In May this year, WordPress turned 10 years old. It’s incredible to think that this seemingly recent revolution in Web Design could have started in 2003 – the year before we started mtstudios.
Despite this heritage, I’m pretty sure I only became aware of WordPress four or five years ago, and we only embraced it last year because at that point the advantages had grown so numerous we considered it harmful not to recommend it to appropriate clients.
Why did we embrace WordPress?
There is a myth that WordPress means you don’t need a web design company, but in our experience that’s only true for a small percentage of our potential clients (I would estimate substantially under 10%). The learning curve is still steep for people that have never tried to launch their own site, and phrases like DNS, hosting, security, CMS and FTP will keep it that way for the foreseeable future.
I agree that pretty much anyone can get a website running at WordPress.com, but they weren’t going to be our customer in the first place – they were always going to use Weebly or Blogger, or perhaps even just a Facebook page.
We embraced WordPress for one reason initially – to remain competitive. I’m a long time subscriber to PC Pro magazine (since 1995) and read about fixedpricewebsite.co.uk, launched by one of their journalists, in 2010. “Fixed Price Website” promised CMS driven websites for £399 at a time that we’d have charged £1,200 for a similar site. I was struck by one question – “how the heck are they doing that”? The fear of being increasingly undercut pushed me forward to look into it.
What have the benefits of WordPress been for mtstudios?
Apart from allowing us to remain fiercely competitive, we have seen other benefits. A website that once took three weeks can now be turned around in a week. This has led to us finishing more than twice as many websites per year and the consequent increase in customer-base has led to more referrals and more publicity. The snowball effect is kicking in.
Our web design services now start at £600 – we like to meet our customers in person, encourage greater collaboration and keep monthly costs lower so our prices are higher than “Fixed Price Website”. Despite this, we have a great deal of enquiries now from people who have seen a friends/colleagues/relatives £600 website and can’t believe the value for money. Truly professional-looking, highly-optimised and CMS-driven websites for well under a grand are apparently easy to sell.
The benefits of a standard
As well as the cost-cutting achieved through the economies-of-scale, we now employ a full-time WordPress developer and she can work very efficiently with the community support and familiarity of WordPress. She doesn’t need to be a database and code ninja, she can almost exclusively focus on the same things the clients care about – content and design.
Also, for the first time we can truly guarantee a customer portability and independence – leading to a greater sense of ownership and empowerment. If they need to take their website to a new developer they would have no problem finding support elsewhere. Alternative hosting isn’t an issue. Minor, and occasionally larger, updates to a website aren’t an issue – the client rarely needs to seek our (comparatively expensive) assistance. This is in stark contrast to bespoke websites whose CMS’s inner workings were rarely even properly understood by the developer, especially after a year or two.
Lastly, to reduce our support overhead we have been able to justify, for the first time, the creation of online resources to tackle all of the common issues – want to be reminded how to add a page or amend a menu? There’s now an mtstudios WordPress guide for that.
Would we recommend WordPress for all websites?
Absolutely not – but for the majority of websites – yes. With each passing day the subset of websites that aren’t suitable for a WordPress backbone shrinks.
There are amazing extensions that make WordPress unrecognisable – if you need a shop, a social community website, a website for estate agents or a garage, etc., there are now ways to achieve this in WordPress. We now start each project by justifying why not to use WordPress before we provide the client with a quote.
Has WordPress hurt our business in any way?
Only one area has suffered. We spent many years developing an in-house ecommerce package called EasyCommerce. Development costs must have run into six figures – and we just can’t sell it anymore. Between the likes of Shopify and WooCommerce (a WordPress plugin) we can’t justify recommending it to any but the largest customers who potentially need total flexibility.
It’s not all bad news – we have recently modified EasyCommerce to suit a large (six-figure turnover a month) client that needed an unusually bespoke integration to their SAP back-end, but beyond that I’m not sure we’ve recommended it to anyone in the last 18 months – it just isn’t right for the SME market anymore.
Whilst we built a closed-source proprietary ecommerce system at great expense the ingenuity and dedication of an extensive open-source community made something better and gave it away – a lesson well-learnt by anyone heavily invested in a mature or vertical market.
What do we see for WordPress in our future?
Right now we are extending our skillset because of WordPress. mtstudios is looking to publish its own plugins. We’re learning to modify WordPress under the hood for websites like WinghamWildlifePark.co.uk and a large upcoming KCC project. We’re developing HTML5 and CSS3 skills to take advantage of the latest updates to the fantastic StudioPress Genesis framework.
We’re committed, and we’re not looking back. Other WordPress users are now seeking our expertise and enquiries are growing steadily. Our first goal is to give something back to the incredible community that gave the Internet its first real chance at a standardized platform – just a shame it didn’t happen 10 years ago!