I'm a freelance graphic designer, illustrator, writer and the founder of Sand Web Design. Graphic artist at News Corp. Father and husband. Pop culture addict.
Amongst the website creation and content management tools available on the web today, it cannot be denied that Wordpress is one of the biggest players. Hundreds of thousands of sites utilize the service as the backend system for their respective corners of the internet. But is Wordpress the place that someone in the design space ideally needs to be? Someone more front-end focused, someone who, like me, works freelance for small to mid size clients?
The most simple answer from my perspective; no, not at all.
I'm new to Wordpress. I should say that first and foremost. I jumped onto WP on the insistence of a new client, who had purchased a template via CssIgniter, which they needed adapted to their requirements. This choice on the client's part was in no way tied to any particular feature that Wordpress could offer, it was more based on their find-ability via Google searches. This client had done some research and, inevitably, those searches led her to Wordpress. This in turn led her to CssIgniter, and she found a nice looking template (called 'Oscillator') which was advertised as Wordpress compatible, SEO optimised and very simple to use.
With the template in hand, I jumped into Wordpress, very curious to what I might find. A little background on me when it comes to web design; I'm very much a Webflow evangelist. I have some basic coding experience, but the bulk of my skill lies with graphic design and illustration, so a service like Webflow is absolutely invaluable to me. It crunches the coding down into something that a person adept at working with graphics can easily understand and manipulate. No templates; absolute ease of use and most importantly, creative freedom.
Wordpress however, it was very different.
'Obtuse' would be the best word I could think to describe the Wordpress back-end dashboard. I knew almost immediately that this was a system that was not created with graphic designers in mind. It seemed to me that utilitarian things like page hierarchy and menu navigation was hidden away several layers deep. Google became my saving grace when I was trying to find features and options that I knew were in there somewhere, but seemed to somehow elude me. Once the template that my client had provided was uploaded, this was somehow further compounded. The CssIgniter template had its own individual widgets and styling options, which were placed on menus within the 'plugin' section of the dashboard, and were in no way associated with the standard WP areas of the same type. Nothing seemed fluid, and tiny changes to the template, such as left to right alignment of certain objects, appeared to be a major pain.
It should be stated at this point, that I totally understand how frustrating this might all sound to someone well versed in the highways and byways of Wordpress. I'm sure once your head is around it, WP can be very useful for a freelance designer. I just cannot see how something like WP can compare to a system I'm used to, like Webflow, when it comes to putting together a functional site. The sheer fluidity and versatility of Webflow is still staggering to me, even after I've been using it almost daily for 2+ years. From nothing but a blank canvas I can create a unique, functional site design, with no hint of a template in site. Trying to do the same thing in Wordpress was a lumbering, frustrating affair.
This might be the point at which a Worpdress designer might point out that WP was some much more powerful CMS options on offer over Webflow, and that is true to some degree. But when I create a small business site for a client that contains some content management functionality, be it a blog or some rotational content, I would ideally like to hand over something that is very easy to use and understand for that client themselves. Again, the Worpdress solutions when it comes to this are so elegant and uninvasive. I feel that if I were to deliver a similar WP site to a client, it would take at least a few sessions of coaching and creating in depth tutorials to get their head around the in's and out's of publishing on the platform. With WF its just so simple. I feel like WF was designed with easy navigation and useability in mind, much more so than Wordpress.
When it comes right down to it, I may just be too set in my ways. I can, however, confidently say that the little test-run with Wordpress was not enough to lure me away. I vehemently believe that tools such as Webflow represent a new, adaptable and user-friendly kind of experience for web designers and developers. I would encourage anyone that is interested to jump in with both feet and have a play around. You first site is free, and it may just shock you how user friendly it has become to create for the web.