329 – Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 9: WordPress is too expensive

“Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 9: WordPress is too expensive” with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

These notes as best read in conjunction with the podcast audio.

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This is the 9th episode of our “Thinking the Unthinkable” series and today’s unpalatable thought is… WordPress is too expensive?

We can dismiss this as insane ramblings straightway? It’s free! But, it can be expensive to do anything out of the ordinary, although Site Editing is changing that!

Talking points

Love or loathe Gutenberg, the money is going into it being into a proper competitor to Wix and Squarespace.

I guess that this had to happen really, in that it’s good to have competition, but it’s bad to lose to the competition!!!! Their editors are (still) miles ahead of G! In fact almost every SaaS app that I use has a superior UI than Gutenberg!


But does Matt Mullenweg’s only WordPress review tell us anything?

Want to get your product or service on our 'viewed quite a lot' Black Friday Page? Fill out the form...

“Running a CDN is expensive, and if you’re not paying for it then you are the product.”

Is WordPress a trap for the naive DIYer? Cheap start, but a longer term hidden costs in hosting and maintenance?

I think that the answer to this is a possible yes? We started out cheap and then added plugin after plugin and the fact that they never renew on the same date, or even the same time of year, means that you really have to work out what you’re spending to keep your site updated / supported.

I think that this is a pretty neat idea, and recently saw a post about someone who thinks that the blog functionality of WordPress should fall under this category. The argument goes that most WordPress sites are brochure and so don’t need posts at all.

Certainly cleans up the wp-admin and you then don’t need to explain why posts are not pages!


Canonical plugins are perhaps a way to reduce maintenance issues:

Both the traditional server based hosting companies and wordpress.com have been under the same threat a decade ago by cheap cloud hosting and now serverless hosting – yikes.

It could explain why so many hosting companies have been buying up so many plugins and Gutenberg based builders.

What is the average cost of a WordPress site really?

WP Beginner article about that.

Total cost of a website:

Once again it depends on the premium tools and plugins you purchase. It can be anywhere between $300 and $700 per year, but could go as high as $1000 per year.

https://elementor.com/blog/wordpress-website-cost/ – up to thousands here.

I did this for a site recently and saw the would be charged about £1100 per year in hosting and software.


Can we manage with all free?


  • the freedom to run the program, for any purpose;
  • the freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does the computing as the user wishes. …
  • the freedom to redistribute copies so users can help others;
  • the freedom to distribute copies of modified versions to others

I think that it’s only ‘us’ who care about all this stuff. Most people don’t care too much about FOSS or freedoms, they just want to pay for a site, and pay as little as possible each year?

Can we “cheat” with GPL clubs?

Headless WordPress is expensive:

I do brainless WordPress now. A real KISS approach.

Imagine if WordPress did find a way to make native Gutenberg really popular, and work in the browser with Javascript. Then could make it create a static output.

This is probably too hard to drag the whole community that way. Too much change and too much to lose. But…

No coders could do similar with free templated Astra sites LocalWP, Simply Static and uploaded to Netlify. All free, no skills, mo maintenance or fixes


Mentioned in this podcast:

WP Codebox

Simply Static

Newsletter Glue

What if WordPress moved on from blogging? – WPMarmite

Website with a rude name!

The WP Builds podcast is brought to you this week by…

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The home of Managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain, SSL, and 24/7 support. Bundle that with the Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% off new purchases! Find out more at go.me/wpbuilds.

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Now welcome your hosts David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. You have reached episode number 329. It's the ninth episode in our Thinking, the unthinkable series, and it's entitled WordPress Is Too Expensive. It was published on Thursday, the 1st of June, 2023. My name's Nathan Wrigley and a few bits of housekeeping before we join David Worsley.

The first thing to say is we won't be having a podcast episode next week. I'm taking a trip to Athens to attend Word Camp Eu. If you're there, I really hope that our paths cross. If you're not there, normal service will resume the week after next. So sorry about that. For those that are curious about what we're doing over at WP Builds, I've added a new section to the homepage.

If you go to WP Builds.com and scroll down a little bit, there's a black section entitled Coming up, and at the moment it's showing three cards, listing three events. The first one is happening on the 1st of June, so it's the day this podcast is released. So if you're lucky, you might be able to catch us live.

It's me chatting with Anne McCarthy from Automatic All about what's coming up in WordPress. In this case, WordPress 6.3. Also on the 13th of June, I'll be having our U I U X show with Pete Chenery, and then also picking up the Ws form webinar series. We're on episode five. That's gonna be happening on the 21st of June.

So those little cards will give you the calendar dates, but they'll also give you calendar links so that you can book those events into your calendar. So remember, that's on the WP Builds.com homepage.

The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro, GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL, and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by heading to go.me slash WP Builds. Once more go.me slash WP Builds and we do thank GoDaddy Pro for their ongoing continuing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay. What have we got for you today? As I said at the top of the show, this is the ninth episode in our Thinking, the unthinkable series, and today we're discussing the subject, WordPress is too expensive. What's your opinion on this? We probably can find ways of building sites completely for free. We are of course, able to download the software utterly free.

But do expenses creep up? We've got plugins, we've got themes, we've got hosting, we've got firewalls and security, all of that stuff. Is it possible to do things on the cheap and how might we do that? I do hope that you enjoy this episode. Hello.

[00:03:15] David Waumsley: This is the ninth episode of Our Thinking, the Unthinkable Series, and today's unpalatable thought is WordPress is too expensive.

Nathan, surely we can dismiss this one straight away as insane rambling's, right? It's entirely

[00:03:30] Nathan Wrigley: free. It's so not entirely free though, is it? We both know it's not entirely free. Yeah. Yeah. Okay, there's obviously complications to this. Of course, the software itself is free. But during the course of this episode, we're gonna try and talk about all of the ways where the costs really can pile up.

And whilst if if you've been using WordPress for any length of time, you'll probably know what those costs are, but there certainly can be a lot of them. So yes, it's free. And actually, do you know what, especially with. Full site editing now just called site editing. I do feel that if you really do want a bare bones website but you want a little bit of customization options, then you really could do it for free.

But you really are gonna be limited in the scope and probably what you are capable of doing will be

[00:04:23] David Waumsley: limited, shall we say. And I, I want other people love or loathe guttenberg and I'm, I tend to be on the loathe ITT side of things where you are in the love it. But, I have to concede here that you know, if you are looking for something that's not expensive, th this guttenberg, even if it's not where it should be right now for everybody, it is seeing a lot of good investment, meaning that it is a proper competitor to.

The alternatives. Most people who want a DIY anyway would have, which is Wix and Squarespace and those kind of things. From that angle, you know it, it is. From a DIYs perspective, certainly it seems a competitively cheap

[00:05:09] Nathan Wrigley: option. Yeah. I wonder what, w wonder what it would've been like if we didn't get Gutenberg, if we were still using what's now called the classic editor.

I wonder what the landscape for WordPress would look like at this point. Yeah. Whether a lot of us would be clamoring for some kind of page builder functionality built in with the ability to edit headers and footers and all of that kind of stuff. Yeah. It's interesting. But I think it had to go that way just because really the wordpress.com, which in some way props up wordpress.org.

Yeah. There, there was direct competition between things like Wick and Squarespace, and so this editor. Had to be built. Now whether or not the editor that we've got in WordPress is as good as the editors in third party SaaS apps, I guess it's debatable. I've certainly experienced glitches and problems with Gutenberg, and I've also experienced incredible UIs in all sorts of other rival products.

Some of them have got nothing to do with building websites, they're just SAS products, like CRMs or something like that. But yeah, and yeah, I think it had to happen. Yeah,

[00:06:16] David Waumsley: I've always struggled with this. Obviously I'm coming from the point of view. Somebody's used it long term and when I came in, it was the free way for me to be able to get into the dynamic web to be able to do things like I was, I couldn't have possibly done it before, get into e-commerce and membership sites wasn't available.

And largely I came in that without paying a penny. But over the time I've seen That, I've slowly adopted more of the premium options that go with WordPress, which has seen its growth over the years. So I started free and I eventually ended up using Gutenberg free in the end. Yeah.

But in the middle it's cost me quite a bit cuz I've jumped on board with a lot of premium add-ons. When

[00:07:01] Nathan Wrigley: you began using WordPress, do you remember how the messaging was on wordpress.org? So did it talk about free and all of that? Because now at this moment, if you go to. wordpress.org you The big message, the Big H one message is WordPress grow your business.

That's an interesting flavor, isn't it? Yeah. And then underneath that, the text is, create a place for your business, your interests, or anything else. With the open source PLA platform that powers the web. So it doesn't really get into free, it just says open source. And so I guess most people know that means free, but it doesn't specifically go out of its way to say it won't cost you a penny, which is interesting.


[00:07:45] David Waumsley: Yeah, and I think when I came in it, I don't know, it felt like you found this little secret club on the web that were finding a cheat way to get into all this clever stuff. So WordPress, was still mostly seen as this blogging platform, but a little bit more simpler. For people like me than something like Duple.

And there were all these like wonderful people doing these free plugins to extend this blogging platform. Then. So there were people like Justin Tadlock who got me in with his first kind of attempt to a membership plugin and all these things were free. It was their experiments. So it felt like you, you got into this small club of people, these developers who knew a bit more than you and you could jump on it.

So that's how it felt it didn't feel like some big organization. It felt like this real, true. This sort of grassroots open source project when I came in and I just finding wonderful ways, and I think that's how it was in the early days. I think people, it wasn't the obvious choice but I guess it, people were coming in because in some ways it was the obvious choice to a lot of people.

It was, with all of these themes which were ready made and good to go for bloggers. That was pulling actual people in as well, so yeah, it's

[00:08:54] Nathan Wrigley: really interesting that the wordpress.org doesn't really talk up the free, so we got that message, grow your business and then beneath that, dream it, build it.

Yeah. And then it talks about how you can see what your site will look like with blocks and so on. And then underneath that, Powerful and empowering. You style it your way, plug, plug in, and an extend. There's a bit of a nod, to the 50,000, 55,000. It says at the moment plugins, but again, it doesn't say free.

It says make WordPress, do whatever you need it to add A store, mailing list portfolio, social feed analytics. You are in control with over 55,000 plugins. I'm just seeing if there's. Any mention of free Anywhere built by Build for yourself, not by yourself. Community at its core. There's lots here, but I seem to remember that was a big thing back in the day when I was, using Druple and Magento and things.

Yeah, that the free thing was a big part of the pitch. Now it's definitely much more. Professional looking, shall we say. And it looks like that's been, that's mentioned less and less. And I wonder if that's because somehow we all know that it's, it is in theory free, but in practice there's GOs attached.


[00:10:07] David Waumsley: Yeah, dude. Another explanation for that, maybe because there's a starting assumption that it is the free open source option, so they don't need to plug, don't need to say it so much. Yeah. But essentially it. It never was in, in because of the fact, the way that it's built, it needs a server and that means that you have to.

By hosting if you're going to do it yourself and pay for that server, aren't you? Yeah.

[00:10:33] Nathan Wrigley: And actually we should probably launch why it's not free right at this point. And that's the first thing, right? Is that you've got to, yeah, obviously put it somewhere in the past you've always had to go to some hosting provider, so whichever company that is.

And it was interesting, we did quite a bit of poking around on the internet before we hit record, and it really is fascinating. How much or little you can pay for that hosting? I guess you and I have both been around the house so many times that we've got a real good idea of where the price point is that we are happy with.

But if you are coming into this space, you can pay hundreds of dollars a month or almost nothing a month.

[00:11:19] David Waumsley: Yeah. Yeah, I mean I do think there's an element where, WordPress obviously has gained its popularity cuz it does light all open source projects. You think, ah, there's a good way of getting your stuff cheaper than I need to do.

And it's definitely been a trap for me. I've considered myself, even though I started with Code a bit still, I was a fairly naive di wire when I started with WebPress. So it was a cheap start. For me to get on with it. But over the long term, not only other, the. The plugins, which you are just constantly tempted to keep buying into, which keep increasing their prices.

They see their value is worth more. And, but the hosting and maintenance is something I didn't really understand with it because, you've got this pick all these plugins that you can try out. But what you don't realize is somebody new who doesn't understand hosting, everyone you add increases the amount of server resources it requires.

So you end up upping your. Costs in terms of hosting,

[00:12:22] Nathan Wrigley: when you started using WordPress and chucking in plugins Yeah. Did you even really have an idea that you were gonna have to pay for these? It ostensibly add in for an item, let's say for several years because you installed something, it went onto a client site.

That client then obviously needs that plugin on their website from now on, and although you probably won't be making use of any new features, it's now a part of their website. So that license has to be renewed because I definitely fell into that trap. Not only did I buy plug-ins? Different times of the year, so nothing ever renewed at the same time.

You'd have a couple of things renewing in January. You'd have a bit of time off, and then one or two in March and several in June or whatever. There was no pattern to it. So I slowly started to ramp up and ramp up. And then I was shocked one day when I made a spreadsheet of everything that I was using.

This is so terrible to admit, but I genuinely had no idea. What I was spending, and it was way more than I thought it was. And that was just plugin license renewals. And most of them were just on client websites, and I really wasn't even sure if they were making any use of them.

[00:13:39] David Waumsley: Yeah. Yeah. We know this.

No. That's. We've all seen the surge as well too. Yeah. This is getting a bit much, let's look out for lifetime deals. Yeah. Yeah. But yeah and I think when you came into WordPress, you were already prepared to buy. Yeah. I think you had already decided as you'd done Droople for free.

Basically not paid for stuff. That's right. Yeah. You came into WordPress already with the view to get the premium stuff. That was perhaps the professional way you had somebody to support it. Pay for that in my thing, cuz I went with WordPress a bit longer. I was all free. But in that time it seemed okay because, WordPress didn't change that much.

At best, and I think it would even skip years. It only had a fairly trivial update once a year, and most of the plugins, again, were developer led did one thing. So basically when I was building those sites, I didn't really feel there was a maintenance job. I didn't need somebody to support it.

It was kept fairly simple. As time went on, suddenly I realized actually I need to jump on with people who professionally support these plugins, and I expect them to do more for me as well. Yeah. Same as you. Suddenly you get to the point where you go, wow, I am paying

[00:14:45] Nathan Wrigley: a lot. Yeah. I remember the spreadsheet, I had to scroll several times to get to the bottom of it.

There were dozens and dozens of plugins in there, and some of them, Not cheap, and some of them just really overlapping. I'll tell you one, one thing that's curious though. I, because I joined WordPress after that whole premium plugin debate had gone away, nobody was arguing that premium was okay.

I because that was all in place when I arrived, it was. It was okay for me to spend all that money, and I didn't really think about it twice, and so I ended up frequenting the pages of the pro license, if I never really spent a lot of time digging around in wordpress.org, the plugin repo, trying to find answers to everything.

Typically, I would go to Google. And Google things, and usually, the website of the pro version is optimized better. So let's say for example, I wanted a form plugin or something, the wordpress.org repo form plugins pages are not gonna rise to the top. The ones that you're gonna pay for are.

And so I think that also helped drag me into spending money.

[00:15:58] David Waumsley: Yeah, I think, you and I got to know each other about the same time of really invested in those plugins. We saw that was the professional thing. We're building size for clients. We need professional backup, we're going to buy out.

And that was quite a change for me. That was a sort of awakening of becoming professional, I'm gonna buy. But of course, I've, over the time I've flipped the other way where I'm just thinking, wow, this is a whole bunch of dependencies, not only an expense. Yeah. I

[00:16:26] Nathan Wrigley: Flipped in that at some point I realized that I was just running my business badly and me.

Having to charge clients for these licenses not only was a complete time sock, but I also, I really wasn't wanting to put a premium on top. So if a plug-in costs a hundred dollars a year, I wasn't trying to wrap that up in, I dunno, charging $200 and an administration fee if you like. I got to the point where I ended up saying, look, This is the website I'm gonna build for you and it's gonna require this, and this.

Will you go out and get them and then just gimme the license codes and then it's up to you to renew them in the future. That in the end, got rid of that headache for me and the clients never griped about the fact that, what do you mean we've gotta spend money on plugins? They just saw that as a business expense, they could write it off for tax.

Plus it enabled them to get functionality that I couldn't have built. And certainly couldn't have built anywhere near the cost of $99 a year. So that's the way I sidestep, that I made my business offset that cost to the clients.

[00:17:36] David Waumsley: But didn't we also, at the same time, I mean it's also the time of really investing in premium plugins at, quite a high cost was also at the same time where we was also saying, actually there's another income through the hosting a site care.

Yep. And you would build this in. So it was like, everything you bought that was a premium plugin was an extra option to you join our club. On your site care and you've got access to all these things that if you left us, would cost

[00:18:04] Nathan Wrigley: you this amount. Yeah, that's an interesting one.

And I never really went down that route that way. Yeah. Because I just know how woeful I am at keeping a track of things. Yeah. So as an example to this day, I still get things that renew. Yeah. And I've no idea that it's coming. And I should know because it's the same day every year. I probably could have gone in and clicked on a button somewhere to say, notify me before the, before the payment's gonna go through.

But I didn't, and it still happens to me. And because of that real inability for me to manage when things were happening and when the billing cycle should occur, I just decided it was easier for me because I wasn't trying to make any money out of that anyway, just to give the licenses to the clients and get them to get their own license.

[00:18:52] David Waumsley: Yeah. The difficulty for me with WordPress is that over the time, the value because of how popular it's become over time and everybody who's a vested interest in plugin make at the, and also, there's been more specialized WordPress hosting available. There's a lot of people who have been.

Up in the value of what their product is worth or what they think it's worth now. So we've seen, as we mentioned before, you can really pay a lot for your hosting. And in some ways I've needed to up what I expected to pay in hosting because simply I would. Cram more of the plugins and use up more resources, so I needed better hosting.

But yeah, it does feel like over the time it's wow. For me, some of this is the cost of some of plugins and hosting has gone way beyond what I think is worth the value to clients. Yeah,

[00:19:48] Nathan Wrigley: I guess it's interesting, isn't it? Because you are deeply embedded in the ecosystem and you really understand what's required.

You can probably sidestep a lot of that As an example, I'm sure you would be able to get really a good server for a very inexpensive cost cuz you know what you're doing. Yeah. But it's not a case of just clicking a couple of buttons and op look you're ready. You're off to the races. You'll have to support that.

You'll have to figure out how to recover if there's a disaster. But you'll be able to do it and you'll be able to save yourself a lot of money. Whereas I think people coming into this space, DIYs. You've described it in our show notes as I, is there a trap for di wires because they, they're coming in?

It's a bit like a good analogy would me, would be me going into a secondhand car salesman showroom. I haven't the faintest idea what I'm doing the guy in there could rip me off blind and probably has several times. And I really wouldn't know. I would just assume. Okay. Okay. It's got that.

I need that. Do I need those? Yes, probably. I'll take those as well. It's a bit like that. If you come into this space, there are so many competing products. The prices seem to be going up and up, and you're constantly being told that your website needs this thing and that thing for Google, for seo, for optimization, whatever else it is.

Yeah it all starts to ramp up, but you can avoid that a bit because you know what you're doing and you've, you're in the weeds every day.

[00:21:21] David Waumsley: Yeah, did I, didn't we mention it? We had a chat I remember last week where I mentioned, so I dunno if we said it in the podcast, but a revelation to me suddenly became about the fact that WordPress does still rely on a lamp stack.

So you need that server and that server has a cost and wordpress.com effectively is. In the hosting business for servers and so are many of the people who are buying out the plugins now, those traditional hosting companies there. Now, how I've been able to cheat the system first with hosting is when the cloud option was there to manage your own.

Cloud hosting. That allowed me to less depend on hosting companies to do all of that for me and go independently do it more cheaply. And then more significantly for of these people now is the serverless option, which is becoming an option both within WordPress, cuz you can go headless. Externally.

So I do think, there's an element of. Both wordpress.com and a lot of the hosting companies need to be able to bring people in with easy ways, cheap ways to build their sites in order to effectively lock them into their server-based hosting.

[00:22:34] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it's interesting, isn't it, because I think it's fair to say that.

Over time, the things that you might need for your WordPress website have increased. Maybe a decade ago you may have installed one, maybe a couple of things. And now I think quite a lot of people would require their website to be more functional. It might have a booking system in there, or e-commerce or an LMS or whatever it might be.

So you, you end up with more and more things in there. I feel like the prices have slowly. Been going north. Maybe that's just inflation, but maybe not. But so that then creates a space for people to come in and figure out cheaper ways of doing it. And it feels like some hosting companies have really got into that.

Yeah, you can think, I'm sure that you could mention a whole bunch of different companies who offer really cheap, flattened website hosting. Yeah, for pennies really a year. And they've just seen that, haven't they? They've seen that, okay, people are grumbling about the cost of hosting.

They're not entirely sure that the cost benefit balance is in their favor. Why don't we come up with a solution for that? And they're filling that market. It feels like it's still a tiny slice of that pie, but maybe in the future certainly you are hoping. I think that will become a bigger part of the pie and make it cheaper to host sites.

[00:23:57] David Waumsley: Yeah, can you imagine, it'll be a long way in the future, and I dunno if Word Press will love a steer that way, can you imagine if Gutenberg becomes a very good user interface and they find ways that you can, as they're looking into at the moment, where you can start to operate that using the JavaScript technology without having to depend on the lamp stack to build your sites.

And then that can be turned into static output, led by. wordpress.com even, so it changes its business format. Then if it did all of that stuff, it would be moving to where we are going, I think, and it would just be the ultimate leader. But how on earth it would never become from what it's been is this, 20 years old.

It almost is now, isn't it? WordPress? Yeah. And it was built on another technology that lamp stack. And I don't, it's, how will it bring everybody together to that? But you, I don't, so as I move a little bit, Do less dependency on WordPress. I always keep in the fact that you never know how it's gonna surprise us in the future, yeah. And what direction it might go. Yeah. You

[00:25:02] Nathan Wrigley: mentioned that wordpress.com in, in your opinion, was like a yeah. Basically like a hosting company in a way.

[00:25:09] David Waumsley: Yeah. So it's a server based hosting company. Yeah. So people who need a lamp stack, really? Yeah.

[00:25:14] Nathan Wrigley: If they pushed all of those free.

JavaScript in the browser based possibilities. You do wonder if that would be shooting themselves in the foot and what the impact would be on wordpress.org because of this sort of trickle down way that the project works. Yeah,

[00:25:34] David Waumsley: but I imagine in the same way that someone's been put into a kind of serverless building of Guttenberg that I'll be surprised if wordpress.com aren't at least investing somebody in looking how they can be the next versa or net file or whatever in their hosting approach, oh, I see. Just so what, I think that with, I don't think it'll ever stop. Stop there. But to move to that at the moment, in a way that JAMstack movement is a threat to WordPress because of its old stack, if you like. With the headless, some people are going that way and there's no reason why effectively WordPress couldn't go that route itself.

[00:26:12] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah. So we've talked about, we've talked about hosting being a considerable cost. At the minute you really don't have. Too many choices, you are gonna have to pay something for hosting. Whether that's a tiny amount or you want to spend a giant amount is really up to you.

But you can't escape that. Plug-ins. It feels like really I'm, most websites are gonna have several plug-ins in there. Sure enough, you can probably get them for free, depends on the functionality you want, but that's gonna be another expense. So hosting plug-ins, add all that in. The money's starting to tot up on an annual basis.

It's probably still not that alarming. Each month. But when you add up the, as I did the cost every year it suddenly starts to be a bit daunting. What else might we be paying for apart from plug-ins and hosting? You can

[00:27:03] David Waumsley: be paying for these things going wrong. At the moment, I'm looking over a potential client site who, They their software is now abandoned now because there are other ways to do it.

So a rebuild is their only approach. So that is always a possibility. Or, if you're not too careful with what you pick for your software and you don't do your updates, of course, it can get very costly in terms of fixing a security issue, a hack.

[00:27:31] Nathan Wrigley: Oh, I see. Yeah. Yeah, that's an interesting point.

Luckily I've been largely immune from that. WordPress has been, and the plugins that I've chosen. Have insulated me, so I feel really lucky to have gotten away from that. But there's also this idea, hopefully a money saving idea of canonical plugins. This hasn't really happened yet, but I really like this and this is the idea of shipping some things which are more or less, Suitable to be put into WordPress core, but not quite.

Yeah. And I don't really know what the pantheon of canonical plug-ins would look like, but you've gotta think it would be things like speed optimization, possibly some SEO basics. I don't really know, but those kind of things. And the idea is that you would be able to get those for free.

From wordpress.org, but also they would come with a guarantee that they would be maintained, kept secure, constantly updated and in So in, in many ways they are basically core, but an option to add into core. I dunno if you think that's gonna be something of interest and certainly a way of saving a bit of money.

Yeah, I

[00:28:46] David Waumsley: think so. It's logical that WordPress should go that way. In some ways it's a terrible threat to some of the plugin authors that we've supported over our time. It really is. Yeah. Yeah. But, logically, it's the obvious way cuz the one downside that WordPress has is that it can't, like Wick and Squarespace change change to reflect technology moving.

It has to, do it slowly because of the fact that. There's lots of different plugin authors there and they can't break stuff. So with Canonical, if you say there's a set of tools that are gonna work with the new Gutenberg, Project and they're all gonna work together well, they can all change together.

And somebody coming in new who knows this, how they communicate this isn't another thing, but if they know this, then it's gonna be your safer option, isn't it? And your cheaper option.

[00:29:38] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. If there's a let's take SEO as an example. Let's imagine that ended up as some sort of canonical plugin.

If you can get a decent, free version, which you know is going to be updated, it's not reliant on a particular individual who might. Excuse the reference, g Fall Under a Boss. This is being maintained by responsible people who will go through security audits. It seems like a bit of a no-brainer to use those bits and pieces.

I guess we'll just have to see how that. Whole idea of canonical plugins goes and what the scope of that is.

[00:30:13] David Waumsley: Yeah. The scare, the scary part about that is is does allow an extra level of control, if you like, by one person really match, over. How you know, the direction of WordPress.

Once you've got that in place, it very much, you can see the logic of it and why.

[00:30:31] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that's a really good point. Because if something gets the badge of canonical, yeah. Presumably it would sit inside a different area of the WordPress repo, you could filter down to canonical plugins.

It's almost like a. It's almost like an endorsement, isn't it? Whereas at the moment, there's a whole heap of plugins that are managed by automatic, let's say, and you have to go and discover those. They don't surface themselves by default, whereas these ones, they really would, and that might be something that commercial plug-ins worry about, because obviously discoverability is a really big thing.

[00:31:13] David Waumsley: And there's gonna be a lot of politics in this and it's always been a tricky thing. God knows how it really works, but there's this competition and cooperation all the time, pulling in different ways, isn't there? So you imagine, you get a canonical SEO plugin, but the big player, the number one, has been Yost SEO all of that time.

And now, if there was something that was seriously threatened in that it threatens Yost, but Yost also, I've been one of the biggest people for contributing to the WordPress project itself. So there's a real kind of difficult thing to balance here, isn't there?

[00:31:50] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah I feel there'll have to be some very clever.

Moves around what is a canonical plugin and who gets to put into it and Yeah. Yeah. Be interested to see how that goes. Just a total aside, nothing to do with the cost of anything. I saw a piece this week, which we talked about prior to clicking record, and I just thought it was an interesting idea around canonical.

Yeah. And it was a piece that I'll linked to in the show notes where, Somebody on the WP Marmite website I'm not entirely sure who wrote it, but if you go to, if you click on the link in the show notes that they've created a post called What If WordPress Moved on from blogging, and this was the idea of.

Stripping out the post functionality in WordPress so that all you had was pages and whether or not that might be a sensible default for WordPress going forwards. And I really like the idea of this and making the blog functionality, so posts and categories and archives and all of that. Making that a feature, which you have to download, i e a canonical plugin around posts.

So totally off piece, but just curious as to what you think.

[00:33:07] David Waumsley: Yeah, heretic burned them. Yeah, it's a blogging platform. What the heck? No, it does make sense in the modern day. Particularly, you know what, who is being attracted to WordPress Has changed, doesn't it? Yeah. It's not the blogging platform and a lot of people ask, the threat is Wick and Squarespace, who fundamentally their customers not going for a block, they're going for pages.

Yeah, makes sense. But gosh, I, I can't imagine how that one will play out in the wider community.

[00:33:35] Nathan Wrigley: My guess is it won't play out, but it, I just thought it was a curious idea in that if I was building a brochure site, I would definitely like it to be that way, because I really do.

It always never ceased to amaze me how confusing it was for people who were my clients, differentiating the what is a page and what is a post. It seemingly didn't matter how many times I explained it. It was very hard for them to see. Yeah, but it looks the same. Yeah. Okay. It's not the same. A post is, it's got an archive with it and you can create them over time and they'll go in some kind of order and you can search for them and all that.

Yeah. But that's a page. It looks like a page. Yes. It does look like a page, doesn't it? And so I felt that in, in many ways, if it was a brochure site, having it that way configured that way round was, would be

[00:34:27] David Waumsley: really great. Yeah. Yeah. And exactly. I mean our root into WordPress is through that, with largely certain people with static pages, process sites, that kind of thing was our root in.

So yeah it's, I don't know, it's just, again, with w WordPress was saying about this, it's always difficult to know your audience, with it. Cuz there was so many. Different ways into WordPress, I think, and opinions on it. So it's what you make it, isn't it? Yeah. So for us, that makes a lot of sense given our background and difficulty of understanding posts to people who probably wouldn't use posts.

[00:35:00] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I knew, sorry for that. A complete aside, but yeah, just go back to the, getting back to the cost of the website argument or whether it's free. I know that you at the minute are really trying to strip down the dependencies that you've got, not only in terms of free plugins, but also the ones that you pay for.

How's that endeavor going? Are you managing to strip out a lot of the things which you once thought were essential? Yeah.

[00:35:25] David Waumsley: There's a lot of change. We, for one thing is that, I feel like I've grown up a little bit now, so I try and lead the clients to do a bit of design thinking, if you like, really empathize with the the user and know what it is that they need to complete their tasks.

And most of the time that has meant stripping away a lot of rubbish that I used to think I needed for my website. Builds a lot of galleries and dropdown menus and all sorts of clever stuff. It doesn't need to be there cuz it doesn't serve the purpose. So a lot of that, if you like, was before I moved to where I am now, I did a lot of simplifying saying, do I really need this?

Do I, can I build this myself? Can I simplify? So that's my direction. And so I've reduced my dependency. Ultimately, where I've gone now is I'm still using WordPress daily and freely. Back to where I began, but I'm using it now to create static sites locally and made it free. Yeah, I've really stripped back again.

So WordPress for me is

[00:36:23] Nathan Wrigley: free again. Yeah, I was gonna say, so maybe don't, without mentioning names if you don't want to about parti. Yeah. Are there any things which you still depend on, apart from WordPress? Is there one kind of can't let go of that plugin that you are gonna, you're gonna be using till the end of time?

You know what? I

[00:36:41] David Waumsley: don't think, though I will mention the name cuz happy, happy to promote them, which is for me it's been very convenient to be able to use WP Code Box because it's like bringing a coding system within two WordPress. I can do a lot more manual stuff. So for me that, but it's not absolutely essential.

I know how I'd go if that disappeared. So no, there isn't any, I've tried to avoid all the dependencies, but still, as that. Basic way of organizing my content, which is more back to the code. WordPress is still, king for me for that cuz it makes it so much easier to work with it with some really simple plugins.


[00:37:20] Nathan Wrigley: if WP Code Box is now the only thing which you are more or less guaranteed to put. Oh, there is one other thing I think.

[00:37:26] David Waumsley: Oh, gone yeah. Which we've talked about before, which is simply static to turn the sites into static. But again, there are other ways of doing that. But yeah, those two together are probably my most.


[00:37:38] Nathan Wrigley: on, but that's a free version, right? Yep. Free version. Yeah. So you've got a dependency there, but in terms of this podcast, it's not actually costing you anything. And WP Code Box I think is no longer costing you anything. That's that what you managed to get in on some sort of lifetime deal, right?

[00:37:57] David Waumsley: Yeah, exactly. So I paid for that once and now it's good. But you know what the thing is, and I'm stealing from somebody else on their YouTube channel. What got me going on this kind of way of simplifying things, if you like, was somebody who. With different tools. I can't remember what they're using, but this shows how a novice can use WordPress for free and get the hosting for free.

And and the, what they showed was you just download something like local WP so you've got it on your local computer free, fairly easy to use. If you are not technical, you load in WordPress, which it can do very easy for you. You go over to something like astrocytes, you load in something, perhaps using the guttenberg blocks.

Get a design, fill it in with your content. Put in something like Simply Static to turn it into a zip file and then upload it to a program like Netlify, and your free allowance will probably give you a free site.

[00:38:50] Nathan Wrigley: So everything there is free, right? I mean you, yeah. So WordPress free. The Netlify allowance for the hosting free, you're using simply Static to flatten the site.

And that's, you can do that in the free version, so you've got some dependencies there so you're not free of dependencies, but in terms of money that those sites are free. I guess the only downside there is that it's on your local machine. Yes, because you've cut out the sort of hosting side of it, but it does mean that there is no cost there.

How do you work with your clients on that then do they just send you details and you work with them and it's on your screen? How do you modify things? All right.

[00:39:33] David Waumsley: Yeah, this is the whole thing about getting people off the idea that they rely on A C M S. Really over the years, what I've decided is that most people w they want to, if you say, we talked about this before.

If you say to a client, do you want a way to be able to change your own content on your website or not? Do you wanna do it through me? They're always gonna say, yeah, I'll have the, but the downside is this huge dependency and cost in the types of hosting that you have. So I think now I will largely lead people to say, do you actually need a C M S because it does have some costs that go with it, or would you rather put it.

Through me. Here's the benefit of putting it through me, is that I think about this stuff all the time. So when I'm putting your content in, I'm gonna be thinking about the latest device, what resolutions are gonna be there. I'm gonna be thinking about performance, what Google are looking for in terms of its metadata.

Do you wanna just shove it to me instead and I'll do it for you? So I'm leading people away from the content management system, I mentioned this quick, easy way for novices if you'd like to start. I've put an extra step in, which is to go via, hand code it, and then go via. GitHub to put it out into a static version.

So I, I've made it a little bit more complex. That's just to

[00:40:43] Nathan Wrigley: automate the process so you don't have to do

[00:40:46] David Waumsley: well. But it's also, yeah, it's also a backup process as well for me. So you can go back to earlier and also a way of being allowed to, bring in developers who might need to. Build you something custom into the project.

Everybody knows how to use GitHub and they can fork it and that and stuff. Yeah.

[00:41:02] Nathan Wrigley: So we should probably draw attention to the fact that your version of flattening website stands in contrast to headless, which is a different Yes. Approach. And I suspect that headless is not, A particularly cheap way of going about things, although it is mightily clever and capable of doing all sorts of amazing things, connecting WordPress on the backend to something different on the front end, but they're not quite, they're not really the same thing.

[00:41:29] David Waumsley: No. No. And it's all of that. I never got the headless, we've had conversations about this before. Yeah, it's, you talked about it and honestly I just didn't get it. I was like, why would you want to pay all that money for that complexity when you can put cash in on when I was very much in the cms, but now I appreciate it, but I've got a cheap scape way of bypassing that.

Because it is complex if you, but if you need a cms, if your client is the type who actually does need to put their content in, and of course, if you're publishing with a. Large company and they actually do individually need to go in that they don't reliance on me. It's pointless.

They're going to need something like headless, aren't they? If they want to go to static route?

[00:42:10] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. If they want to go to the static route or just a regular WordPress website. If they just want to keep it, traditional and simple. Okay, so we talked about the monetary cost. Do you want to quickly, cuz we're on 40 minutes already do you want to talk about the sort of freedoms in the more philosophical sense?

No, you don't?

[00:42:30] David Waumsley: No. Okay. No. No. We can, yeah, we should mention that because one of the biggest confusions always is with the word free with WordPress, which is maybe why they're not mentioning it, because much is made of the freedoms that come with the gpl, I think these days, which is

[00:42:49] Nathan Wrigley: Should we just run?

Yeah, read 'em out cuz they're cool actually.

[00:42:52] David Waumsley: They are the freedom to run the program for any purpose. The freedom to study how the program works and change it. So it does the computing as the user wishes, the freedom to redistribute copies so that users can help each other. The freedom to distribute copies of modified versions of others and yeah.


[00:43:14] Nathan Wrigley: that is, I do wonder how many people even. Get what that means, but also care about what that means. So as an example, yeah, I don't suppose an end user really is all that bothered about the freedoms. If you go to them and a client, if you go to them and say there's this free piece of software, I think the instinct there has often been, what do you mean it's free?

How can it be free? That's not right. There's something a bit fishy here, and then you go on to explain this and say, actually it's a, it's pretty unique the way this works, but this is how it works. It's hard to explain, but they get it in the end and I think they like it. But I do think that the, we are the only people that care too much about that.

It's people like you and I who are obsessing about WordPress all the time. I don't think most end users really have much to say about this.

[00:44:10] David Waumsley: I would, I'd be really interested, we obviously, we talked this about this before with gpl, and the fact that because of this kind of freedom, it does mean that you've got these gbl clubs that can just take their copy and distribute it to other people.

So you know, for a few dollars you can go and buy any of the really expensive plugins and put them in. Assuming you can trust the GPL Club that you're getting them from. And I just wonder, cuz it seems to have gone more, again, this might be something to do with my YouTube viewing, but I get a lot of adverts by companies that look quite creditable now, or spending a good deal of money on YouTube advertising to say, don't spend so much money on your WordPress plugins.

Come to usg. Oh really?

[00:44:54] Nathan Wrigley: See, yeah, my, I barely watch anything on YouTube and certainly my YouTube consumption isn't polluted by that. But what, so you're saying that these GPL clubs, which are basically using the freedoms that you get to take copies of commercial plug-ins Yeah. And then redistribute them for money.

There's nothing, yeah, nothing illegal about it. There's something morally questionable about it, but they're getting all slick and. And clever. Are they look like big businesses now. That's fascinating.

[00:45:24] David Waumsley: Yeah, they got proper present, usually you would, it's one of these hidden things, where it always feels a bit dodgy, but no, they're, they're facing it out.

They're employee. Proper presenters to come on and explain how you don't need to spend so much, they've actually got a face, obviously it's somebody that they've employed to do that job, but yeah, it does looks credible. It really

[00:45:46] Nathan Wrigley: does feel a bit like biting the hand that feeds, doesn't it?

I if they're incredibly successful, then ultimately they're. Eating their own lunch and at some point they're gonna starve. Yeah, that's really interesting. I'm not I don't hang out in those places. The GPL clubs. I don't even know how they work or how you might sign up for them, but that's fascinating.

But that is more free stuff though, isn't it? You are suddenly into the realms of even things which you may have had to pay for. Yeah, that's free. And in your scenario where you are taking the website offline, Yeah, so long as you can be fairly sure that the version that you've got is clean at the time that you install it.

You don't need to be updating it cuz your website's never live.

[00:46:33] David Waumsley: Yeah. And I used to run a little beaver Builder beginners Facebook group, and actually I was quite surprised to see how many people had appeared. It was Face small group. How many people had appeared who clearly must have bought beaver Builder through a GPL club, and they didn't see the distinction, they thought they bought Beaver Builder, they bought it from a GPL club and they were coming in for advice.

So clearly it is grabbing a lot of people.

[00:47:02] Nathan Wrigley: Wow. Wow. That's, yeah. That's really interesting. Yeah, definitely a shadier side of the whole thing. Actually, do you know what, that would be a good episode for just dedicated to that one of these thinking the unthinkable things. Something along the lines of.

GPL clubs are. Great answer though.

[00:47:21] David Waumsley: Yeah. Is sl gpl is sleazy? Yeah.

[00:47:24] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. I think at 45 minutes we should probably knock it on the head. Yeah, I think Does it, how does it boil down? Is WordPress free? Maybe. Can it be free? David proves it can. Is it typical for it to be free?

Probably not. You're gonna be paying left and center for all sorts of things.

[00:47:44] David Waumsley: Yeah. Yeah, I think that's the case. It's as expensive, as you decide to make it really. Oh.

[00:47:52] Nathan Wrigley: That's the perfect place to end it. Let's go. No further pearls of wisdom gripping out of David's mouth.

That's, let's end it there.

[00:48:00] David Waumsley: Oke. See next

[00:48:02] Nathan Wrigley: time. I hope that you enjoyed that. Always lovely to chat with David about these things. What do you think though? Is WordPress too expensive? Have you noticed the cost of using WordPress creeping up over the years? Perhaps you're still managing to do it cheaply. Give us your thoughts. Head over to the WP Builds.com website and search for episode number 329 and leave as a comment there.

The WP Builds Podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro, the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. Find out more. Head to go.me forward slash WP Builds. And we really do thank GoDaddy Pro for their support of the WP Builds podcast.

We won't be back next week. As I said at the top of the show, I'm having a week off. We're going to go to Word Camp Europe. Hopefully I will see you there. If you do see me come and say hi, I'd really appreciate that, but normal service will resume the week.

After that, so we'll see you there. Have a good week. Stay safe. Bye-bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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