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The web corporate industry is terrible (and Wordpress rules)

Not a rant: a comparison between two words

     
5:15 pm on Feb 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hi webmasters, this is not new to me but I wasn't aware things were this ugly. There used to be webmaster hiring, now it's all about social, tracking, spamming and Wordpress. (Wordpress is not bad or evil, it's just an unhealthy symptom of the industry today, or so it seems).

I started developing websites around 1998 and since then built good webs reaching thousands of visitors per day, some for the company I worked for and most for myself: hobby sites that helped me to get better and ended up providing income, food to my table. My most important webs are still around and kicking. I learned about SEO, optimization, mobile, reducing requests, etc. My sites are FAST, the only thing slowing them down are the ads some of my sites show (Adsense). I'm a one man band and my sites are on top positions, sure some companies are my competitors now and they have teams of people posting like crazy monkeys (not me) but it's something to feel proud of, most of this I learned HERE, thanks WebmasterWorld.

It's clear small companies with no clue behave accordingly. But I had a few job interviews from 2 specialized companies, big players in the region, one is really, really big and has lots of big clients, I was happy to be called by that one more than the other. This is not about two companies only, it covers experiences about others but here is the story, it's becoming a standard:

The hiring was done by someone who doesn't develop software or websites
All the questions were about Wordpress
Joomla was also discussed
Drupal? "I know it's good, powerful and more secure than WP but... (shy) we don't know how to use it"
My own CMS or Framework optimized and powering websites handling high traffic had no importance
Websites reaching 20 years of existence were nothing to talk about (hey, they make good money)
Evaluation of websites was done by extensions and free services "detecting CMS... wait"
Didn't have the knowledge to evaluate the sites for themselves
They handle pretty big clients, but their websites... are unknown
I was shown websites (their portfolio) that I haven't seen, ever, not even in search results
All was Wordpress
Their strong point to clients is providing "custom STATS PANELS" to see "current visitors"

I didn't take offense, I just thought: damn, this website in particular made enough money over the years to buy a house and they didn't blink. Being at top positions on search engines is something they couldn't notice, even asked "is this indexed?", I was like "what?". I'm impressed because there are things that are key components in successful websites and they didn't put attention to any of those. The success, speed or stability of the websites was never considered, nor the original work.

Pay? terrible for the job and working ours, this even at the two companies, specially the large one (I'm surprised). The other not so big had good salary but ugly working hours. Oh yes we talked.

Their complain? developers/webmaster don't stay. I noticed on the interviews but specially on those two big companies webmasters come and go like rain, stay for a while and leave. The work is always "new" to someone and there is always a terrible hurry because nobody stays for long and work is often delayed. Most portfolio shown is about pretty mockups of sites you will never hear of.

And they put great effort on stalking visitors on the web.

Why this is not a rant? because it's not. My point is you can learn how to develop sites that work using ANY CMS, or walk extra miles and develop your own custom solutions to make your own website FASTER, sites that work. And they don't care. You might as well show a powerpoint design you can turn into html and that's it, as long as you are FAST, it doesn't matter if your code sucks, if your website is slow... they don't perform speed tests! they have such a powerful fast connection you could place a BIG JPG that loads slowly but there it will be FAST. The powerful clients who pay for this also have the same connections so you can place whatever there. So you can train for years but your expertise as a webmaster doesn't matter to the corporate industry. They want:

- cheap
- people with no life
- willing to post whatever even if it sucks, even if that's slow as a turtle
- people who build Wordpress site that never rank

It seems if you want a job and you take learning seriously, you might be training for the wrong world. Its all facebook.


My big question is... how clients pay for this?, WHY? the company I worked for (and I left) hired an expensive company (one that offered me a job later) to redesign a successful FAST website with average of 7,500 daily unique visitors. They couldn't even migrate the content, instead erased everything and created a Wordpress website with a generic template (modified), it's a REALLY slow website. Terrible ranking, terrible SEO, terrible mobile experience. The frontpage weights 2MB, my most loaded frontpage (with pictures but yes, optimized) reaches 700K. Not to mention the website they designed and launched last year (2018) reaching 25MB... just the frontpage.

And they paid very good money for it.

Interesting. Most of those websites offend a good webmaster, it's not a matter of my personal taste, they break so many rules... and still they profit, and still clients don't complain? interesting.
5:44 pm on Feb 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Corporate is not the same as specialized. Once you start playing with other people's money (think venture capital) it seems like the creative heart is cut out of any business (any!). Bean counters and middle management get thrown in and rarely have a clue what a business does, they only care about counting and managing.

Change your title from webmaster to web consultant and see the difference. :)
6:39 pm on Feb 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The clients do not know what should be done, or how it will work, or what it should do. If you are selling to people who do not understand what they are buying, marketing is more important than the actual product or service.
7:17 pm on Feb 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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^^^ so very true!
10:53 pm on Feb 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I totally agree, yet feel so naive, unable to understand how big companies (well anyone) won't notice how something has no worth existing. Then I think on how they (the pseudo developers) justify to keep charging extra fees for "traffic".

Sometimes I fantasy on people (them) comparing their traffic against mine, like telling them my daily and they think it's my monthly :)

It feels good when it happens. But yes I learned to keep my mouth shut and keep limits on what they can know about my websites.
12:29 am on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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There are two intertwined horrors in webdev today:
1. webdev output is increasingly a mix and match of frameworks - fewer and fewer can actually hand code or would recognise optimisation (nor the need for it) if they fell in it.

However, the greatest potential nay probable downfall of concatenating frameworks is that they have a distressing habit of going out of fashion (maintainers become rare, expensive) or even out of existence (porting can be problematic, expensive; security plummets). Yet there are an ever increasing number and the combinations are exponential.

Sites, whether WP or various exotics, are, for the past decade, and increasingly, all about speeding up development not connection to render.

If you think discussing SEO with the Google and tool fanbois is hitting ones head against a brick wall... discussing webdev with the framework fanatics is even more pointless and painful.

2. Too many webdevs (and their clients) are enamoured of tools that were barely adequate a decade ago and pretty much pointless these days. They build to what tools can measure and not to business requirements. Back buttocks ward.

Also a lot of 'bad' webdevs drive cheap bot and/or ppc traffic so that numbers go up - far too often clients look at volume not quality, revenue not profit aka ROI and think their webdev (and site) is fantastic.

Last but not least many of the 'good' webdevs believe the smoke and mirrors they sell to their clients. The con is that pervasive.

It's a sad state of affairs. And the larger the enterprise/site, the sadder.
1:44 am on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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We make widgets. Widgets used by scientists. Since 1993. We've had a web-page since, oh, 1998. In 2000 we hired someone to do a website for us. Hosted on an Intel P2 motherboard running NT4 / IIS4, in our office, through an ISDN connection, not even a full ISDN connection (because no adsl where we were). All we need is for the site to be a "yellow-pages" ad for us. I tinkered with the meta-keywords and some content over the years. It's still the same site, google and bing still crawl the site with dozens of page hits per day, verifying that the same pages are still there, over and over and over again. No links to anything off-site. And I mean nothing. It's a fast site, now on 50-meg VDSL, still NT4 server (P4 now!). People (scientists, engineers, post-docs, grad students) stumble across our site. Maybe they read a paper where our stuff was used and just threw our company name into google. All we care is that they see we exist, they look through pictures and descriptions of our widgets, they hit the contact page and shoot us an email or phone us. The website has done it's job. No webmaster required. For 19 years no (well, hardly any) webmaster required.

When I browse the web, my computers have updated MVPS hosts file. My browsers have noscript and adblockers. I don't see most the the garbage that is hooked or linked into most web pages today. My site looks the same with or without all the blockers. How many sites today are designed with me in mind? I don't browse on a phone (I don't own a cell phone, but that's another issue).

If you need a full-time web-master, constant web-development, really complicated website, I have no idea what business model you have but I'm guessing your burning other people's money on a concept that is ultimately doomed to failure - or maybe a greater fool will buy you (again with other people's money). That's what happened to yahoo (I think verizon was the greater fool there).
11:23 am on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Iamlost you are talking about front end frameworks, right? You do not usually those problems with back end frameworks and I think using the latter is good practice - it improves maintainability and security.

@SumGuy its fine if you have content site - yours sounds like a brochure site. If you sell online it needs more work and maintance. If you have user generated content someone needs to keep an eye on it. If you handle payments or personal information you have to keep things secure (and definitely not run an OS that was EOL 15 years ago!). If you need custom functionality someone needs to develop it, The same if you have a large number of products for sale and need to customise how people see them (e.g. proper search). What about integration with other systems (e.g website talks to CRM or ERP systems)? All useful, not "greater fool" or burning money.
1:57 pm on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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No, our site it wasn't designed for online sales. Our stuff costs from $100 to $76k. For most stuff the buyer needs a quote from us. They take it to their purchasing to get a PO, they email or fax the PO to us, we make the item(s) in the PO, ship it to them that day (if we have it in stock) or it might take up to 4, 6 weeks to make and ship, then we wait 1 or 2 months for payment (check) to arrive in the mail. Sometimes they will order and pay by credit card (up to maybe $3k - $5k but usually under $1k) and we take CC info over the phone, write it down on paper, enter CC info into small dial-up CC processing terminal, run the paper with CC info through shreder. That probably happens once a week. No user-generated content on our website. We have (or had) a search function, but it's broken or we disabled server-side scripting. It's there for people to try, but it rarely gets tried. No integration with CRM (Janna Contact, software is circa 1999). Our JC data base is about 500 mb in size and has 4 to 5k contacts in it. No need to integrate web activity with our CRM because web activity is anonymous and no way to know how to link individual web hits with specific people,. Our web server also serves up software update files to our various software packages that customers have. We've designed our software to look on our site for specific files telling it if an update is available.
2:50 pm on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Right, that my point. You do not need the complexity of the examples I gave, but lots of people do. Of course its good to avoid unnecessary complexity, but if you actually need something its worth it (of course people do not always assess what they need very well, which is why the stuff the thread is about happens).
10:31 pm on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I manage a website for a company that gets --- MAYBE --- 3 visits a day, and none on weekends. :)

Very specialized product(s) that START at 6 figures up to 8 figures with (construction, delivery and installation) completion times of 9-15 months. What these folks want, and get, is a brochuer site that displays contact info and acts as a lead generator. Bells and whistles, extraordinary coding, all the hoorah stuff bandied about these days simply has no place, and is not used.

Been with them 14 years, except for one short period when they got a new market director in house who decided that my design was not "attractive" enough and hired another to redo it. 9 months later the boss called me up and begged me to come back. When I asked why (as the site redo was actually "current standards" fleshed out with all kinds of interactive and reference/white papers) the reply was:

"Too much noise. We're getting students calling for help with their homework (learning how to design these products) and bots are banging our server mercilessly."

One codes for the business first, then everything else. :)
12:24 am on Feb 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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They want:

- cheap
- people with no life
- willing to post whatever even if it sucks, even if that's slow as a turtle
- people who build Wordpress site that never rank

- "Cheap", yes but more specifically they want something with the least upfront price tag but then have no means of gaging the true cost over time.
- "People with no life." No they want their employees to have lives but on the company's terms (company Gym, Daycare, meals, etc.)
- "willing to post whatever even if it sucks, even if that's slow as a turtle", employees are paid for results. One needs to show that one is working on a continuous basis, wait too long to show results people will wonder if you are really working.
-" people who build Wordpress site that never rank" Yes but ultimately no. The company needs a framework in place that is universal, so when the previous person leaves or is fired the next person can continue left off. See the previous bullet point.
1:05 pm on Feb 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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What is a wordpress site? How would I know it if I see (browse) it?
2:50 pm on Feb 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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NickMNS, with regard the last point, is what clients think, but it does not always work out that way.

@SumGuy [wordpress.org...]

The usual give away is lots of images, css, js and similar in /wp-content/ and /wp-includes/
4:19 pm on Feb 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I have always believed it will be much harder to get a WP site to rank, compared to a custom built html site.
Is there any truth to that?
4:32 pm on Feb 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Very good posts, can't quote them, would take too long. Yes we have discussed magic solutions in the past, companies who hear Node24 and JSmagic are the best framework so LEARN IT AND CODE. It's more difficult (it seems to me) to find developers in charge, the developers are managed by people who don't usually develop, write code or have anything built except from terrible sites that won't rank.

WP? is valid, but not the best solution for many of the situations I'm seeing. I understand universal tools for teamwork, but this is a joke. @Mark_A you can find some answers in old threads around, WP and blogs in general received favors from G, they even posted regretting this (years ago), now the rules of ranking are different (more fair IMHO). But regarding your question those developers will tell you "yes you can rank it to the top, there is a plugin for that" and so and so, plugins and plugins.

Update and update, someday it will break the code (as usual). They rely too much on plugins. The way WP is build makes it slower the more you add (just like everything? no, some solutions are built to execute code only when needed, that's optimization). I remember an old thread about Brett Tabke describing the architecture used for the forum and other stuff using flat files, begin really fast. I don't know if the forum still uses this, I was amazed and I also built a solution using flat files with zero load or speed issues. Some companies can only dream about this but can only pay for WP.

tangor hits the nail: One codes for the business first, then everything else. :), exactly, this covers the technology, the strategy, the content, the visual, etc. Not everything can be or should be done with WP (or any other CMS) each one has limitations.


The moral of the story is you can build an amazingly fast, optimized website, with a solid community, traffic, earnings, etc, and most companies will only pay attention if you used WP.
5:40 pm on Feb 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Wordpress can itself be good, albeit somewhat heavy (last time I looked it made a lot of database queries). Its heavy themes and badly written plugins that are the problem.

I am not a fan of flat files as a DIY database - but I do minimise the optimise database queries. For simple sites I can usually get a low single digit number of queries per page.

@Mark_A, it depends how you use it. Its particular themes and plugins that are the problem with ranking. If you choose a lightweight them the HTML is lighter, and if you create your own theme you largely control the HTML. Most CMSs and all frameworks I know of let you control the HTML if you write your own themes/templates.

@explorador how widespread is the "it must be Wordpress" problem? What sort of companies?
6:44 pm on Feb 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@graeme_p: the largest media company in my country (largest in 5 countries in the region) moved everything to Wordpress except their main website (that's running a commercial cms produced in Europe). They migrated every single website to WP (sites with lots of traffic, then mere cartoons (still when news-media were big players, not to mention today). They are/WERE huge (covering radio, magazines, newspaper, tv, etc). Other newspapers moved to Wp and few to Drupal. As I worked there and had close contact with the technical dept I was able to witness the many issues WP presents unless you hire specialized hosting "optimized" for WP, the sites were often down, hosting locally was impossible (they had big infrastructure supporting the main website, the news, couldn't deal with WP), finally moved to a set of servers in USA, still not happy but it was an order coming from above. Any evidence of speed and optimization using other tools was disregarded.

Web developing companies? most small players: WP, I didn't care, then had contact and job interviews with not so small companies and big ones too: WP.

The, let's say "procter and gamble" of my country (covering lots of products, brands, services, etc, while a huge company with a variety of markets, don't have their own dept, I just had an interview with the company who serves them and got familiar with what they produce, it's WP, WP all around. Traffic? a joke. Why would big companies prefer external services? that's a long story but it favors taxes deductions, I don't know their reasons but that's one.

This is a whole company (external) building websites, data management, online stores and mobile apps (one of the few who really develop mobile here) at least mobile it's good, they use native tools (Android and iOS). I also had contact and interviews in the past with other companies, they are running WP websites. as usual most use templates, then others modify the thems, few create their own. Only companies developing for financial markets use other stuff (Symfony, with lots of issues), another big player that I know has their own dept, they use Cake and probably Laravel (it was a requirement). This company got convinced WP was the best after "some research" including the notion that The Washington Post uses Wordpress... well the real story is they used it and modified a lot of stuff creating a whole new best (the company here doesn't know this).

WP is all around. I'm a one man band with a set of websites, one being the largest, well positioned. A competitor has a whole team of people competing (they are doing a fair job, besides I'm one they are many) and their websites it's also WP. Whenever you see hiring ads they want WP.

As usual... those are sites you rarely hear of, rarely see on search results (if ever) and directly spend on advertising. There is one company trying to become the Amazon of the region, they are using Magento.

Again, it's not that WP is ugly or terrible, it's the technical aspect of scale and managing a site more than 2 years. My point for the thread is, WP is in high demand here, anything you know? WP is what they care. So it's a good business move to specialize in WP, right? well... it's up to discussion, specially considering how small the stability of those positions are.
6:45 pm on Feb 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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What is a wordpress site? How would I know it if I see (browse) it?
Well, if the overall layout looks exactly like eighteen other sites you've seen in the last two days, barring details of fonts and colors, that's a clue. Sometimes there will be a footer visible to the naked eye. If in doubt, a quick glance at the HTML source will make it plain. The actual words “WordPress” may or may not occur, but look for references to /wp/ or /xmlrpc.php or /wp-content/ or, or, or... (I checked this by glancing at the code of a favorite site that I'd always assumed was WP but never previously looked.) In short, all those strings that you constantly find malign robots asking for on your own sites.
6:52 pm on Feb 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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how widespread is the "it must be Wordpress" problem? What sort of companies?

How many Fords, Toyotas, Volkswagons out there on the "highway"?

WP is just one of those above ... Jeep, perhaps. :)

The problems come when the traffic lane changes from "in city speeds" to "space travel".

Use any tool as it should be, for the project at hand. WP will never scale. Can't. But for many who only travel city to city in a "personal vehicle" it does remarkably well. Customization will, of course, change the product into something less efficient, or even unrecognizable.

I have encountered the "gotta be WP since we want to do the updates ourselves". My reply these days, as I do have enough clients and am looking at retirement pretty soonish (when I haven't decided yet), "I don't do WP, can't guarantee any real security with that platform. But if you really do want to do your own content, then learn how to install WP so you know what it can, and can't do. If you need somebody to do that for you, check your local high school computer kids."

Half do just that, and have what they want. The other half blink thoughtfully and about half of those then talk serious turkey on what they want to get done.

THEN you code for the business first, then everything else.
8:10 pm on Feb 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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graeme:
The clients do not know what should be done, or how it will work, or what it should do. If you are selling to people who do not understand what they are buying, marketing is more important than the actual product or service.

Exactly.
10:13 pm on Feb 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Wordpress, for me, is very much like that (car analogy continued) period of time when kids could get their hands on something and mod it the way they wanted ... and all were semi-competent shade tree mechanics. Back then we could take a 1935-1959 whatever and chop, drop, crop and spot to heart's content. But we never had to BUILD IT! All the real work had already been done decades earlier. All we had to do was "plug-in" gadgets and whizmos. WP is that customizable 1942 Buick. Never will do anything other than what it was originally designed to do: Make wheels go round.
2:51 pm on Feb 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I have been a webdev for roughly 20 years. The need/desire for WP in corporations of all sizes is, I think, down to these factors.

1. It makes the developer/development team easily replaceable. Specialist/custom CMS and frameworks effectively makes it impossible to dismiss the creators or long-term developers. This takes away power/control from the web developers and returns it to management.
2. Web development, in the eyes of many managers, is now all about content and not the actual mechanics of the website. Wordpress is easy to add/edit content and that is 90% of the work involved (it isn't as well know*). Non webbies don't seem to realise that all CMS systems have you type into a box which gets saved in a database field in pretty much the same way, regardless.
3. Saving time and money by using plugins. We can avoid expensive and slow feature roll outs if we just use plugins (lots and lots and lots of plugins) to do it all for us. Only later complaining that a page takes 5 seconds to load.
4. They have heard of it....
3:26 pm on Feb 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@lazywebdev With 2, it depends on whether you are developing a fairly standard content site, a customised content site, or a web app. I think many clients do not know the difference. They tend to think of design as the important bit, and development as secondary. I am regularly approached by clients who say something on the lines of "I have the design done, so I ony need the backend". Fine if you have a content site and all that needs to be done is install a CMS and turn the design into templates (its not what I do, but its reasonable) but a lot of people who want a web app take the same approach.

With 1. there are plenty of frameworks and CMSs that are widely enough used that finding replacements should not be a problem: Drupal, Django, RoR, Symfony..... Maybe perception is different, or the cost of developers is distorted by WP having a lot of low cost and low competence "developers" (I am pretty sure a competent WP/PHP dev will cost the same as any of the above, but the low barrier to entry means a lot of people with a limited skill set claim to be WP devs).

4. Is a big one. It always is. "You will not be fired for buy IBM" (these days, Microsoft). IT related purchasing has a lot of CYA in decision making.

As people said, the problem is not Wordpress, so much as inappropriate use of Wordpress. I am to an extent a Wordpress hater - but I am considering using it for (part of) my own new site and wordpress.com is the DIY site service I would be most likely to use/recommend.
12:24 pm on Feb 18, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@graeme_p Thanks for reading my post :) I agree that for systems built around common frameworks, replacing team members should not be too challenging for companies. I have worked with (and been asked to work with) various companies who have bespoke and legacy custom php systems with integrations into custom business management applications. Often these take many weeks or months to get to full speed with. I usually try and replace/modernise these systems ASAP or at least document how they work. (The number of times I find a comment such as "this doesn't really work right...but will do for now" from 2011 or something is amusing). In these cases replacing a new dev can cause many weeks or months of development downtime.