WordPress is it making traditional handcoded sites redundant?

Hi guys,

I wanted to start a post about the state of play with regard to modern CMS such as Wordpress, Drupal etc and whether they are making traditional hand-coded sites redundant from a free-lance perspective.

I am not in any way referring to industry scale applications, I have worked in industry on such projects myself and understand that there will always be requirements to build certain things from the floor up using traditional software design and analysis techniques in order to deliver a given functionality.

It is just that recently, I have left full-time employment and have been working free-lance and am finding that the demands of clients are pushing me to use word-press in order to maximize time to productivity.

I am a designer who likes to get things right, take my time, and after spending years learning JS and JQuery, I like to enhance a site as much as possible. This means that I prefer to spend a day laying out a site and doing basic graphics, another day really perfecting the look and feel and then a further day enhancing it with JQuery.
Clients have said such things as " 3 days! My last web developer was doing me a site in an afternoon!", unaware of the fact that the previous designer bloke has probably just created a DB, installed Word-press and set up a theme.

Now any of you who are familiar with word-press, will be aware that it can now search a JQuery plugin, install it for you and the entire thing can be set up by checking a few boxes and pressing save and enable etc. Do you see where I’m going, I am feeling a little redundant. I am finding using in the wordpress GUI all the time mind-numbing in comparison to writing JQuery and getting that kick out of it when things work.

What are your thoughts on this topic guys, I would love to know.

WordPress is it making traditional handcoded sites redundant?


Not to be impertinent, but people in the design community have speculated on this position, whether it be WP in specific or CMSes in general, for years. The short answer is always no. The longer answer is no, but it’s indisputable that WP and other CMS programs such as Joomla, Drupal, EE, etc are dramatically changing the way we approach Web site construction.

I use WordPress aplenty for clients and I still code the markup and CSS by hand for the theme. There’s no other way to do it in my book.

Actually the question itself misses the point.

Worpress, Joomla, Drupal, et all ( I like coding my own as well) are ‘integrated’ content management systems. Just as Maleika, I offer both STATIC and dynamic pages. Dynamic pages, btw have been around for ages.

Keep in mind that They are managing content and the serving of content via a ‘theme’. Aside from that you can STYLE the the content via CSS as a ‘SKIN’ for said theme ( or themes). You can add js for additional functionality and user exp. So all the traditional web disciplines are alive and well and beign employed to their fullest. It’s kinda sad that people don’t recognize this.

Now, WP, JOOMLA … et all offer you places within their dashboard where you can HAND CODE changes directly to themes, CSS, and scripts ( but you could do this on simpleText or what ever your fav. text editor is as well.

What Kohoutek and da Phoenix said. Their posts are much more on-point than mine.

May I ask a question: why are people hiring you to design and build a website for them? Serious, give this question some time to think about.

Are they hiring you because you know where to click to install some scripts?

Or are they hiring you because you have real knowledge and expertise discovering the problems clients have and finding and building the right solutions to these problems?

Your question sounds like an architect asking “Now that people can buy their own hammers and nails in the store, is my job redundant?”

Wordpress is just one of the many tools we have at our hands. A tool which makes doing some aspects of our work a bit easier. Mostly the boring parts of repetitive coding. Allowing us to spend time on the things that really matter, like thinking about the best ways to design the site, doing research on the target audience of the site, spending time with the client discussing the project, etc etc.

By the way, the fact that a tool like wordpress allows us to do some of the work quicker, is compensated by amounts of extra work needed for other, new aspects of modern webdesign (the changing browser landscape, mobile/responsive webdesign, etc), so in the end building a website still takes as much time and effort.

This is an interesting question old fashioned against vs the new wave.
My answer is use the foundations and the new tools and you will be the best. Now let me explain, you can use Wordpress and modify it as you want with the traditional tools html, javascript, php, mysql, (you can ask me if you don’t know how to) so that will let you make a page really quick and tune up the details later on, and you will do thinks faster and more eye attracting for your customers (you’ll become their hero) at the same you will save a lot more time.
The cons:

  • Many things are not exactly as you wanted.
  • Sometimes tuning up the details take a good amount of time.
  • Other times you don’t know where you have to make the modifications and initially you may screw up the program.

Hi guys,
Thanks for all your posts, yes I agree with you all, the enhancements you make to a word press site often take as much time and ingenuity as coding a site from scratch, in fact, the job I just finished was on a responsive Word Press template and it took lots of coding to get it to what my client wanted from it, so I suppose I’m happy if everyone else is but I will raise another question:

Do you think the days of coding the layout from scratch are gone? (In small business sites not commercial apps). Surely it’s just not cost effective anymore?

@matthijsA, that’s an excellent analogy and I completely agree.

No, not at all. Especially now that Google and co. have made it clear that “less is more and well-designed lightweight sites may get boni”, clever site optimization (code, images, etc) are even more important than ever, not to mention cross-browser, cross-platform, and now even cross-device testing.

Many of the existing frameworks and pre-made tools are the exact opposite of being lightweight, thus making it more important for designers who’ve previously used these third-party products to rethink how and if they use them.

Not that search engines should be their primary motivation to trim their designs, but for those who cared particularly about search engines and less about the people who were actually going to use their site, it might lend some motivation to get their act together now that Google says, light = good, heavy = bleugh. Sad, that it needs a SE to open our eyes, but it is what it is.

Thanks for your input very interesting, I really enjoy layout by hand you see, took me many years to get it right. I began to develop my own lightweight CMS a while back just for gallery,video and blogging but then I stopped work on it once I started using wordpress, maybe I will finish it off and start using see if the sites actually rank better.

I wouldn’t bother using Wordpress for a site that doesn’t change much.

Anything with a blog or something similar, sure.

I think it really depends on the clients needs, I mean Wordpress is great because it’s a solid CMS and the huge community means there’s a lot of decent plugins too. But the point is, a CMS is not always the way to go, so basically I try to steer away from the “I choose one platform and always use it because it’s so great!”

On the other hand though, if you’re just building a site from the bottom because that’s “how you roll” - then you need to look at the functionality you are coding and on whether or not you could have done that a lot quicker with premade scripts that you customize.

Who is going to build the current/future CMS’s? Something to think about.