Do you need WordPress for your author website?

You might have seen WordPress being recommended as a tool of choice to create an author website or landing pages for your book marketing campaigns. But do you really need it and are there any tools better suited for the job?

To answer that question you first need to understand what a website really is, what WordPress does for you, and whether its pros outweigh the cons.

What is a website?

A web page is a single page on a website, like book's details page or an article. The page you are reading now is an example of a web page.

A website is a collection of web pages, accessible under a single domain, which are connected with each other via hyperlinks. Visitors can navigate between the pages of the website to discover all its content. The page you are reading now is part of a larger website, which you can navigate by clicking links in this article or call-to-action button at the bottom. Another example is the website of self-publishing services company which consists of the homepage providing overview of all the services offered, pages describing individual services and article pages.

A landing page is a single web page which, unlike a typical website, is aimed at driving a visitor to take a specific action, such as signing up for a mailing list, downloading a reader magnet, or clicking a link to go to a retailer where they can buy a book. An example of a book landing page is this page which shows a cover of a book about a history of a football team, its description and a button which takes readers to Amazon page where they can buy it. Another example is this page for a romance author, which consists of an attractive offer to download one of the books in the series in ebook and audiobook formats after the visitor provides their email address. There isn't much a reader can do other than take the intended action (or leave the page).

From technical point of view all web pages, and by extension websites and landing pages, are a combination of the following files:

  • HTML - which contains the content (words, images) and describes the structure of that content (such as headings, buttons, bullet points)
  • CSS - which contains styling for the website (colors, positioning of the elements, spacing, text alignment)
  • JavaScript - which contains the code responsible for interactive elements of the website (pop ups, modals, carousels, animated text like the heading on this page, content shown in steps like this "How It Works" page)

When you visit a page, all of this code is downloaded and rendered by your web browser and there it is: the web page in all its glory. Web browsers, search engines, and, most importantly, website visitors, don't know or care how this website code was created. All they care about is the content, how it looks, and how fast it loaded for them.

What is WordPress or a website builder?

WordPress, website and landing page builders, as well as various other Content Management Systems (CMS) are just a way to manage the content and layout of the website. The end result of using them is always the same: HTML, CSS and JavaScript code is generated, so it can be downloaded from a web server by visitor's web browser and displayed.

In other words WordPress and website-creation tools like Wix and Squarespace are just few of many tools that can help in generating the website code. With that said, there are differences between the tools and processes used to create websites when it comes to quality of the end result, ease of use, speed, security, reliability, among other factors.

How WordPress works?

Once installed, the underlying WordPress software is always active on your web server (hosting) with admin (editing) interface available on the Internet to you (and anyone else who can discover your password by brute-force attack or find a security flaw that allows them to log in without knowing your password).

Once you log in to your WordPress dashboard, you can edit content, and the changes are saved to a database. You can also edit site settings, install plugins and themes, as well as update the software.

Each time someone visits a page on your WordPress website, WordPress generates the page from scratch, by pulling the content of the page from a database and putting it together with the page template. If you are using plugins which modify the page content, this plugin's code is executed at the same time as well. When another visitor accesses the same or a different page, the process is repeated.

WordPress pros

  • Relatively easy to install and create a basic blog with default template
  • Non-technical person can edit content without assistance from a web developer
  • Basic changes to layout and functionality can be achieved without technical knowledge by installing themes and plugins

WordPress cons

The list below includes only the most fundamental WordPress disadvantages from a perspective of book authors and other non-technical users. There are additional cons from web developer perspective that add to the cost and expense of developing and maintaining a website. (Those cons mean developers need to spend time working around WordPress limitations and risk spending nights and weekends bringing existing sites back online after they go down instead of focusing on creating great sites.)

  • Customization: "One size fits all" solution that is challenging to adapt by yourself to fit your specific book marketing needs and ensure it helps you achieve your goals.
  • Speed: Page loading time is longer due the background processing that needs to happen before page content is made available to the visitor. Impatient visitors may leave before the page loads.
  • Cost: Requires a database and significant processing power which inflates hosting costs.
  • Security: Complexity of the WordPress software (345k+ lines of code), its plugins and themes cause the website to be vulnerable to hacking.
  • Maintenance: Updates of the underlying software, plugins and themes (meant to add features or fix security bugs) need to be performed regularly (and carry the risk of breaking your site).
  • (un)Reliability: Since each visit to the website requires a database call and processing power to generate a page content, the website might become unavailable as a result of high traffic (and/or you may need to upgrade your hosting plan to cover sudden spikes of traffic). The side effects of required maintenance (as noted above) may also affect website's availability.
  • Data safety and version control: Backups of the software, content, and configuration are challenging to create and restore. You may need technical assistance to do either.

While some of these disadvantages can be worked around by caching, firewalls, moving your admin dashboard to a non-standard path to prevent automated login attempts, offline WordPress installation for content management, and other complex solutions requiring technical assistance, why bother with WordPress in the first place if it doesn't really benefit your website?

Our approach

Here at Author Landing Pages we took a different approach to website creation, replacing WordPress with developer productivity (and enjoyment of the process). We create your landing page files (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) once and then upload them to our distributed hosting. This process provides following benefits for your website:

  • It's fast. The website can be served right away to website visitors without the server needing extra time and processing power to read information from the database and render the page. Distributed hosting means your site's files are stored in multiple locations across the world, so no matter whether your visitor is in the US, Europe, Africa, or Asia, they load the files from the server closest to them to get the fastest loading speeds possible. Take a look at landing pages and websites we created to see how fast they are compared to your typical WordPress website.

  • It's reliable and always stays online. Once your website is online and works as you expect, it will continue to work the same way in the future. No functionality or security software updates in the background are required to keep your site live, so there is no risk the site will stop working all of the sudden.

  • It can handle any traffic you throw at it. Pre-rendered website files can be delivered much faster and require fewer resources at scale. This means that if you do get hundreds or thousands of visitors at the same moment, the site will continue to work just as fast and as reliably as it does when you are the only person visiting it.

  • It's secure. There is no complex software exposed to the Internet that could be used to hack your site, alter its content, or spread malware. People (including web and security experts) sometimes make mistakes. With this in mind, the good news is that the security and stable functioning of our sites does not depend on the expertise or proactive actions of people supporting them. It's simply a result of the technology itself. Hacking a pre-rendered page is like trying to hack a piece of paper: it's just not possible.

  • It's affordable: The productivity and low maintenance made possible by not using WordPress is one of the main reasons we are able to offer premium "Done For You" service that combines custom landing page design service and hosting for a price that is lower than your usual hosting fees (or a price of self-serve website builder platforms).

  • It's future-proof: If you decide to discontinue hosting with us, you can get the website files from us and upload them to any hosting. No complicated setup, no need for a database, or PHP version requirements. It's just a website, without any fluff or software dependencies. It just works.

If you think WordPress can provide anything crucial for you that non-WordPress site can't, please let us know.