My work and personal interests have been overlapping more than usual recently in the areas of Web content management. I have been running this Plone site for awhile but have been implementing a few WordPress sites. Nothing fancy, but the projects were ways to stretch my knowledge if not my skill set. It’s made me more aware of the Web content management systems others are using.
One of the first mental jabs I had was when I found that a Web filter that I was working behind was blocking the Macleans Web site. Not the whole site, just the content. A quick view source and it was obvious why: Macleans is using WordPress.com and some Web filters treat any WordPress.com content (even style sheets and images) as “social media” and block it. Yeah, don’t get me started.
When I was installing the WordPress sites, I was reminded (again) how easy the software is to use. Sure, it’s not as rich a content management system as some others but it’s got such a low learning curve to get started that that probably doesn’t matter to most sites. Not to say Macleans’ isn’t a complicated site but anyone wanting a Web presence could do far worse than using WordPress.
The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star both have interesting sites. I can’t tell what CMS the G&M site is using, but I’m a big fan of their site. The content is right in your face – makes sense for a news site and they have maximized the content area so that every nook and cranny has a function. No waste. I’m not as big a fan of the Star and am not familiar with its CMS, Total Online Publishing. The top of the site is pretty typical newspaper Web site look, with lots of wasted space and two screen-width menus of stuff.
I’m obviously biased towards the open source CMS world, but find myself wondering more than ever about the future of the high-end, enterprise Web content management systems. Plone is starting to break through some of its issues – like theming, if you ask me – and Drupal appears to have a huge user base and lots of expandability. In the last few weeks, I’ve heard of one commercial provider whose search engine has non-customizable stop words and whose customers can’t sort blog object postings by date (?!). This is a product with a high version number and that generates millions in annual revenue. It makes me wonder how much longer even large corporations will opt for that type of closed system when the open source CMS seem to have fewer of those types of defects, or at least a larger user base to help solve them.
I’m looking forward to tinker with these WordPress sites, and have installed a Drupal site to get a bit of understanding about how it works and scales. I’m still a hard-core Plone fan but I realize there is a lot of choice out there. But I am still unconvinced that anyone should be paying for core Web CMS, rather than implementing an open source option and redirecting their licensing budget to consulting and implementation support services.