Is WordPress Right for You?

WordPress is a popular choice for blogs, special interest websites, and freelance service providers, largely because an endless stream of articles praise WordPress for its low cost and ease of use.

Drawing of a person seated at a computer with frustration lightning marks above her headHowever, I constantly hear from people who tell me WordPress just isn’t working out for them, even after they have invested considerable time and energy. Sometimes they are trying to build their own website. Other times, they already have a site, but are finding it a lot harder than they expected to add content or customize site design and features. In most cases, they did not realize there would be ongoing maintenance tasks to keep WordPress secure and updated once their site was built.

The WordPress Self-Screening Test

This comes up so often that I have created a self-test for people who are considering WordPress to help them decide if WordPress is right for them.

I’m not going to say too much about it in advance.  Grab yourself a piece of scratch paper (retro!) and make two columns. Name the columns A and B. Every time you agree with a statement below, put a mark in Column A. Every time your answer is no, disagree, don’t know, or not sure, put a mark in Column B.

Let’s get started – it looks like a long list, but it goes fast.

  1. I like to try out new things
  2. I use my computer every day
  3. I purchase something online at least once a month
  4. I have a smart phone
  5. I have online access to my bank account, and I log in at least once a month
  6. I can usually find what I’m looking for on a webpage, even if it’s a busy one
  7. I send a text from my phone at least once a month
  8. I know what version of my computer’s operating system I am using
  9. I like to learn new things, even if I have to work at it, and make a lot of mistakes at first
  10. I know how to organize files on my computer so I can easily find them when I want them
  11. I know how to transfer files from my phone to my computer
  12. I understand that my WordPress website will need ongoing monitoring and maintenance once it is built
  13. I have a lot of free time to study WordPress and work on my site
  14. I know the name of my web browser
  15. I know what my default search engine is
  16. I can explain the difference between a web browser and a search engine
  17. I use my phone to monitor traffic conditions or transit arrivals
  18. I can usually find the information I am looking for when I do a web search
  19. I browse the internet with my phone
  20. I have a high speed internet connection such as DSL or cable
  21. I check my email throughout the day, every day
  22. I seek out articles and videos on the internet when I want to learn how to do something
  23. I know what an extension is
  24. I can identify word processor, spreadsheet and photo files by their extension
  25. There is a photo editing program on my computer
  26. I know the name of it
  27. My OS is Windows 7 or later if I am a Windows user, or 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later if I am a Mac user
  28. I have at least 3GB of RAM on my PC, or 2GB RAM on my Mac
  29. I know whether I have an email program or webmail
  30. I know how to copy and paste text using keyboard shortcuts
  31. I check email from my phone
  32. I know where to find the dimensions of a photo in pixels
  33. I’d be interested in learning WordPress even if I didn’t need a website right now
  34. I know how to use my browser’s search function to find a particular word on a webpage
  35. I know how to change the size of a photo
  36. I know how to crop a photo
  37. I know the difference between cropping a photo and changing its size
  38. I am interested in technical stuff, even if I don’t know much about it
  39. I can easily find the file I am looking for in a list of files
  40. I know how to brighten a photo
  41. I know how to rotate a photo that is sideways and save it so it opens in the new orientation next time
  42. I use bookmarks or favorites in my web browser to access websites I visit a lot
  43. I have an account with an online payment venue, such as PayPal, venmo or Google Wallet
  44. I know how to shorten a link so I can email or text it to someone
  45. I know how to hyperlink selected words in an email or document
  46. I know how to hyperlink an image
  47. I have a Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr or Meetup account that I have logged in to in the last 3 months (add a mark to column A for each one)
  48. I use any of these at least once a week (doesn’t have to be the same one every week): Yelp, Google Maps (or another online map service), craigslist, online TV listings, online weather information
  49. When I find an interesting article online, it is easy to save a copy to my computer or phone, or send it to a friend
  50. I know how to save login and password information for websites in my browser

You’re done! That wasn’t too bad, was it?

Interpreting Your Results

Count the marks in Column A and Column B, and write down the total in each column. If your total in Column B is less than 10 or your total in column A is 40 or more, you can probably figure out WordPress and related technical proficiencies (managing your hosting account and domains, FTP) with time and effort. You may be able to build your own site, but will need to seek more skilled assistance (either by hiring someone, or by doing research and studying) to configure advanced functionalities or theme customizations.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from trying to do it themselves if they are motivated and have the time to invest – on the contrary, I love to see that kind of self-empowerment. Just be aware that most WordPress beginners underestimate how much there is to learn, and how long it will take.

I often hear from people who tell me they want a “simple” site, and then describe multiple functionalities that are actually quite complex, especially when they interact. Their assessment of complexity is based on articles intended for readers with advanced technical skills, or written by “entrepreneurs” with no personal knowledge of WordPress who are just trying to make money from affiliate links to premium themes or plugins. I’ll go into more detail about how to identify trustworthy information sources in a future post.

Getting back to our self-test, if your column B score is between 10 and 20, you will have to put in quite a bit of effort, and upgrade some of your technical skills in areas besides WordPress to successfully add content and maintain your site. You will probably need to hire someone to build it for you, unless you have a very generous friend or relative who is proficient with WordPress. You may want to consider WordPress.com, which does not require a web hosting account.

If your Column B total is 20 or more, I would probably not recommend WordPress for you, unless you plan to have someone else build and maintain your site and perform content updates.

The Truth About WordPress

Here’s the truth about WordPress: It’s not for everyone.  My self-screen test is not a scientific survey, nor is it a list of everything you need to know before you can use WordPress. Rather it is meant to screen for people who:

  • Are comfortable with technology and use it frequently in their daily lives
  • Have the leisure time to develop their skills or the funds to have someone else build their site for them
  • Have an interest in WordPress beyond their current need for a website
  • Do not experience limitations of vision or attention

In my observation, these are the characteristics that best predict a satisfactory experience with WordPress.

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