Should I Use WordPress or ReactJS? Drawbacks, Advantages, and Why you Should Care

Updated October 28, 2021

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Spend any amount of time reading up on options for developing a web application, and you’re almost guaranteed to come across WordPress, and a very trendy (not so new anymore) JavaScript framework called ReactJS. Nearly every web developer has heard of, or personally used, one or the other.

Next You May Be Asking.. Should I use WordPress or React JS?

And, a fair number of new developers find themselves asking which one is better suited for their project. It’s an important question. One of the first, and most critical, decisions you will make in any project is which technology to use.

But, the uninitiated may not fully realize how many factors they should consider besides simply which piece of technology can achieve their goal of reaching a minimum viable product (MVP). “Can I use this to build my application” is only the first step.

No Shortage in Options

With no shortage of options of “how to build it” these days in the web development world, it is an easy mistake to fall into simply going with the herd, or choosing the flashiest, newest tools, just because they’re hip.

Hence, why many may too-quickly jump to the question: WordPress or ReactJS?

A more seasoned developer knows the pitfalls and time-sucks that can plague a poorly-planned project, and this developer will ask: Will the project scale well with future updates and added features?

Achieving the MVP version of a product is often not the end of the project’s life. There will almost certainly be updates in the future, and the possibility that the original development team may not always be the ones who need to work on it.

How much time is the team dedicating to development? Choosing the proper tech stack can make or break a project in these aspects, and making the right decision from the beginning is part of what makes the difference between making or missing a deadline. So:

What are WordPress and ReactJS?

In this short section, let’s briefly go over what the two systems are. A wise developer should consider the specific needs of their project and client, in terms of functionality, appearance, future updates, security, and so on, when deciding on a winner. There isn’t (nor should there be) a simple way of saying one of these is inherently better than the other.

They are different pieces of technology, created with different uses in mind, each with its own strengths and shortcomings, which we will explore in detail.

WordPress

WordPress is a content management system (CMS) built out of years of contributions from thousands (or millions?) of developers over years. It is absolutely enormous in the development sphere.

ReactJS

ReactJS is, as mentioned, a JavaScript framework which is meant to create smooth, well-functioning user interfaces (UI/UX) that are easy to develop and maintain.

WordPress: Tried and True CMS

Perhaps the most well-established piece of web-building technology, WordPress, almost needs no introduction. From its humble beginnings as a simple CMS for blogs and simple websites in 2003, WordPress has grown into a massive, open-source web development and design community, featuring thousands upon thousands of plugins, themes, and an enormous support base.

WordPress has evolved with the times, and can now be used to build fully dynamic web applications, e-commerce platforms, and other modern web development projects beyond simple blogs. In fact, 37% of all websites, and a whopping 60% of all content management systems, use WordPress. If you ask around for the real tried-and-true, there is a high probability they’ll tell you to use WordPress.

Why Choose WordPress for Application Development?

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Massive Open-Source Community

Mention WordPress, and you’ll quickly hear about the massive, open-source ecosystem that has grown around the world’s number-one content management system. Each day, thousands of plugins and themes are created, downloaded, updated, and tested, many of which are free (or cheaply available) for you to use in your own projects.

Fastest Option to Get a Project Off the Ground

As a result, WordPress is almost certainly the “fastest” option, in terms of achieving the maximum amount of functionality and design aesthetic for your time.

If for no other reason than if you want to build a function into a website, somebody has probably already created it, or a plugin that can do it. You truly are standing on the backs of giants with WordPress.

Beyond the benefits of this massive community to your development itself, you stand to benefit from the enormous well-documented knowledge base of WordPress users all around the world. People generously contribute their ideas to constantly improve WordPress.

As a result, the development community has created robust solutions for everything from building an e-commerce site, to complex and dynamic web applications, and can tell you how to get there.

Rank Math SEO

SEO-friendly CMS

WordPress has one of the most friendly CMS for SEO available. Perhaps because of its age, WordPress benefits by creating websites and applications the way Google crawl bots believe they’re “supposed” to be made.

What this means isn’t that WordPress makes sites “the right way” and ReactJS doesn’t, but rather that WordPress, as a CMS, uses the traditional client/server model, which is very friendly to the way Google looks at sites, and results in a much more favorable indexing.

Website performance is also based on quality content, an area where WordPress is in a league of its own. Updating content and remaining current is a breeze with WordPress and the many plugins that optimize for SEO.

In a way, WordPress and search engines truly evolved together, and this is an advantage that simply cannot be ignored. If building for a client who requires good search engine indexing, this should be an important factor to consider.

For more information on achieving stellar SEO with WordPress, Walli Sharif has written an article that goes in-depth on the subject:
https://702pros.com/i-dove-head-first-into-wordpress-seo-youll-never-believe-what-i-found

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Fast Development Time

WordPress streamlines the web development process with its ready-to-go plugins and themes that stem from its collaborative community of developers.

The WordPress workflow is intuitive, and many praise the easy learning curve and low time investment it takes to get a site up and running. Out-of-the-box plugins for powerful functions, like security, processing payments, and handling customer emails are immensely valuable time savers.

The same holds true for update time. While projects may vary, there are many cases in which an online vendor may, upon seeing its successful launch of a new product, decide to implement a new feature, event, or company promotion campaign into their booming online shop.

But, by the time this happens, your dev team may already be in the thick of another project and, in moments like these, it’s helpful to have chosen a system that allows for speedy updates.

Disadvantages of WordPress

Required Updates

And, speaking of updates, often a technology’s greatest strength is tied to its greatest shortcoming. And, with WordPress, one oft-cited issue is the need for constant updates.

Powerful WordPress applications often use multiple plugins and code that must be updated regularly to ensure your website works smoothly, continuously.

Often, the easiest solution is a proper web support service.

Must be Optimized for Page Load Speed

WordPress sites that are not structured carefully have a tendency to become cluttered. Bulky, generic code in a WordPress theme or excessive files or plugins can lead to a decrease in the speed of the site and cause slow load times.

Without prior WordPress experience, it can be hard to determine what code is necessary, and how to optimize it for speed.

Security Must be a Consideration

Because WordPress is a popular open-source platform, it is prone to hackers. To mitigate this risk, WordPress has frequent security updates, and a knowledgeable community that works tirelessly to solve issues as they arise.

Having some area of knowledge or expertise in handling security is a must for bigger WordPress websites.

React JS: What’s all the Buzz

If you spend any amount of time in or around the Web Development community, it’s only a matter of time before you hear about React.

This JavaScript framework, brought to us by Facebook, has earned its share of praise, criticism and, like all hip new technologies, a ton of hype.

Under the hood, ReactJS uses the JavaScript core engine to create what the developers have coined the “Virtual DOM” which, put simply, is how ReactJS finds the most effective way to render your website and code in the browser’s Document Object Model (DOM).

The result of this is lightning-fast page-loads. Coupled with the ease with which ReactJS can be used to create modular, component-based code snippets that can easily be re-used across websites for re-usable functionality and style.

Not to mention, the ease with which React can be used to create dynamic single-page applications. It’s easy to see why this JavaScript framework has generated so much hype.

Strengths of React JS

Developing Dynamic Web Apps is Easy

As React is built on the JavaScript engine and makes use of the JSX (JavaScript Extension), rather than dealing with static HTML, it is simple to build web applications that render dynamic content.

Conditionally displaying content and handling advanced concepts like local and global state are easy with React. It also supports the building of machine-readable codes.

Speedy Load Time and Performance

ReactJS offers robust web application performance due to the Virtual DOM.

This program at the heart of React creates a representation of the browser’s Document Object Model, and automatically optimizes your code to prevent your application from slowing down when the DOM is updated.

As a result, some of the fastest applications today are built on ReactJS. The front-end page load speed of React is second to none.

Legos

Modular Components

A ReactJS web application is made up of multiple components, which are modular pieces of code with their own logic and functionality that can be re-used and easily modified throughout a website.

This helps make apps easier to develop and maintain once a user has had time to get acquainted with the workflow within the React framework.

The Problems With React

Steep Learning Curve

Perhaps the most often mentioned shortcoming of ReactJS is how long it takes to learn. In order to take advantage of the strengths of React, a user must be comfortable working with JSX and have a strong foundation in JavaScript.

Some in the developer community consider this to be a barrier, especially for new developers. React itself is a complex piece of technology when compared to WordPress.

Constantly-changing Development Practices

The high pace of development of ReactJS can be a disadvantage. Since the environment of developing applications changes continually and rapidly, some developers find it challenging to make time to relearn how to do everything, and then update old React-coded websites to conform to new standards.

Updating a React site is not as fast or simple as updating a WordPress application.

SEO at a Disadvantage

ReactJS provides a modular, component-based framework for building out user interfaces/UX designs in a single-page application format.

Part of the reason React can be used to create robust, high-performance applications is because the applications are all inherently JavaScript/JSX code.

However, this increase in performance does come at a pretty significant SEO cost.

Most search engines, specifically Google, use bots to crawl websites and index them according to complex algorithms. One of the chief ways this is done is through analyzing the HTML and meta data of a site, as well as a site map.

However, React applications do not contain multiple HTML pages, or very much HTML at all, besides the index page. Meta data can be difficult for bots to read in React applications, and by default, React apps do not have a site map by default.

Furthermore, there is a risk inherent in React apps in which common JavaScript errors can cause search engine bots to interpret a React app page as an empty page with no HTML content. The very thing that makes WordPress advantageous in SEO is a hurdle to overcome when using React.

Conclusion

When deciding whether to use WordPress or React, the answer comes down to understanding the strengths and shortcomings of each.

WordPress offers a multitude of plugins and extensions that teams can use to quickly develop many powerful web applications.

React excels at speed and performance, with its modular component structure making it easy to develop complex UX experiences.

These technologies are not necessarily mutually exclusive, either.

There is a growing niche for “headless CMS React” sites, which are hybrids that combine a ReactJS front-end with a WordPress back-end CMS utilizing technologies such as NextJS and Gatsby.

The benefits of doing this, as well, come down to understanding the benefits and trade-offs of using either one, and making the appropriate decision for the well-being of your project and client.

If you would like to learn more about which cases call for a headless CMS solution featuring both WordPress and ReactJS, this thread is a good place to start:
https://stackoverflow.com/questions/66950067/in-which-cases-is-it-recommended-to-use-the-approach-headless-cms-separated-fr

For more information about the performance advantages and disadvantages of ReactJS, the following conversation illustrates them well:
https://stackoverflow.com/questions/28442239/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-using-reactjs

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Joshua Kern
Author: Joshua Kern

Hi, I'm a web developer/designer here at 702 Pros. Let's make something awesome!

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His vast knowledge of web technologies and marketing techniques has been recognized by businesses and associates. Remarking on his vision and business savvy decisions. Side note, he also has some pretty sweet dance moves.

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