Choosing the right Content Management System, or CMS, is critical to the success of your website. The right CMS will empower your team and make content management an efficient process. Unfortunately, choosing a CMS without enough research to make a fully informed decision can lead to frustrations and problems later.
One of the most popular CMS apps available today is WordPress. It's free, flexible, and easy to install. It's used by hundreds of thousands of websites. Since Wordpress is so popular, accessible, and affordable, it's easy to see why so many organizations want to use it to power their websites.
But is WordPress the right option for you?
Ok, before going any further I need to acknowledge that I'm entering "holy war" territory here. Aside from politics, religion, and Mac vs. PC, few things stir up heated controversy more than which CMS to use. Well, at least in the marketing/technology world.
We know a lot of agencies that use WordPress for their client projects and feel that it's the best way to manage a website. That's ok. But it's important to understand when it makes sense and when you might run into problems.
Let's take a look at some facts about WordPress:
- It's open source (you can modify the code to your heart's content)
- It's "free"
- It's popular
- It's got a lot of plugins and add-ons
Sounds pretty good, right? Let's take a look at some realities.
While being able to modify the code can be a good thing, it can also be a recipe for disaster. Making custom changes to WordPress can add features that you may need but it can also open a Pandora's box of bugs and hacks that are difficult to recover from. Yes, it's true that with the right developer and a cautious approach you can go for a long time without any issues. However, we've seen too many organizations come to us with broken, cumbersome, or hard-to-manage websites that were built on a customized version of WordPress. They were fed up with trying to deal with it and just wanted to switch to a "real" CMS.
But it's free, right?! It's only free if your time (and your developer's time) is worth nothing. Yes, the install is a 5-minute process, but what then? What if you want to add additional features like calendars, membership databases, directories, or e-commerce, it's not as easy. I think Darien Kruss explains it nicely in his presentation below from a recent Accrisoft Partner Summit:
So does this means that WordPress is bad? Absolutely not! WordPress is a great option in many cases. The problem is that much of the time, it's mis-used and incorrectly chosen in situations that go beyond it's capabilities simply because the siren song of "free" and "flexible" are shouted by well-meaning agencies and developers without looking at the big picture.
So when does it make sense to use WordPress? It's a great option for:
- Personal blogs
- Professional blogs and individual "thought leader" websites
- Small business websites with simple needs
Right about now some of you are saying, "Reynolds, you're a big bozo... there are tons of really big companies using WordPress!" Yep... that's true. In fact, I'll happily point you to a list of big companies using WordPress right here. However, there are few details to consider here. First, these companies likely have a team of developers and/or highly paid agencies who maintain and manage their websites. With the right development team, any CMS will work just fine. Additionally, if you look closely you'll notice that many of these companies do not use WordPress for their entire website but instead use it for the blog portion of their online presence (take a look at eBay, GM, etc.).
So if these big companies know better than to use WordPress as a full website CMS, what should you be doing?
It really comes down to using the right tool for the job. I know a lot of companies using WordPress very successfully to power their websites. These organizations likely made an informed decision and had the resources to maintain it properly and/or had requirements that fit the decision.
However, we've also seen too many organizations choose WordPress because a committee or board of directors were swayed by the words "free" and "popular" (mostly "free") and failed to look much further at the big picture.
Again, WordPress is not bad -- it is an excellent tool in many situations. Other times, it make more sense to use a more robust CMS. Be sure you understand the difference and your website will function well and serve your marketing and communication needs.