Jake Goldman, the first of our guest bloggers on CMS, outlines an argument for WordPress:
There’s a reason why WordPress consistently ranks highest for overall user satisfaction and has become the engine behind some 7% of websites (more than any other content management system). What started out as a cutting-edge blogging platform 7 years ago has evolved into a full-fledged content management system now estimated to command a plurality of all CMS-driven Web sites. In the last year and a half, WordPress core has integrated robust support for high-end CMS features like custom content types and taxonomies, putting the final nail in the coffin of the naysayers.
WordPress has a lot going for it. An energetic community hosts meet ups around the country (including Providence, which I’m proud to have founded), and dozens of WordCamps – grassroots WordPress conferences – are held around the world. There are more than 10,000 free plug-ins on the official repository alone, along with thousands of free and commercial themes. There are a stunning number of online tutorials and documentation, including the surprisingly detailed official codex. The core software is fine-tuned and light-weight, allowing it to perform much better, even on lower-end hosts, when compared with much of its competition.
But there’s no question that the biggest driver of its popularity is ease of use. The administrative user interface, designed by a dedicated user experience team, offers a level of polish, attention to detail, and intuitiveness that are all too rare in the geek-dominated world of open source software. Starting to create content with a basic WordPress install takes little more web-savvy than writing an email. The leadership behind the project has made an effort to design the user interface around end users – not developers. In fact, the core team insists that for each option added to the user interface, two more need to come out. It’s this mission that makes WordPress, well, WordPress.
There are no complex user role management pages or complex content definition screens. The writing interface is clean and doesn’t disrupt the appearance of content on the front end. You don’t need to “choose a distribution” of WordPress and manage a dozen modules – you just install WordPress. If you want to update WordPress to a newer version, an administrator can simply click “update now.” And if you really want an interface for managing all of that complexity, there’s always a plug-in for that.
The simple interface deceives some into thinking that WordPress is only for simple CMS implementations, which it supports with little friction. But under the hood, WordPress has an incredibly rich API (application programming interface) that can do amazing things in the hands of a capable web programmer.
The disparity between the simple content management interface and powerful API does create an interesting side effect, which I’ve dubbed the “WordPress Curve.” The lack of a complex interface for managing advanced CMS objects makes WordPress the easiest CMS out of the box for 90% of users whose heads spin when they hear terms like “define taxonomy.” But if you do want to take advantage of deeper CMS capabilities – custom post types, taxonomies, etc. – you may need a developer with more skill than what it would take to do something similar with a platform like Drupal or Joomla (or it would simply require a bigger learning curve). Those platforms provide intermediary developers who might not be great programmers an interface for doing things that are conceptually complex. Out of the box, WordPress pushes you toward code to achieve these results (although there are plug-ins that put an interface around these features).
While WordPress is the right solution for 95% of websites, there are areas where I think WordPress still needs growth. WordPress has been localized in virtually every living language, but support for multilingual sites is really only available through plug-ins that aren’t keeping up well. And even though the user / privileges API is pretty flexible, achieving complex role definitions – especially for member- centric websites – can be a chore when compared to some of the alternatives. WordPress can do all of these things, but if something like membership management is central to your CMS, then there may be a more optimal choice, like a platform built specifically for member management.
The bottom line is that if you want your website to do what 95% of website owners need their website to do, WordPress is the way to go. It’s easier to manage your content, easier for your web team to manage, and iterates quicker than any other platform, which means that you spend less time and money managing your website, and that means more resources for your actual business.
– Jake Goldman, 10up LLC
Jake Goldman is the President of 10up LLC, a web development and strategy agency focused on awesome WordPress implementations. 10up supports clients ranging from small mom-and-pop shops all the way up to enterprise WordPress.com VIP clients like TechCrunch.