May 12, 2019

WordPress powered SaaS? Bad idea?


I'm looking to build an MVP SaaS solution as well as have it operate with users with until it reaches a scale that necessitates something scratch-built. I am limited technically.

I'm thinking of using WordPress as the basis because conceptually, it looks like the functions of the SaaS could be assembled using some custom post types and relationships. Additionally, user accounts, payment processing would already be built in or a plugin away.

I have two user types - Owner and User. The Owner would be the paying customer.

Post types would be Room, Desk, Chair. An Owner can create one or more Rooms, and place one or more Desks in them, with one or more Chairs. A User can use one Chair at a desk at a given time. A Chair is either occupied or available. Users should be able to see what is available, and what is not. An Owner should be able to reset availabilities, configure Rooms and Desk/Chair layouts.

This to me just sounds like content types in a CMS with relationships. I feel this could scale to support the first 1000 users easily.

Am I oversimplifying this? Are there any performance issues or things I'm overlooking? Is a CMS like WordPress overkill?


  1. 5

    Groupon started out using Wordpress so why not? :)

    If it means getting your MVP to market quicker and has all the features you need, they I'd say go for it.

    If you get product market fit and start to outgrow Wordpress that will be a good time to build something more custom.

    1. 1

      I personally disagree. I find it unlikely OP will be able to model the relationships he wants to properly with WP.

      1. 2

        I guess it depends on how proficient you are with WP.

        I've seen some very complicated sites built on WP, especially with the Advanced Custom Fields plugin.

        1. 1

          I've been looking into some of the plugins, including the Pods plugins. The fact that some plugins are paid (to get more functionality) is pretty annoying.

  2. 3

    I would not recommend trying this. You will quickly find that you have to make the platform bend over backwards to achieve even the simplest of your tasks; and it won't be long before you run into something that no available plugin satisfies properly and be stuck with non-optimal solutions and compromises that end up looking like band-aids all over your platform. The deliverable may look nothing like the idea in your head based on what wordpress can offer. Wordpress is fairly rigid. If you're absolutely committed to trying this, Drupal is a solution that would be better geared towards suiting your needs. (Drupal, sucks also, but, is more geared towards people doing what you're trying to do).

    1. 1

      Yes, I'm also now considering Drupal, despite it's clunk and learning curve. The module selection is comprehensive, need to be cognizant of how well maintained they will be in the future, and essentially all are free.

  3. 2

    You say you're technically limited, so do you at least know Wordpress, or do you think it'll be easy with Wordpress because it's what non-technical people use?

    Customizing Wordpress is probably not as easy as you think. It can be a real headache unless you now it well. Wordpress is a great way to create a simple web site, even a shop site with the flurry of modules there are, but customizing it means going into PHP and Javascript and CSS and figuring out how the template you picked in the first place actually works.

    Payment is not necessarily difficult with APIs like Stripe, Paypal or Braintree.

    My take on this, as a technical person, is that you also need to understand that if your idea picks up steam, and Wordpress becomes too cumbersome, you'll need a total re-write, which can set you back quite a bit. This is not something you want to be doing when you're in a growth phase that's not quite profitable yet, when you need to scale but can't afford a team.

    I'd recommend you pick on some Javascript / Python classes to learn the basics, and/or find some teammate/co-founder to help out.

    but first and foremost before you build anything, try to figure out the market.
    I always recommend you start by building a very simple, credible page that explains your product and offers signup for a private beta (kick-starter style) and then put ads up on Google etc... and figure out if there is a need/demand for this product.
    Then work on mocks of the product, a clickable UI MVP of some sort, and test it on those beta users, get their feedback, iterate. Then build an actual product, and keep iterating.

    If you spend all your time struggling to build an MVP with limited technical skills, the experience will likely suck, even if the idea is good, and nowadays that's really what matters: it needs to be useful but also have a good experience.
    I'm a bit skeptical that you can deliver a good experience by customizing Wordpress especially if you're not an expert there.

    my $0.02
    Cheers and good luck

    1. 1

      Appreciated, and many good points.

      I do have a clickable prototype which I plan to demo/test, but I'm also dabbling with a functional MVP, hence the WP/Drupal etc. considerations.

    2. 1

      Yes even as someone with a few years experience in development, I found working with wordpress an ass-backwards headache.

  4. 2

    If I understand correctly, you're talking about a "co-working space marketplace". That's a good idea. I'd use whatever you can get an MVP running the fastest so you can validate the idea. Replace later if you need once you have paying customers. If that's Wordpress because it has plugins or whatever other reasons, I say do it! :)

    1. 1

      Yes, a co-working space marketplace of sorts. More on the logistics side, less on the marketplace currently.

      I've been doing some analysis on free WP plugins, and trying to find what I need without going down a hole of buying premium plugins.

  5. 1

    If you know Wordpress, then go for it. If you don't and you'll learn from scratch, I'll suggest you take Django (python-based) or Laravel (PHP) for that. Both are relatively simple, with tons of templating engines, and both have payment/authorization plugins that you can just plug and use. Django might even give you admin interface for free if you represent owner as admin.

    1. 1

      Thanks, I will look into Django and Laravel too. Maybe more so Laravel since PHP, like WP and Drupal.

      With my technical proficiency, having some element of a GUI for set up is preferred, hence looking into a CMS. Can Laravel provide some hand holding?

      1. 1

        Check October CMS, it is built on laravel and has some default UI. Easy customizable.

  6. 1

    Good luck with this, I like your idea of proving out an idea using WordPress for your MVP.

    1000 users may be too many for WordPress but I guess that depends on your volume patterns and the hosting you've selected. I think you can even consider deploying this WordPress solution to AWS to scale better.

    Check out this plugin for creating custom post types, it's free and might be useful to get you going quickly:

    This will be a multi-tenant site, I would like to hear how you eventually allow each tenant, e.g. owner, to access and maintain just their data.

    1. 2

      Thanks on the Pods plugin tip. It looks rather powerful.

      To your point about multi-tenant, some others have responded mentioning Drupal, which I'm also looking into now. They have some good modules to handle that, namely Organic Groups and Groups.

      Not so sure about WP equivalent plugins in though. So any plugin reccs are appreciated, especially if they are free too.

  7. 1

    I think as an MVP anything goes. If you know WordPress well and don't want to reach for another type of framework or SaaS solution it should be perfectly fine. The hard part may come if the app needs to scale. That will possibly mean reaching for something more tailor fit.

    In my experience, WordPress is a great tool but often is:

    • tough to scale
    • make performant (plugins often load a ton of scripts and styles you don't really need),
    • is prone to bots/hacks (being such a popular solution makes it more prone to attacks).

    I migrated from WordPress development to the Ruby on Rails world. It handles pretty much all you need in a modern web app but does come with a few learning curves. Laravel is another solution for PHP driven apps too.

    In the end, the tool/code won't matter much if you don't capture interest. Starting with something lightweight and quick to get up and running would get my vote.

    Hope this helps!

    1. 1

      Thanks for the tips. And I'm are in agreement with many of your points.

      My main concern about even considering a CMS for an MVP was whether they would bring to much bulk and baggage for what conceptually seems to not require a CMS. But skills/budget are limiting at this phase.

      Is WP more, less, or as performant/not performant as Drupal?

      Another person mentioned Laravel too, so I will look into it.