any area of the UK and when viewing the source code of some of the results you'll see the tell tail signs of a Wordpress install. Some even have the bare faced cheek to use terms like bespoke, and custom design.

I hope at the very least this article stops a few people falling victim to the unscrupulous amateur web designers and Wordpress installers.

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