Best WordPress alternatives in 2021
About half of all websites are now powered by WordPress. But despite its popularity, this CMS is often criticized, and people are wondering if it is worth using it at all in 2021.
If you are planning to build a website, then WordPress will probably be the first platform you try. But does it have alternatives? And do we even need them?
Yes, we do, and there are many reasons.
To begin with, WordPress is not the most beginner-friendly platform for someone who has never had a website but wants to be able to do it all on their own.
Also WordPress is not a universal solution - if you need advanced functionality, you will have to add plugins, a lot of plugins.
In addition, WordPress is not optimized by default to work with some of the more specialized types of websites, such as e-commerce stores.
It is also important that WordPress is built with PHP, and this technology is not always suitable for all tasks and purposes.
The choice of a WP alternative depends on your needs. There are general website building tools, universal online platforms, content management systems, e-commerce platforms, and more. We'll go over their main features, their pros and cons, and compare each one to WordPress.
An alternative to WordPress development is the Jamstack approach. In this article, we will dwell on it in more detail.
Disadvantages of WordPress and How to Deal with Them
Speed. Solution: use SSGs
A WordPress site is slow to load, especially on mobile devices. The page size is large due to the many plugins, which also affects SEO. Using SSG will help solve this problem.
We recommend GatsbyJS, NextJS, 11ty or any other SSG. They are fast, mostly free, and provide a separation of concerns between the back end and the front end, which greatly simplifies the developer's life and has a positive effect on the quality of the code in general.
Difficulty of mastering for a beginner. Solution: use builders
Yes, setting up and launching your first WP home page is quite simple and will take about 10 minutes. But creating a responsive site will already require advanced web development skills and will most likely be beyond the skills of a beginner. It will be more wise to look towards the builders.
Builders aren't exactly a WordPress alternative, but they provide most of the capabilities that the average WP user needs. There are many of them. There are both quite simple ones, for example, Wix, GoDaddy or Jimdo, and quite hardcore ones with many possibilities, such as Bubble and Tilda.
We recommend Webflow. It is a no-code platform with many templates and an intuitive user interface. It will allow you to quickly transfer your website idea to the screen of your computer or mobile device. Webflow has a full-fledged CMS and built-in e-commerce. The code that this platform generates is clean enough to be exported and, if required, passed on to developers to add new features. Webflow is not a solution for beginners, but due to the high development speed on this platform, even hiring a developer, you will still save a lot.
Complexity of content management. Large site size. Solution: use headless CMS and CDN
The built-in Wordpress editor is rather inconvenient to use, so you have to install one of the "visual editor" plugins that helps with page layout and editing. Headless CMS, in turn, offer all the necessary functionality out of the box, and also have a user-friendly intuitive interface.
Another disadvantage of WordPress is related to content placement. Due to the dynamic nature of the WP site, all content is stored on the company's servers, the size can reach tens of gigabytes, which affects the cost of using the service.
When using headless CMS, the content of your site is stored on the cloud servers of the CDN provider, which ensures high loading speed and a small site volume, which allows you to save on hosting.
Here is a list of the best, in our opinion, CMS:
- Contentful is a simple and flexible CMS with many features, but quite expensive.
- Storyblok - accessible, easy to visually edit content.
- Sanity - highly customizable with a generous free plan.
- Prismic is inexpensive, popular, but requires technical skills to set up.
- Netlify CMS - offers a free data plan with great functionality. Paid plans are quite expensive.
The headless CMS does not have a server, which means that the frontend can be created without looking at the backend and using a tool that is convenient for you.
Headless CMS only work with Jamstack. The good news is that WordPress also has a headless version that will run the backend. This means you can continue to use WP as a content management system while taking advantage of the Jamstack approach.
Safety problems. Solution: using static sites
Because of their popularity, WordPress sites are frequently targeted by cyber attacks. About 90% of hacked CMS-based websites use WordPress. The developers of the site are partly to blame for this - they often do not update the main software or plugins in time, which makes the site more vulnerable to hacking.
As for a static site, if possible, it is rather pointless to hack it - it does not have any code that can be used for an attack. And bringing down a cloud CDN is a tricky business, especially when it comes to a reliable provider like Netlify or Cloudflare.
The need to connect a lot of plugins. Solution: use third-party APIs and E-commerce services
While you can easily find the right WordPress plugin for any purpose, installing too many will slow down your site's speed. If you are using multiple plugins, you may run into compatibility issues. Most of the plugins are paid and quite expensive, which will significantly increase the cost of maintaining the site.
In turn, for development on Jamstack, third-party services have been created that provide an API. You can connect them to your site for free or for a small monthly fee, which saves you the hassle of writing your own backend. You will need hosting, SSG, CMS, possibly authentication, serverless functions and payment systems - all this functionality connects as a third party API and saves you money without causing compatibility issues.
When it comes to e-commerce, you can connect one of many proven solutions to the Jamstack site, such as Stripe, Shopify, or BigCommerce.
What tools do we use ourselves?
In our work, we use those tools that seem to us the most reliable and convenient. As for CMS, we usually set up Sanity or Storyblok for our projects. We like Sanity for its customizability and generous free plan, and Storyblok for its functionality, simplicity and live visual editor, and low cost.
For some of our tasks, Webflow is ideal. Developing a small site from scratch on this platform usually only takes a few weeks.
For SSG we usually use GatsbyJS, NextJS, or 11ty. GatsbyJS and NextJS are distinguished by their high speed and convenience due to the use of ReactJS with its developed ecosystem.
Eleventy, in addition to speed, is distinguished by ease of deployment, and sites written in it are more efficient in comparison with Gatsby or Next.js, since 11ty is free from the use of JS frameworks.
Vercel and Netlify are easy-to-use deployment platforms that provide developers with ample opportunity to tackle complex challenges: instant deployment, auto-scaling, and delivering personalized content globally via CDN, serverless functionality. We use them in almost every project.
Of course, when developing on Jamstack, you can't do without third-party solutions that provide APIs. The choice of these services depends on the type of project. If custom authentication is required, we usually use Auth0 or Firebase. For payments - Stripe. For search, we most often connect Algolia. Firebase, Netlify, or Vercel are usually responsible for backend/serverless functions on our projects. A more detailed overview of tools for Jamstack.
For all its flaws, WordPress isn't going anywhere, at least not yet. WP also has its pluses - a huge community of developers, as well as thousands of themes and plugins for any purpose and need. But the technology itself in its traditional version is very outdated and the transition to something more modern is already brewing. Although, if you use its headless version, then the antediluvian nature of this approach to development will not be so noticeable.
In any case, we advise you to pay attention to more advanced alternatives, the most viable of which is, in our opinion, the Jamstack approach. If you decide to move your site to Jamstack, contact us - we will help!