One of the most common and powerful marketing pitches is that a product is easy to use. No-one likes a confusing, frustrating or unnecessarily complicated tool to learn.

As an example, most people would say that the iPhone is incredibly easy to use. Young children can quickly and intuitively learn the various touch gestures and amaze adults with their proficiency.

However, if we were given an iPhone as a puzzle in a box to put together, most of us would have no clue where to begin:

iphone dismantled

Photo by ircharizard

Let’s take this a step back further: if we were given all the raw materials that go into making an iphone, how many people in the world could actually go about re-creating one? It’s a dizzying thought.

The iPhone is easy to use, but the iPhone itself is incredibly complex. The number of people which have an iphone, compared to the number of people who can put one together or who can understand how it works behind the scenes is dramatic.

I recently read an excellent post by Morten Rand-Hendriksen entitled “WordPress is not easy, and that’s okay” which is along similar lines.

WordPress is famous for its “famous 5 minute installation”. It enables anyone to start blogging and its user interface is, by and large, pretty easy to get the hang of. However, to put together a professional website built with WordPress is not easy. It combines a lot of skills such as: design, programming, information architecture, content writing and strategy, search engine optimization, usability, marketing, management, photography etc.

Morten writes that the “WordPress is easy” statement has created the following common myths:

  1. “Some people think WordPress enables them to build a professional grade website with little to no effort. (While you can build a professional website with WordPress, doing so requires a lot of work.)
  2. Some people believe their ability to publish content with WordPress makes them web developers. (Being able to publish content using WordPress makes you a web publisher or content manager. A web developer or designer has the ability to build the application that makes that publishing possible.)
  3. Some people conclude that based on 1 and 2 (and because WordPress itself is free), WordPress services should be free or cheap. (While WordPress is free and open source, the time and skill spent on building content for WordPress has a monetary value in much the same way air is free but being able to fly in the air has a monetary value.”)

I think it’s time to think carefully about what we’re talking about when we say something is easy. Is it easy because we are reaping the benefits of hard work going on behind the scenes and we’re really limited in our actual abilities? Is it easy we have already spent a lot of time mastering it? (I’m constantly reminded of this when seeing my children learn to do something we take for granted as adults!)

The post is well-worth your time to read. In the comments section, Morten makes some other excellent points about premium themes and frameworks, which are often pitched as a way of making WordPress easier and less expensive:

“[Premium themes] present a one-size-fits-all standard that doesn’t exist. Without proper structure to your content it doesn’t matter how good your content looks: It’ll still be hard to find and digest.”

I see this time and time again with people using free or inexpensive generic WordPress themes who think that pressing a few buttons and changing a few settings will instantly give them an incredible looking, functional and effective website. By and large it won’t.

“[Frameworks] were originally built to add user-controlled in-app functionality like custom menus and other elements to WordPress, but now WordPress comes with much of this functionality built in. That’s why you get the feeling of a framework on top of a framework. Most frameworks, Genesis included, are prominent in part because of their very smart affiliate marketing programs which urge existing users to recruit new users for money. I personally don’t use frameworks at all because they are bulky and get in the way, but I also know people who use them with great success.

Premium theme frameworks like Genesis make their money selling people on the idea that they can do everything themselves and that they can earn money simply by getting other people to use the same framework (otherwise known as affiliate marketing). I have mixed feelings about these frameworks. Some of them are great, some of them are terrible. Some people do great things with them, some people do terrible things with them. But overall I tend to disagree with their message that it makes things so easy anyone can do it without training. Frameworks on average add more complexity to WordPress and makes it even more confusing. In addition they add functionality that is bound to the framework so they are hard to move away from if you want to go down a different path in the future.”

Frameworks are in our list of things we don’t do for much the same reason:

“We don’t build sites with framework themes such as Thesis or Genesis. The upside of these themes are that they are constructed in such a way as to allow virtually any design to be implemented with them. However, that is also their downside – we prefer to a build a website that is lightweight and completely tailored to your needs, rather than taking an existing product with a lot of unused functionality and trying to bend it into a shape that you want.”

Moten concludes with:

“If someone offers you something extremely valuable for next to nothing you know that either they have no idea of the value of their product or they are selling an inferior one. Either way it is not a transaction you want to enter into.”

There will always be people offering very inexpensive WordPress-driven websites and you get what you pay for. There’s always going to be a demand for both cheap template sites and tailor-made professional sites.

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