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WordPress.com: The Story of "No" - David of All Trades

I love taking client ideas and making it work. Come to me with a problem, and I want to find a solution in your budget.

To help fit in more budgets, I tend to use open source tools. Beyond the great cost, they provide lots of flexibility. I can adapt them to fit any problem. I can use them as a great starting point.

When a client arrives with a solution (as opposed to a problem), things can sometimes get a little dicier.

We have a template we really like...

One day, a client came to me wanting help setting up a Wordpress site. While not my favorite platform, it can work fine for a simple marketing website that the client can edit themselves.

The template that they picked was a very clean business template. It had a nice slideshow to start. Nothing too complicated really, so we could have rebuilt it for another platform fairly easily if that was necessary. The only catch is that the template was for Wordpress.com, which is different than standard Wordpress.

We had not worked with Wordpess.com yet but figured that it would be just like a self-hosted Wordpess site, except we don't have to worry about the hosting. Joy!

Turns out that there are a few more distinctions than initially assumed.

But I love open source

I really like controlling the entire piece, so I preferred to find a way to build the site on a self-hosted Wordpess install. After calculating the time to rebuild the template though, there was no way that the client would pay extra to get an open source system. And there didn't seem to be any cost saving in going the self-hosted route. It was exactly the same amount of work to set up, except that we also had to rebuild the template.

In the grand scheme of things we were talking about hundreds of dollars. Not a terrible amount, but too much as you try to get a business off the ground. And it seemed like an investment more for my preferences than the need of the business.

The true cost of hosted solutions

The initial build went well, and the site was fairly easy to get set up and looking nice. As we wrapped up the final pieces, we hit our first "no".

The client requested that a file be available after a website visitor completed and submitted a form. We do this all the time, so we just need to put the link in the thank you message. (It didn't have to be that locked down.)

No big deal, right? ... Not unless you are on Wordpress.com. Then you can't customize the thank you message to do that.

Well, we will just install another form manager to give us that option. ... Wait, we can't install extensions? What is Wordpress without plugins?! Ok. So we have to use this form plugin that is preinstalled. And we can't set a custom message with a link.

Ok. How about something crazy? Let's add a little javascript to grab the form from a simple script on our server. We'll just customize the template with a little javascr... Oh. No javascript either. ...

At the end of the day, I had to do my least favorite thing and tell the client that it can't be done Or more accurately, it can not be done on the platform that we picked and that we haven't even launched your site with yet.


No. No. No...

Even with this hiccup, the website was finalized and launched. (The link was just placed on the page.) Life was good.

But then we remembered Google Analytics. Naturally we want to track our website visitors! Let's grab the code from Google and drop it in.

... Wait. 

We can't add JavaScript. Where does Wordpress.com have us put our Google Analytics code? I'll save you some googling and let you know that you can't use Google Analytics with WordPress.com. Not allowed. Another "No".

That's frustrating, but WordPress.com does have their own stats. It's a new format that I have to learn and that my client has to learn, but at least we get some data. Another speed bump but all can be ok.

All was ok until the client started to use HubSpot. HubSpot is an excellent inbound marketing platform for blogging, setting up landing pages, and managing email campaigns. The entire system is built on tracking customers and showing them content relevant to their status as either a lead or returning customer.

This means it is time to add a tracking code to the website. Immediately I know: if I can't use Google Analytics, I'm not getting this other code on the site. No chance. Another " no".

 Again, my entire job is to solve your problems. Sometimes the solution is too expensive or too complicated, so we don't do it. The answer should never be no because of technical limitations. That's a sign that we didn't build a good base to fit your needs, and a sign that I didn't do my job properly up front.

The final solution

In the end, there was no choice but to move them off WordPress.com. We started to redesign the template for a self hosted WordPress install. However, since they wanted to utilize HubSpot, we instead helped them transition to that platform.

While it is still a hosted solution, this platform has proven to be much more open. I'm excited to be back to saying "Yes" and "Finished".

I also doubt that I will ever find a situation that calls for me to utilize Wordpress.com again.