CMS Catchup..

The last couple of weeks have seen a couple of interesting posts around the topic of CMSs that I just wanted to point to and briefly comment on. These posts are well worth reading if you haven’t already.

Both Steph and Simon wrote about the idea of using multiple instances of WordPress to build a different kind of ‘corporate’ web presence using the flexibility of smaller WP sites for teams, themes, campaigns etc stitched together with some custom elements and some kind of start/home page. Weirdly enough I tried to push a similar idea a year or so ago at a project that in the end never got off the ground but I thought there was something in the idea but in the end I decided that selling such a radical departure from the enterprise CMS would be more of a battle than I had the stomach for (especially after all the time I spent convincing people they needed those big CMSs in the past!!)

[Also I have failed on at least two occasions to convince projects of what a good idea a very similar page header to the one BIS are now using would be for pulling multiple sites together under one brand….in fact reading this I seem to mainly fail to convince people don’t I!]

I remain absolutely convinced that the ease of use and flexibility of tools like WordPress outweigh the layers of (unused) functionality you get with enterprise CMSs. Which leads me on to another post I’d like to flag. David Pullinger at the COI wrote a great post – with a brilliant title – The Tyranny of Content Management Systems. This post outlines his frustrations of just how little even the big CMSs actually manage your content. Sure the capability is there under the hood but for all the fiddling you have to do to access those functions you might as well have built them from scratch half the time. You’d think that out of the box reporting would be the norm by now? Especially as it seems to me that everyone (certainly everyone running big information driven content sites) needs pretty much the same information.

I think it is a crazy situation where we are spending (mucho) money for tools that don’t make it easy for the two key user groups – day-to-day publishers are met with complicated interfaces and too many steps and web managers find accessing the data to actually ‘manage’ the content is at best difficult and at times impossible.

I believe the procurement hoops those of us in the public sector/education have to jump through make the situation worse but hopefully times are changing and a new breed of usable, flexible, manageable sites aren’t far away.


  1. It’s far too early to declare our Science & Society project a success, either as a site in itself or as a model for building a larger website from a collection of smaller blogs. But it’s certainly an interesting idea, and we’ll only learn about its true potential by trying it. Hopefully that’ll then make it easier for others. 😉

    Your core point is absolutely right though. And in my mind, it’s further reinforcement for the open-source, lightweight and (dare I say it) WordPress way. If big expensive CMS solutions can’t do what you want, and small cheap CMS solutions can’t either, then the latter wins on cost and manageability. And if it’s open source, then you have the right to build whatever add-on you feel is required. Bingo.

  2. Neil

    Yep I did see your post and have been keeping an eye on the Uservoice – done a little bit of voting as well. I’m not sure I have many ideas that aren’t covered there at the moment – my big bugbear is usability on the publishing side of things – if it was easier for ‘normal’ people to handle day-to-day editing and publishing I think that would free up enough time to solve alot of the other issues!

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