Web Design & Development

Why your WordPress website isn’t performing nearly as well as it could be

5 minute read

There are a million ways to build a WordPress website but very few approaches get things right. Here’s the secret to building a WordPress site that will have you outperforming your competitors.

Your website is the cornerstone of your business’ online presence. At its simplest, it’s your digital business card –  a quick way for your customer to learn what they want to know about your business and become familiar with your brand. At its best, it’s a lead-generating, customer-converting machine that is generating new revenue for your business organically 24/7.

While there are more ways than ever to build a website in 2022, WordPress is the most common platform and is used by millions of businesses around the world, both big and small. In fact, over 40% of websites on the internet today are built with WordPress, and its usage is on the rise.

WordPress at its core is a fantastic CMS (content management system). It helps businesses organize, create and manage backend content and data for their blog, e-commerce store, and more. Whether you’re tech-savvy or not, WordPress can make it easy to manage your website and create a digital presence for your business. We even rely on WordPress at Story Digital for managing our own backend blog content. You don’t see it – it’s behind the scenes. What you see when you’re surfing our site is  a custom-coded frontend.

Think of the backend of a website as the kitchen in a restaurant. Customers don’t see it but it’s one of the main engines of the business. 

The frontend is the dining space including the colour scheme, the table settings, the bar… everything that the customer sees.

Where so many WordPress websites get things wrong

Although WordPress is best used as the backend for a website, it is also commonly used as a one-size-fits-all solution for both the front-end and back-end with the use of page builders and other plugins. However, this is where WordPress websites too often fall short of their potential and may even become a security risk for a business.

While page builders provide a quick, no-code solution for getting a website up and running quickly, the fact is that they often produce websites that are slow, unoptimized, vulnerable to malicious actors, and unable to scale as a business grows.

As more and more code is added to a WordPress site with extra plugins, it will begin to slow. Issues often arise as certain plugins and themes may be incompatible with one another, either causing bugs for a specific component and features or even breaking the entire site completely.

When it comes to web performance, websites built with page builders consistently score significantly lower results in audits for Google’s web core vitals versus hand-coded websites. A slow website can be detrimental to a business’ online success, particularly for those that are managing an e-commerce store. 

A few extra hundred milliseconds in page load times can be the difference between a visitor converting into a customer or bouncing to another website. Walmart even found that their conversion rate increased by 2% for every 1-second improvement in page load times. Depending on the size of a business, a .5% increase in conversation rates can be a difference of thousands to hundreds of thousands of revenue. When it comes to a mammoth like Walmart, this difference is likely in the millions.

Build a WordPress website without the bloat

So, how do you build a WordPress website that isn’t slowed by bloated page builders and plugins?

It’s almost always best to use a development approach called headless WordPress. A headless WordPress site is one that uses WordPress solely for creating and managing back-end content and a custom-coded front end for displaying content to website visitors. 

In this way, the backend is completely decoupled from the front-end of a website. Along with the performance benefits of a highly-optimized front end, this approach also comes with added security benefits as it hides the WordPress backend from the public.

A diagram explaining headless WordPress.

With headless WordPress, businesses are able to work with an easy-to-use platform for managing content while also making Google happy with a great-looking website that is fast-loading and always secure. Headless WordPress is our go-to development approach at Story Digital and has led us to consistently launch websites that score in the high 90s to 100s in Google’s web core vitals audits, often increasing page load times by as much as 100%.

By combining headless WordPress with a custom-coded frontend, we are able to give our clients an easy-to-edit website that loads faster than their competitors and is optimized for SEO.

Going headless with WordPress also provides businesses with the ability to scale their website as they grow. Without the restraints of being tied to WordPress-specific themes and plugins, businesses are able to add whatever custom-coded features they need to their website.

Headless WordPress saves you money

While not relying on plugins may add more upfront costs to building a website, it can often be less expensive in the long run as there is no need to pay licensing fees or extra fees to access specific features kept behind a tiered paywall. If you begin to rely on even a handful of plugins for common features like an image slider or contact form, these licensing fees can add up, costing your business thousands of dollars per year. 

Your website can make or break your business’s online success. If it isn’t built right or is handicapped by a bloated page builder and dozens of costly plugins, it could be the difference between having your visitors convert into customers or bounce away to your competitor.

Need a website or frustrated with your current one? The Story Digital team can help you move in the right direction and deliver a website that both your customers and search engines will love.