WordPress has a reference list which tops any of the other candidates when enterprises select new content management systems. It is used by BT (formerly British Telecom), CIO.gov, National Geographic and Nokia just to mention a few and has everything you need in terms of security and scalability. It now actually powers around 17% of all "top 1 million sites" according to Wikipedia. Finally, WordPress is open source and can be downloaded and used free of charge.
Despite all these apparent strengths, very few organisations consider WordPress as an option when they go through a CMS selection exercise. Large and complex organisations seem to mostly ignore it. Why is that?
In 2011 we made progress on several fronts on the different J. Boye websites. Among those an improved interface for the Aarhus 11 conference website and a thorough review of the text on our corporate site. Facebook and LinkedIn also got some attention, while we merely scratched the surface when it comes to mobile, SEO and video.
With all the valuable input and learnings we get from the J. Boye group meetings and our wider community, we want to use this opportunity to be open about our own web activities and highlight some of what we learned in 2011.
I've regularly been asked about WordPress and whether it could be considered a serious and sufficient platform for larger and more complex high-traffic sites. The brief answer is yes.
It originated as a simple, easy-to-use, open source blogging tool. Most industry analysts now label WordPress either a blogging platform, a simple Web CMS or indeed both. As an example, BT uses WordPress as an internal blogging platform and have done so for a while. WordPress has gained a reputation as a publishing platform and unlike many other enterprise systems, WordPress is actually very popular among online professionals. This popularity has lead to a surge in adoption in all types of organisations and for all types of websites.
Many larger websites are already using WordPress for more than blogging. Some market share numbers even rank WordPress as the most widely adopted CMS and some have argued that WordPress powers 8.5% of all sites on the Internet; not just blogs. To provide further fuel WordPress, Microsoft decided to "upgrade" their 30 million Windows Live Spaces customers to WordPress in September.
Besides usability and blogging strengths, WordPress is also liked for being relatively simple to install, update and configure for high performance. Looking beyond the actual product itself, WordPress also has a large open source community with many third-party modules for key functionality and you can buy commercial support from several companies.
Is WordPress the perfect engine for any large website? Certainly not. If you do decide to compare WordPress like-to-like with more traditional open source Web content management systems such as Drupal, eZ, Plone or Umbraco, you may well conclude that user management and security features don't quite meet your requirements. Some might also be missing the classic tree-view of the page hierarchy, which is helpful when you have much content, but which WordPress does not offer.
Selecting the right CMS is not an easy task with; there is in excess of 1,000 vendors in the very dynamic CMS marketplace. Unfortunately industry analysts tend to evaluate too many vendors for the needs of most buyers. Consider CMS Watch which has 42 systems in their Web CMS Report and Gartner with 18 vendors in their recently updated Magic Quadrant. How do you narrow it down even further, so you can get to a shortlist of vendors you should examine closer and potentially send your RFP to?
Based on our extensive experience with CMS selection, we have created the below Top 10 list with vendors you should always consider. This is geared towards buyers from large and complex organisations with significant web demands.
What it requires to be on the list:
- Significant dedication to CMS. It does not have to be everything the vendor does, but to mitigate your risk, CMS has to be very important to them. This includes a history of relatively smooth upgrades combined with on-going technology investments in improving the system.
- Global footprint. You can either find direct vendor representation or experienced partners in almost all parts of the world to help you with the implementation. There are also successful references around the world for you to learn from.
- The vendor has something very significant to offer. This easily turns into yet another unhelpful long list, so we kept the list short and predict that the list will change in 2010. A vendor can only get on the list if we can remove another one. This means that many vendors, even though they might have interesting references, are not on this list.
You can reduce the list further by considering licensing and technology. Some on the list might also not have local partners in your region. If you feel troubled by suddenly having too few vendors, remember that you also need to find a good implementation partner to support you. To find the right one, you should send to more than one implementation partner for each vendor; this way you will easily end up with 10 - 12 qualified companies on your list.
Here a few comments about some of those missing from the list:
- Microsoft is not on the list as neither SharePoint nor Oxite are good fits for Web CMS. Despite tremendous adoption, SharePoint is often chosen for the wrong reasons. Also, as mentioned on this blog, content management does not seem important to Microsoft. For additional details, you can consult our research on Best Practices for Using SharePoint for Public Websites.
- Several other large vendors are absent, eg. Autonomy, IBM, Oracle, as they are often simply overkill for Web CMS. Not only are their products very expensive, but they are also very complex to implement and use. We challenge buyers who insist on adding them, that they carry additional risk due to the CMS being acquired from smaller vendors and their diminutive focus on WCM in the overall picture.
- Many significant, but still regional vendors, eg. CoreMedia, e-Spirit and Terminalfour are left out as they do not yet have a global footprint. There are regional differences in the market, which we will cover in separate forthcoming blogs.
- Alfresco has very good marketing, in particular for an open source vendor. The actual product is quite complex with weak usability and many on-going architectural changes.
- Joomla lacks a few important features such as workflow, custom roles and custom content types. This combined with security concerns means that we do not always recommend Joomla.
- WordPress is a very popular blogging platform, which might slowly be morphing into a CMS, but is still lacking in many enterprise features, including security. In too many regions it is also quite difficult to find any significant SI that offers WordPress implementation support.
Most CMS vendors are having a great time, c.f. recent earnings from Day Software, FatWire and Sitecore, but I'm hoping this list will help you save some time and confusion while navigating a still very crowded marketplace.
I welcome your feedback and stay tuned for regional shortlists soon!
Thanks to James Hoskins (@jameshoskins), John Goode (@johngoode), Jon Marks (@McBoof) and Mark Morell (@markmorrell) for valuable input.
UPDATE: Aug 18 - In response to popular demand, I've released a wrap-up with additional background on the shortlist
, cms selection
, cms watch
At a nice dinner in Geneva yesterday, a local customer pointed out that the most visited websites in the world do not use any of the "usual suspects" among the CMS vendors. Mediawiki is the open source engine behind Wikipedia, while Blogger and WordPress are popular blogging platforms. Among the top 30 sites today, the remaining 27 use systems that are propritary and home-grown.
Interestingly most CMS vendors consider themselves worthy of the classification "leading", and many other analysts frequently crown winners; "strong positives", place them in quadrants or use other horserace style approaches.
Some might argue that those 3 systems placed among the Top 30 are not actually web content management systems. That may be so, but they do enable effective web publishing. Perhaps you don't need a CMS to power your website after all?
I would argue that you should look at your own requirements and not too much at the labeling used by the vendor or open source project. If you are a high traffic site, I certainly recommend extensive testing and many reference visits before procuring a commercial CMS.
You can find detailed evaluations of all 3 systems in the Enterprise Social Software Report.