On my recent post about open source on campus, Steve suggested WordPress was a “kludge” solution for content management, as opposed to university-supplied official solutions. I realize Steve put kludge in quotes, but let me say I don’t see anything wrong with WP as a lo-fi CMS. In fact, for a lot of people and organizations, it’s perfect, for many reasons:
- WordPress.com use scales very well. Users can start with a free WordPress.com installation and grow upward from there, via the add-ons WordPress.com provides (CSS editing, domain name hosting, etc) or a fully-functional WordPress installation on another host. Because WordPress.com provides good export hooks, this growth–or a decision to move from WordPress to another platform–need not involve reinventing the wheel.
- Just enough complexity. Maybe the most important reason. Quite a few people have asked for my help with Joomla, Drupal, or similar open source CMS installations. I don’t maintain any, so I haven’t been able to provide much assistance. But I’ve poked around enough under-construction CMSs to know that many of them are overkill for the needs of individual users or small community organizations. Drupal and their ilk are amazingly powerful, and that power comes with a steep learning curve.
- Learning. WP behaves in many ways which are conducive to learning web development. For example, learning HTML can be facilitated by switching between the visual and code-based editors used for posting. Similarly, the modular architecture (themes, widgets, plugins, etc) provides a good way to learn modularity and scalability. Tagging and categorization, and nifty visualizations of them, are encouraged, too.
- Multiple users. Roles allow robust management of shared authoring and administration. Again, for learning, this is invaluable; I’ve been an “administrator” on several friends’ WordPress.com weblogs as they got started, able to help diagnose and fix problems without sharing passwords or the like. No, it doesn’t have the versioning tools that other CMSs have out of the box. But the infrastructure is there.
- Not just a blog. Given the Pages functionality and the possibility of replacing the front page post stream with a single page (Settings, Reading), WP need not be a weblog-driven site. The stream of posts can be converted to a sideline (for news) or all but eliminated.
- Feeds. Automatically generated RSS feeds for posts and comments. ‘Nuff said.
- Good enough support. The WordPress forums and dox have issues, like all similar sites. But I’ve had excellent success finding answers to my questions, and students have enjoyed the videos and tutorials.
One of my former students, Ryan Budds, has used WordPress to build a great self-promotion site. Alison McGaughey’s Welcome to Forgotonia is similarly diverse and interesting, and developing quite nicely. Our local food group, Macomb FIG, fixed its web management issues with a conversion to WordPress. And a bazillion similar articles, examples, and stories are available at a search engine near you.