Build Naked Websites


The best website is a naked website.

A naked website is a website with no add-ons.

A naked website has no plugins, no extensions, no modules and no large frameworks.

Most people start using WordPress, Joomla and Drupal and see the thousands of available add-ons as a huge selling point. They’re wrong.

If you build a naked site, you’ll have a website that’s faster, cheaper, safer and easier.

Here are 7 reasons why you should consider building your WordPress, Joomla and Drupal with only the core features:

Reason #1: Less Maintenance

Here’s what 37Signals said about features in their “Getting Real” book:

“Each time you say yes to a feature, you’re adopting a child. You have to take your baby through a whole chain of events (e.g. design, implementation, testing, etc.). And once that feature’s out there, you’re stuck with it. Just try to take a released feature away from customers and see how pissed off they get.”

They were talking about building a product, but the same applies to running a website. Every module, plugin or extension requires time and energy to maintain.

A site with many add-ons requires far more frequent maintenance.

Reason #2: Fewer Conflicts

Not only does each add-on require individual maintenance, but the conflict between add-ons will multiply exponentially.

With 2 add-ons, you only need to worry about 1 possible conflict. With 20 add-ons, you have 400 possible conflicts.

A site with many add-ons requires more debugging.

Reason #3: Easier Updates

This applies to Joomla and Drupal in particular, but can also happen with WordPress.

Every time your core software updates, you need to make sure that your add-ons work with the latest release. And, if it’s a major update, you need to rely on the add-on’s developer to provide a migration path.

A site with many add-ons is harder update.

Reason #4: Speed

Almost every add-on loads its own files and will slow down your site. Some badly written add-ons will also load on every page of your site, regardless of whether they’re needed.

A site with many add-ons is a slower site.

Reason #5: Security

Every add-on is a potential source of security holes. It’s well-known that the vast majority of security holes are not found in the core software but in third-party software.

A site with many add-ons is considerably less safe.

Reason #6: Cost

This applies to WordPress and Joomla in particular. Many add-ons and themes cost from $30 to $100 or more per year. Maintaining a site with 10 add-ons can cost you several hundred dollars a year.

A site with many add-ons is a more expensive site.

Reason #7: Fit For Purpose

Every add-on you use is an admission is an indication that you’re moving away from your software’s real purpose. If you need 20 add-ons to turn WordPress into a full website, Joomla into a blog or Drupal into a shopping cart, then consider whether you made the wrong choice of software. Rather than try to turn software into something it wasn’t meant to be, go and look for something that’s more closely aligned with your goals.

A site with many add-ons is often trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.


  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.

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Kevin Kaland
Kevin Kaland
11 years ago

In many ways, this post hits the nail on the head, but it’s focused on the disadvantages of using code maintained by other people. It describes those pretty well. It supports its own statement about the best kind of website. That is fair.

As a Drupal developer, I’d like to share my thoughts on the advantages. I might as well respond point for point:

1. A site with add-ons only *needs* maintenance if there are security releases.

2. This is true – not much to argue.

3. Can’t argue on the basic premise here.

4. *Can* be true, but there are other mistakes to make that can reduce speed. Some add-ons improve performance.

5. See #1.

6. I agree here. That’s why I use Drupal 🙂

7. This is a double-edged sword; you inevitably write your own add-ons or custom code. You are fully responsible for maintaining that. It may be insecure. No one will help you improve it. It’s difficult to share. Out of space 🙂

11 years ago

The comment

“Just try to take a released feature away from customers and see how pissed off they get.”

Basicly justifies the use of addons since people like them and can make your page more atractive, just dont overkill your site with addons.

11 years ago

god your so right… if only it were possible now!

Big Mike
Big Mike
11 years ago

Insightful article, insightful comments. I like reading stuff here.

11 years ago

First, I completely agree with the premise of this article. There are many benefits from building “naked” or “leaner” sites.

The crux comes in trying to deliver features to your clients completely on your own. If you take it far enough, do not use tools like WordPress/Joomla/Drupal, but rather code the entire site in php. This will ensure you do not have all of the above mentioned issues with the core portion of the site. That is simply not feasible (perhaps I am lazy) for me.

I do try to keep my use of Joomla addons to a minimum and recently I have moved from using templates from the premium Joomla template houses and gone to modifying the base template myself. Primarily b/c the templates and their frameworks are becoming “too much bloat”. It required I learn a bit more about Joomla templates and CSS, but the results have been slimmer, faster templates.

This gets a bit harder the more features a client wants and the lower their budget is to start. Do I use a tool like FlexiContent/K2/Fields Attach OR do I modify the core of Joomla and “extend” com_content?

Balance lies somewhere in there.

11 years ago

I would be interested to find out what the best solution is for adding functionality to CMSs without using addons? Is it via php and other code libraries? and how do you get these into your CMS site – would you use custom modules?

11 years ago

Like joeygartin, “I completely agree with the premise of this article”.

I worry about extensions in Joomla, and suspect that an extension was the pathway to one of the site’s I manage getting hacked not so long ago.

In the latest iteration, I have managed to remove all but two add-in extensions. One is the bo:VideoJS HTML5 video player, which by not using Flash makes video content accessible to the mobile devices, especially the iOS platform.

11 years ago

Greatly simplified, what you are really saying is that if you want a blog use WordPress. If you want a website use Joomla or Drupal, etc.

11 years ago

You are right. So many add-ons in my sites. Make slow and when need to update sometime must remember add-ons compatible for update or not. But customer like a good view for their website.

11 years ago

I understand the intent behind the article, and I won’t say the article is wrong that no add-ons is better, but this is akin to suggesting people buy Android or iOS phones and never install any apps on them. While it is true the built-in functionality can provide most (perhaps all) of the needed features for some, others will want their device (or site) to behave in ways the core wasn’t programmed to provide. I mean, ideally no one would ever install Java or Flashplayer either, but balancing between function and security is the world we live in.

11 years ago

Agree with “starlessknight”.

Though i understand the topic idea and obvious basic message… but its the nature of an extendable CMS. Honestly, what is Joomla/Wordpress/Drupal without extensions ?!? A simple news-article-poster with almost no other functionality.

Regarding Costs:

Even with lots of (quality) extensions installed, the costs are a steal compared to the same custom development!


Start naked…, think about additional functionality twice. Think again, and keep it simple! Don´t install each and every addon because it was for free. Think about high quality add ons and paid support.

11 years ago

Is this Article a serious one? Come on…

Moreover “A naked website has no plugins, no extensions, no modules ” Is False…

And btw many third party extensions or widgets or whatever you name it were intergrated to the core later….

11 years ago

I think, really really, this is a good article from Steve and understand what he says; but i should like to see other article where we can learn how to manage galleries, shopping carts, sliders in a naked site… do we need to develop in java or other tool into our nake site ??? please i should like options to complement this article… Thanks a lot.

11 years ago

I dislike it how people, in the web industry no less than others, always seek, speak of and try to establish new “dogmas” of how things should be.

It ends up being useless talk…”speakers” seeking recognition, industries trying to find new ideas to sell, people desperate to phrase and catch the “new wave”.

Looks more like people riding a stick of bogus innovation most of the time.

If core software was enough to handle most people’s needs, it would be bloated and security compromised. Striking a balance between features, performance, security and usability is what’s it’s all about.

So most platforms introduce a set of features and let extension developers do the rest and allow people to only add those extensions that they truly need.

…So this “no extensions” fatwa is farcical…

Since it usually means that the core features have been specifically chosen to be limited to allow for configurable scalability.

11 years ago

While I agree in part with the spirit of this article, you can be too naked (read exposed)!

For example, every Joomla, Drupal, WordPress [add you fave CMS here] needs a backup plugin/module/component – without it, you’re skating on thin ice.

The same applies to security – for most of us, some security hardening help is required. That usually requires some additional component, etc.

A good WYSIWYG is also a requirement for most websites – the default editor is usually not good enough (I’m thinking of Drupal & Joomla here).

So rather than being naked, I’d suggest you at least put some skimpies on your website before parading it before the interweb.

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