CMS (Content Management Systems)

React or WordPress?

There are numerous CMS (content management systems). WordPress is the market leader today in terms of number of users and websites online. But there are other technologies based on programming languages, such as React, which are the better choice in numerous cases. We explain advantages and disadvantages of React-based CMS over WordPress.

React or WordPress?

The question of what to use when planning a website is of enormous importance. Depending on the type of website you want to create, there are several options.

WordPress is the most widely used and established content management system (CMS) for creating websites. But WordPress also has its drawbacks. At the same time, React is gaining ground in terms of website creation. 

You should know from the beginning that WordPress is a CMS and React is not. However, React can be used to create a web application by networking it with other libraries, which then results in a finished product. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of WordPress and React to help you decide which way to go for your next website project.

Advantages of using WordPress

  • Get started right away - It is easy to install, with your WordPress website you can start in no time. Some hosting providers even feature a one-click installation tool in their admin panel.
  • Fast learning curve for beginners - If you want to create a simple website with basal features, WordPress is a good choice. For example, a post editor for writing articles, drag and drop menus and sidebar tools, authentication systems, etc. are available.
  • User-friendly CMS - Most people appreciate the simplicity with which things can be done in WordPress.
  • Numerous plugins & themes - From sending web forms to your email with every new submission to using webboards or an automatic backup system - everything can be achieved using plugins. Even for those of you who don't claim web design as your hobbyhorse, a beautiful website can be successfully created using existing themes.
  • Cost effective hosting - Most inexpensive web servers run PHP, which keeps the cost of setting up a new WordPress website very low. The downside is that these servers usually run old or outdated versions of PHP, and security risks and performance deficits can occur. Here are some of the recommendations for the best hosting providers with the best price-performance ratio.
  • SEO is included - If you are building a website based on good Search Engine Optimization (SEO), WordPress will serve you right away. There are plenty of SEO plugins to help you improve your ranking and promote social sharing. While React is based on Server-Side Rendering (SSR) - which is great - no one is going to beat WordPress at SEO stories anytime soon. Which parts are essential for your landing page is explained here.
COntent Management Systems like WordPress or Joomla

Advantages of using the React Ecosystem

  • Creating native apps with React Native - Once you understand React sufficiently, you can use it to create mobile apps in both Android and iOS. No additional services, plugin or otherwise are required for this.
  • Most libraries are FREE and supported by the community - While WordPress is now littered with paid themes and plugins, creating with React is mostly free. There is the added benefit that the React community is very supportive of each other and their plugins.
  • Great for creating websites that receive data via APIs - Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) require low bandwidth to send data, making the website fast. At a time when Web Ecosystems are turning to APIs, React is much easier to use than WordPress to parse received data.

Disadvantages of using WordPress

  • Design: You are limited in the design and the way you organize your website. Because of this, all WordPress websites look similar. It gets expensive quickly if you really want to create something unique.
  • Safety: WordPress may be vulnerable due to security issues with plugins (as described on iThemes described) can be easily hacked - here it mostly doesn't help either if you have several "security plugins" installed on your WordPress website.
  • Updates: WordPress updates are a big problem. There are so-called breaking changes, where a software change can trigger the multiple failure of other systems, i.e. under certain circumstances, for example, some plugins no longer work. Most plugins are developed by hobby coders and not by professional programmers. Accordingly, such plugins do not have professional, security-tested standards. 
  • Scaling: WordPress runs on PHP, an old programming language. It can be difficult to scale. This slows down the site as content or traffic grows. There are tricks to dealing with the limitations of PHP, but they are not sometimes difficult to implement or expensive to host. You can find a few helpful tips here and here.
React with Library
  • Biggest issue - Technical debts: Since WordPress is the main player in the market and has been established for a very long time, many of their customers have websites built with older versions of WordPress. WordPress fails to fix all the underlying issues with a new system that are deeply rooted in their system (and thus on old websites). This problem leads to "technical debt" - and it's particularly acute with WordPress: while it can be quick to start a project with WordPress, just adding more features becomes slower and more tedious over time. The cost you incur over time to keep old running is due to imperfect or insufficient code that needs to be maintained or updated. This is time consuming and possibly costly. Fixing bugs and patching exploits, adding new features or hiring a developer costs time and money. As your project gets bigger, the codebase grows, and more people work on that code, there will be arguments or communication problems here and there. Imagine you have a deadline and a less than ideal solution is patched into the source code in order to finish on time. Maybe you then add an open source component that you don't fully understand to handle a feature instead of coding it yourself. Or maybe you switch libraries between versions (e.g. from Backbone to React), but still have to support people using the legacy codebase for their projects. Absolutely none of these things are bad per se. Maybe nothing is bad at all. At least not at the moment. But when you add it all up, the technical debt they're incurring will have to be repaid at some point in the future. At some point, the open source component you built in may need to be replaced (or forked). That will take time and money. In the distant future, you may need to remove all backbone code from your project and stop supporting legacy users. This will also cost time and money. That patch you made to meet a deadline? Well, it will eventually be reverted and require a more permanent fix. Again, time and money. And you'll have new members on your team going back through the old code to do all that, requiring them to understand the code and logic of the previous developers. Time. Money. You shouldn't build on shaky ground if you want something to last. While technical debts represent an abstract concept and may be interpreted metaphorically, the cost of technical debt, on the other hand, is very real. Your repayment has a monetary value, and you can track the interest you pay on it in labor hours and pay stubs.
Have website created

Disadvantages of using the React Ecosystem

  • Developer required: Unlike WordPress, programming with React requires developers to work on the site. Which means you would either need to hire them or code them yourself.
  • React is not a frameworkReact is promising. However, if you need to get something done quickly, React can be frustrating - if you have clients, projects and urgent deadlines, React can take a few nerves, it does require a bit of research in parts. React can be playful to use, great for experimentation, but challenging when trying to get things right. It's best to accept that there is not ONE way.
  • Community conventions are still in development: How do I structure this? How do people deal with it? I'm not saying that library developers don't have strong opinions about how their libraries should be used, because they certainly do. The problem is that fluctuations occur and change happens so quickly that they often don't have time to agree on common conventions. Only those who really pay attention to the monthly, weekly, and daily changes in the React community can tell you how best to use any given library.

Conclusion

The main reason many people still choose WordPress is that it's cheaper upfront. Unfortunately, too many agencies tend not to inform clients about the implications of technical debt (low upfront costs and high service costs later on). Acknowledging the problem of technical debt, it seems that WordPress is simply not worth the trouble - disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

But is the problem of technical debt one that affects everyone who wants to create a website? Aren't many of the websites we see not the kind that need constant updates and changes? Many websites don't need to constantly grow or build upon themselves. Does it make sense to build a website on React when you know you can achieve the same result with WordPress with far less effort?

If you're just creating a small website that's unlikely to change or rarely needs new content, WordPress is almost certainly the better choice. This is especially true if you don't have access to a developer. User-friendliness as well as extensibility are the main reasons why there are now over 18.9% of all websites on the Internet operates.

For all websites that grow organically and value high security standards, React is the right choice.

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