This is a question that comes up often – “Isn’t WordPress just for blog sites?” The short answer is: No. The more elaborate answer takes us into what makes a good CMS (content management system) platform. This is an issue that comes up for each website project, regardless of the project’s end result. Choosing the right platform can mean either smooth sailing or endless headaches right from the start.
A CMS needs to be user-friendly
When starting any web project, the decision needs to be made as to which CMS to build upon. Every developer will have a favorite, and part of the decision should be based on which system best accommodates the project. That being said, I always consider the client’s need to maintain and edit the site once I hand it over. If they can easily make changes and manage the site, it’s a win-win for both of us. If I hand over a site that is complicated and hard to update, the client isn’t happy, and the site will ultimately suffer since nobody will want to maintain the content.
WordPress as a blank slate
One of the requirements for any good CMS is versatility. WordPress is built on a codebase that offers a wide variety of functions for the developer to leverage when adding features to a site. Many of the custom-programmed add-ons that would normally require many hours of development time are available in WordPress as ‘plugins’. These save the developer time and the client money…’win-win’ again.
Many CMS systems have much more built-in functionality than a site may need – we call this ‘bloat’…which can possibly slow down the site’s performance and make things difficult to troubleshoot when things go wrong. With WordPress you have the ability to trim down the functionality for the theme you are building – choosing exactly which features to load and not load, which can speed things up considerably and clean up an otherwise bloated coding environment. The less junk a developer has to wade through to find things, the better.
So why is WordPress primarily known as a blogging tool?
When blogging became very popular, developers were constantly getting tasked with jobs that required building a blog platform, often from scratch, or using frameworks that we built for other projects and re-used on others. There was a huge need for a standard, flexible platform that could offer the functionality needed and reduce the time for creating a site. WordPress managed to rise to the top of this heap pretty quickly, because of it’s fairly simple architecture and ability to adapt to the client’s needs. It’s theme architecture also made it easy to change the look of a site while maintaining the core content.
As the WordPress platform matured, developers quickly started finding that they could use WordPress for other types of sites then just blogs. Most websites have a set of basic functions that every developer will use, from logins and user accounts to email, syndication via RSS, social media integration, etc… Any good CMS will have these basic functions built-in, as well as allow the developer to add custom functionality on top of the existing code without actually altering the codebase. This way the core system can be updated without overwriting the changes and modifications added to it. Plus, the changes will be written in a way that any developer worth his salt can step in and understand the code, make changes or edit as needed.
This all brings me to my last thought on the matter – will WordPress eventually branch off into a system that is not so ‘blog-centric’? Will developers push to create a system that runs on the same general platform as WordPress, but does not lean towards a blog site? It does seem like a good idea…perhaps there will be two versions, or at least an option within the package that tunes it either way. The future should be interesting indeed!