Should Your Digital Agency Be Using an Open Source CMS?

By Ariel Rule

should your digital agency use WordPressMany digital marketing agencies make WordPress their platform of choice for building websites for their SMB clients. But should they?

We know WordPress is popular. The famed content management system (CMS) was last discovered to “run 28% of the entire internet.” But just because it’s a popular choice doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you and your clients.  

As a former web designer and WordPress user, I understand the subject and its pain points better than most. But if you’ve ever used WordPress in any capacity, you know what I’m about to say is true:

WordPress can be a nightmare.

If you’re building a blog-centered website, it’s possible that WP is the right option.

But when it comes to building websites at scale for SMBs customers, you may want to reevaluate your options.

3 Issues That Make WordPress Terrible for Small Business Digital Agencies

There are a lot of articles on the web stating that WordPress is true north no matter what type of website you’re building.

However, WordPress as a whole was never meant for small business and presents drawbacks in more ways than one.

Those issues tend to only magnify when attempting to grow your agency.

Let’s touch on a few of them.

Issue #1: WordPress Has Costly, Hidden Expenses

Let’s use WebAct, a digital marketing agency based in Colorado, as our example. One of the many services they offer is web design for small- to medium-sized businesses.

Like many agencies offering this service, they initially chose WordPress as the platform to build their clients’ sites. But as their number of web design customers increased, their expenses also took a large uptick.

While the self-hosted version of WordPress is free, it is by no means without cost.

In an interview with Brian Lewis, President of WebAct, he explains just how easily hidden costs with WordPress can stack up.

“When you build a WordPress website you need lots of plugins that either have monthly or yearly costs. Not only are you paying for them, you also have to learn how to make them work with your theme. Once you add lots of plugins and the website is good to go live, you have to work out the bugs,” he says.  

Of course, working out those bugs isn’t a free endeavor. Resources need to be spent to get them live on the website, fine-tuned and working properly for clients.

However, Brian says those costs are small compared to the regular upkeep required for a WordPress site. “Your customer depends on you for nothing to go wrong with their site. [But] when WordPress does an update, it will sometimes break the website and the same goes for plugin updates which are required often.”

Upkeep was just one of the many additional costs that came from using WordPress. There were hosting fees, fees for premium themes, allotted (expensive) dev time, and even the base cost for design time was high.

So just how much did these hidden WordPress costs amount to for WebAct?

For building just seven sites per month, their out of pocket expenses amounted to more than $281K per year.

The image above shows the real numbers WebAct gave us for how much their costs with WordPress were before switching over to Duda.

You can read the full case study with WebAct here.

How Duda Solves This Issue

With our web design platform, we don’t have hidden fees.

Our price tiers are straightforward so you know exactly what you’re getting and for how much.

Hosting is included in what you pay.

Our templates are included free of charge so you’ll never need to go elsewhere to spend money on costly themes or templates. Plus, we have what we call Sections with pre-designed rows that you can drag-and-drop into any template to allow for unique, flexible and faster designs.

And, lastly, we have a large library of widgets that is included in the price you pay. But what if you need a widget we don’t currently have?

We’ve solved that too.

With our one-of-a-kind Widget Builder, you can code your own widgets.

Even if you don’t know how to code what you’re looking for, you can use our Fulfillment Channel to contact a Duda partner who can help create whatever widgets you need.

Since we’ve designed the platform with the feedback from thousands of agencies and web designers, we’ve allowed thousands of our users to slash development time and costs in half.

Again, unlike WordPress, we don’t have hidden costs, we’ve saved many of our customers save thousands of dollars when they switch to us.

And as an added bonus, we provide you with access to a dedicated Customer Success Team instead of just dozens and dozens of useless self-help comment boards.

Issue #2: The Hidden Costs For Your Customer

And what about the hidden costs for your customers?

Sure, you’ll likely need to charge for site maintenance or significant changes, which can easily stack up the price. But in the bigger picture, more money can be at stake.

Let me explain.

WordPress Core — the part you download when you first set it up — is rather lean in code which gives it generally good PageSpeed scores.

But add in a theme and lots of plugins and you’re looking at quite a bit of bloated code with unnecessary CSS and JavaScript that can sink PageSpeed faster than you can fix.

The slower a site loads on mobile and desktop, the more money your customer loses. 

In a fast-paced, gimme-now generation, every millisecond counts. Your clients rely on you for their online presence, but most of them are savvy enough to know a thing or two about the message Google is preaching when it comes to PageSpeed.

Getting a WordPress theme working faster when you’re dealing with too much code and less than perfect hosting is not easy, but your customers will expect it.

How Duda Solves This Issue

When you follow the guidelines we’ve put together, Duda sites pass Google’s PageSpeed test with flying colors.

In fact, every Duda site is now automatically optimized to load at top-notch speeds within just 30 seconds of being published.

We’re currently the only website builder that has managed to accomplish this, which means a couple things for you.

  • Your customers will be happy because you built them a site that’s fast just the way Google and users like
  • Since our sites are optimized automatically, that means less time spent tweaking things to get speed right

You can read our CTO’s comprehensive overview of everything we did under the hood of Duda to where it is today.

Issue #3: Security Issues

Ad optimization platform AdNgin listed out their own list of 19 disadvantages to using WordPress. The first one on the list?


To quote them, “hackers and spammers usually target WordPress sites because WordPress is the most widely used CMS platforms worldwide. Due to this fact, your site is more vulnerable to security hacks and malicious activities.”

They’re not wrong.

WordPress sites are constantly under attack and there’s data to prove it.

In fact, in 2017 in a single security flaw accounted for more than 1.5 million WordPress sites getting hacked. Other security issues open up the more plugins you add, which theme you choose, or even how you decide to host the sites you build.

WordPress being popular isn’t the only reason for the security problems. According to the popular WordPress resource site iThemes, “security vulnerabilities are inevitable.”

They elaborate further, stating that, “if a hacker can find a way into one of the 700 million WordPress websites on the web, they can scan for other websites that are also running insecure setups of old or insecure versions of WordPress and hack those too.”

As the lifeline for your customer’s WordPress upkeep, these security issues can present some costly issues you have to address. Are there precautions you can take?

Absolutely. But they’ll cost you.

Either you’ll need to pay for premium security plugins and services to combat these problems, or you’ll need to spend the time and other resources fixing them as the need arises.

No matter which way you frame it, the situation isn’t great.

How Duda Solves This Issue

All of Duda’s sites are centrally managed. What does that mean?

It means that Duda websites are always hosted by Duda and managed by us. We can deploy updates to websites in minutes and do not require any action by individual customers.

All of our updates are backward compatible and allow us to fix any glitches that may occur in a matter of minutes.

This means no more scary WordPress “white screen of death” or updating websites and having them entirely wiped clean.

We’re also plugin free. That means we don’t allow third-party plugins that we don’t control, which limits the security problems that are common with WordPress.

And finally, we scan everything. We use third-party scanning solutions to detect security issues before we deploy anything. This part of the process allows us to see potential issues and address them before we roll up updates, thus minimizing larger security issues.

The Case For A Safer, Faster, Scaleable Website Builder

For many of us, our feelings about using WordPress often echoes the sentiments of Brandon Klayman, CEO of digital agency, Conscious Commerce.

“I really like using open source platforms, but there is just too much baggage that comes with WordPress,” he says. “Performance is an issue, getting the hosting right is a pain, and there are way too many security problems.”

No matter how long you’ve been using WordPress or how much you personally like it, I’m sure we can all admit that the “baggage” is there.

It slows down business, it slows down growth, and it’s often just…slow.

We’ve built our platform to give you all the tools you’ll need to grow and scale your agency without the issues that WordPress often presents.

Thinking about breaking up with WordPress? Give Duda a try today.

About Ariel Rule

Ariel is a long-time blogger and Duda's Social Media Manager. When she's not engaging the social community you can often find her hiding behind her Mac sipping on coffee, writing Duda's next blog post or strumming on her guitar.
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