I have been away from writing online for a couple of years now, however since part of my job is to look at the various trends in content management I am going to be testing my skills with WordPress for a while. The company I work for has developed its own custom CMS which is simple to use and very straight-forward in its approach for our clients. The idea is that our clients don’t have to know anything about the underlying code or functionality. We provide the tools, they use them. WordPress has a similar view on what a CMS should be, though they go about it quite differently. While the editing functionality is very straight-forward, the interface can be a bit confusing to the average user.
By setting user privileges to lower levels the people handling content must rely on an editor or administrator to publish their information so the content person can’t screw up. As someone who builds sites for a living, I fully understand the frustration that can come from creating a clean, well structured site only to have the client accidentally butcher the design by having too much power. The problem there is that the WP administrative interface can confuse the novice user to the point where they become afraid to use the system because it can be a convoluted process to find the information they want to edit, and then have to wait for a person with higher privileges to publish their work.
The advantage of WordPress for smaller sites is that a basic set of editors is all that is really needed. The work that I do is far more customized. We build exactly what the client wants with customized code. While the plugin library for WordPress is very extensive and somewhat robust, the plugins are built by people who are using it for their own purposes which may not match up exactly to the next person’s thoughts on how the functionality of the plugin should work. While a company like the one I work for has the knowledge base to make changes to plugins, we have to keep in mind that any updates made by the original creators of the plugins will continually override any customizations we make.
If a site is small and only requires the basic functionality of a few well constructed plugins we are more than happy to use WordPress. As soon as a site reaches a certain size, 20 pages or more, we find that the custom approach seems to work better. I’m not saying that our system is better or worse than WordPress, but they are meant for two different types of sites. The average blog with a few content pages is perfect for WordPress. Corporate sites with member access, document management, event calendar and advertising require a more custom solution and while WP can do all of those things with its plugins it’s just easier to give the client exactly what they want instead of trying to fit their expectations into a WP box.