We’ve been building sites with WordPress now for 6 years, so in that time we’ve gotten pretty good at it (we hope!) and have built up a considerable library of reusable code to redeploy from template to template to speed up the process of development. Because HubSpot COS is a cloud based solution it doesn’t work in quite the same way. That’s not to say that we haven’t built up a repository of reusable code for COS in all the time we’ve been HubSpot COS developers, but side by side how do the 2 platforms compare when it comes to the business of setup?
WordPress has it’s famous ‘5 minute installation’ claim, and that’s reasonably accurate, assuming of course you’ve got your hosting up and running. And your FTP access. And you database all set up… And make sure you keep those passwords somewhere safe for all those elements as well! For us setting up WordPress on a new site is no biggie, there’s just a lot of time wasted in the setup of the install just to get the core up and running. You do have quick install systems on a lot of control panels which you can take advantage of. In my experience they tend to stick with default settings though which is bad for security so we tend to shy away from using those. COS is cloud, which means you’re paying for the website pages system everything you need is immediately there, you don't need to setup any databases or store additional password or worry about the security of all that as it’s been taken care of for you.
WordPress has a dizzying array of plugins available for it. We tend to use a limited number, predominately because it reduces the security risk, but also because we have a development team, a lot of functionality required can be coded in without the bloat of having to use a plugin, which keeps the site from being slow. These plugins take a degree of setup time as well, you’ve got to remember all the right settings to get the best use out of them, and connecting them to the various APIs for full functionality can be a bit of a chore as well. HubSpot doesn’t have plugins as such. Its cloud system means that everything you have available in one portal in available in the next one you setup. It also allows you to transfer over any custom modules you’ve created in one portal to another just by selecting them and then the portal you want to transfer them to, so they’re all set up and ready to re-use.
We use well established and honed framework templates as our starting point on all WordPress sites. They’ve always being reviewed and updated so we do a new install as a theme starting point each time. We don’t rely on the responsive framework that comes with it though, choosing to work with a another trusted responsive css framework that uses something called LESS, which is a preprocessor for CSS, which essentially makes it easier to write repeatable code quickly. We like it so much we always use it for our HubSpot COS sites as well. It’s mobile first, which means we design everything for mobile and then add code on top for when the screen gets bigger. It’s often difficult to create repeatable blocks for site designs so you find yourself writing custom code for even the basic of building blocks for pages. There are plugins available such as Page Builder and Visual Editor which let you craft page layouts on the fly. They’re quite contrasting in their complexity. Ones probably a bit too simple for the real control you want as a developer and the other is too complicated for the normal end user to understand, which results in any changes being referred back to your agency, which isn’t ideal. But because the responsive system of HubSpot is part of the editor as it is the front end, you get from the get go a really strong but simple to use 12 column grid to work from. That sounds sort of limiting, but I assure you it’s not. The real power of it comes from the ability to quickly layout the content into blocks and then using the built in ‘class’ system it’s very straightforward to apply custom styling to those blocks. Which brings me onto really the key difference in ‘building’ a WordPress and HubSpot COS site.
Traditional website design tends to involve visuals, usually in a desktop publishing editor. Yes they’ve perhaps come from wireframes, maybe even paper ones, but still they’re static pretty pictures that don’t actually contribute to the build of the site, whether that’s in WordPress or HubSpot. The key difference you need to be thinking about is prototyping. The idea being you generate designs ‘in the browser’ so you can actually make use of the wireframes you create. No time is wasted superfluously. There are dedicated prototyping tools out there but they tend not to concern themselves with contributing to the final product, rather more giving you the browser experience from the get go.
For me this the future of web development and what will really reduce the time spent ‘building’ a website. The design. Actually creating in the CMS rather than desktop tools. And if you use HubSpot COS, that future is already the reality. The drag and drop module interface is really straightforward and intuitive so much so the designer and the client can work together to formulate final designs in a much more rapid fashion that with traditional web design. And if you’re already using HubSpot it really is a tiny jump to configuring pages through the design editor.