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WordPress Infiltrating Business

WordCamp UK 2008 was an interesting mixture of blogging (as you would expect) and developer conference. It was like two familiar worlds had collided.

WordPress as CMS

One of the development issues raised was the growing use of WordPress as a platform rather than as a blog. Many people are now looking to WordPress as a CMS or as a framework. Notably, one of the big announcements from the weekend was that our Prime Ministers home, Number 10 Downing Street, new website is going to be 100% WordPress.

Number10.gov.uk - Home

If that doesn’t give some credibility to WordPress in larger corporations I don’t know what will. Good work Simon!

Economic Downturn?

A couple of people expressed confusion that we are meant to be in an economic slump but there is more and more WordPress work coming through the pipeline.

I have an answer, or at least a theory!

The reason we are seeing more WordPress work is precisely because we are in a tough economic place right now. Companies are looking for a lower cost tactical solution. Rather than a long, drawn out, expensive project, they want something quick, nimble, efficient and effective. They know with a WordPress site they can be up and running, fast, and making sales in weeks rather than months.

Think about it, consider how these things used to work. I used to be as guilty as any, building 7-figure monster bespoke content management systems over months that didn’t turn out much more capable than WordPress 2.6 is right out of the box.

Also you will find the charge is being led by sales and marketing functions, conciously avoiding official channels and especially the IT dept.

Yes, they are looking for tactical “right now” solutions, but as most of us have seen, tactical quick fixes tend to stick around, especially when the solution is found to be proven and beats other more complicated ones. I have seen departments running 20-year old COBOL reports, stealthily cobbled together Access databases, and even one company who seemed to run the whole business off Excel!

WordPress isn’t just being used because it is cheap, it is growing in favor because it works.

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Comments

  1. Brendan O'Neill says:

    Hi Chris

    Any chance of doing an article on the best ways to extend WP as a CMS, what the best over the counter solutions are etc. I like WP because it is a turnkey solution as a blog. I would like it even more as a CMS.

  2. Hi Chris

    Any chance of doing an article on the best ways to extend WP as a CMS, what the best over the counter solutions are etc. I like WP because it is a turnkey solution as a blog. I would like it even more as a CMS.

  3. Great article, it is good to see so many big name now adopting the platform. I think it’s a great platform and you are completely right they use it because it just works.

    Also how long has wordpress been around? It has been oh so popular for so many years now there is not platform with the community behind it to take over and with it being so customizable it is not only a quick fix but the answer.

  4. Great article, it is good to see so many big name now adopting the platform. I think it’s a great platform and you are completely right they use it because it just works.

    Also how long has wordpress been around? It has been oh so popular for so many years now there is not platform with the community behind it to take over and with it being so customizable it is not only a quick fix but the answer.

  5. I’m a case in point. I had a blog on TypePad, which I found to be increasingly restrictive. So I looked into WordPress, and was amazed at the huge community of templates, widgets to extend its already impressive functionality, and people willing to help. I spent several weeks searching for the perfect template, then hired an artist to design a new logo and a developer from one of the WP discussion lists to tweak the template to make it do what I envisioned. I was up in running in a matter of a few weeks, at a total cost of just under US$1,000. I now have a very capable CMS that is enabling me to create a first-class collection of resources on mind mapping software. And I have plans to roll out WP on some other new sites that I’m planning to launch. It sounds too good to be true, but WP truly is the blogging and content management platform to beat right now!

  6. I’m a case in point. I had a blog on TypePad, which I found to be increasingly restrictive. So I looked into WordPress, and was amazed at the huge community of templates, widgets to extend its already impressive functionality, and people willing to help. I spent several weeks searching for the perfect template, then hired an artist to design a new logo and a developer from one of the WP discussion lists to tweak the template to make it do what I envisioned. I was up in running in a matter of a few weeks, at a total cost of just under US$1,000. I now have a very capable CMS that is enabling me to create a first-class collection of resources on mind mapping software. And I have plans to roll out WP on some other new sites that I’m planning to launch. It sounds too good to be true, but WP truly is the blogging and content management platform to beat right now!

  7. @Brendan – I will ask one or two of my current clients if they mind being used as a case study, I think a real example will work better than a theoretical piece in this case? Also I think some input from the WP guys from over the weekend would be cool too.

    @Grant – Yup, I think the only platform that is close is Drupal but WordPress is simpler by a fair amount both for developers and end users in my view.

    @Chuck – Totally, clients are often surprised when they get back to me after a couple of years, what used to take many weeks and several thousands of dollars is now a third of the time and cost (even though my prices have actually risen) because I now only do WordPress+PHP sites as opposed to bespoke .NET or JSP.

  8. @Brendan – I will ask one or two of my current clients if they mind being used as a case study, I think a real example will work better than a theoretical piece in this case? Also I think some input from the WP guys from over the weekend would be cool too.

    @Grant – Yup, I think the only platform that is close is Drupal but WordPress is simpler by a fair amount both for developers and end users in my view.

    @Chuck – Totally, clients are often surprised when they get back to me after a couple of years, what used to take many weeks and several thousands of dollars is now a third of the time and cost (even though my prices have actually risen) because I now only do WordPress+PHP sites as opposed to bespoke .NET or JSP.

  9. I’ve actually recently been burnt using WordPress for a large project – I used it as the backbone for a photo sharing site catering for the West Midlands and it really didn’t scale well.

    In the end it would have been quicker to build the entire thing from scratch – A platform that makes about 17 SQL queries just to render the homepage (out of the box) is never going to scale well.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge WordPress fan, but in the right place. It is a great blog platform, can scale quite effectively to a CMS, but I don’t see it as a framework for alternative applications anymore, like so many people our now touting it as.

    I am, however, very interested to see how Backpress will develop as this could be the answer to the situation.

  10. I’ve actually recently been burnt using WordPress for a large project – I used it as the backbone for a photo sharing site catering for the West Midlands and it really didn’t scale well.

    In the end it would have been quicker to build the entire thing from scratch – A platform that makes about 17 SQL queries just to render the homepage (out of the box) is never going to scale well.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge WordPress fan, but in the right place. It is a great blog platform, can scale quite effectively to a CMS, but I don’t see it as a framework for alternative applications anymore, like so many people our now touting it as.

    I am, however, very interested to see how Backpress will develop as this could be the answer to the situation.

  11. Interesting comments and story, but how easy is it to migrate to WordPress if you are set up with Joomla? How compatible is it to Quickbooks applications? And why would WordPress allow it to be so easy to bring on sales quickly, why do you say that? Sorry if these are baby questions for a more sophisticated bunch.

  12. Interesting comments and story, but how easy is it to migrate to WordPress if you are set up with Joomla? How compatible is it to Quickbooks applications? And why would WordPress allow it to be so easy to bring on sales quickly, why do you say that? Sorry if these are baby questions for a more sophisticated bunch.

  13. Hey Chuck

    Nice site – can you share where you get the ‘featured/recent/popular’ block or is it part of a custom theme? – that is cool and what I’m looking for on my blog.

  14. Hey Chuck

    Nice site – can you share where you get the ‘featured/recent/popular’ block or is it part of a custom theme? – that is cool and what I’m looking for on my blog.

  15. Troy, my WP blog is based on the PRiNZ BranfordMagazine theme, which contains that featured/recent/popular block. It can be found here: http://www.der-prinz.com/2008/01/20/wordpress-magazine-style-theme-branfordmagazine/.

  16. Troy, my WP blog is based on the PRiNZ BranfordMagazine theme, which contains that featured/recent/popular block. It can be found here: http://www.der-prinz.com/2008/01/20/wordpress-magazine-style-theme-branfordmagazine/.

  17. Hi Chris,

    I think what people forget is that WordPress is a CMS. It’s not called that necessarily, and it is specialized to fit the blogging format (which may be why people have a hard time converting it effectively…)

    And, like any off-the-shelf CMS, scalability will likely be a problem. Originally, all CMS were customized to meet specific company requirements (especially in terms of scalability) so it is not surprising that WordPress spins its wheels a bit when forced outside of its original operating parameters. Widgetizing functions will offer more people more options, but the trade-off is that you will access the database 17 times per page.

    However, I don’t think it would be too difficult for the PHP programmer to hard-code some of those widgets and reduce some of the database traffic. I couldn’t say for sure, mind you, but I would imagine you could streamline it somewhat…

    This might be the next new direction for WordPress too…

    ~Graham

  18. Hi Chris,

    I think what people forget is that WordPress is a CMS. It’s not called that necessarily, and it is specialized to fit the blogging format (which may be why people have a hard time converting it effectively…)

    And, like any off-the-shelf CMS, scalability will likely be a problem. Originally, all CMS were customized to meet specific company requirements (especially in terms of scalability) so it is not surprising that WordPress spins its wheels a bit when forced outside of its original operating parameters. Widgetizing functions will offer more people more options, but the trade-off is that you will access the database 17 times per page.

    However, I don’t think it would be too difficult for the PHP programmer to hard-code some of those widgets and reduce some of the database traffic. I couldn’t say for sure, mind you, but I would imagine you could streamline it somewhat…

    This might be the next new direction for WordPress too…

    ~Graham

  19. Great article Chris – I agree and think WordPress is a great CMS, especially for small businesses. I’ve used it for many of my clients and WordPress makes it easy for them to add and change content, and has some inherent SEO advantages.

    I just started an article series about this, the first one is called: Why Use WordPress to Power Your Small Business Website?

    As for scalability in larger companies or high traffic situations, its a valid concern but it is also something that you will have to deal with and plan for in any CMS.

  20. Great article Chris – I agree and think WordPress is a great CMS, especially for small businesses. I’ve used it for many of my clients and WordPress makes it easy for them to add and change content, and has some inherent SEO advantages.

    I just started an article series about this, the first one is called: Why Use WordPress to Power Your Small Business Website?

    As for scalability in larger companies or high traffic situations, its a valid concern but it is also something that you will have to deal with and plan for in any CMS.

  21. Hi Chris,

    You’ve summarized the benefits of the tool very well, and as the points you’ve made align very well with the overall theme of my site, your post has inspired my latest piece.

    Just because a tool is relatively cheap (like the Monarch software that is the focus of my site), or even free (like WP), doesn’t mean that it isn’t extremely valuable.

  22. Hi Chris,

    You’ve summarized the benefits of the tool very well, and as the points you’ve made align very well with the overall theme of my site, your post has inspired my latest piece.

    Just because a tool is relatively cheap (like the Monarch software that is the focus of my site), or even free (like WP), doesn’t mean that it isn’t extremely valuable.

  23. One thing that business looks for is something reliable. The recent bug filled release of WordPress 2.6 – including a bug that prevents people from logging into their blog at all which still does not have a fix (well, not a fix that doesn’t open up a security hole according to Otto from the WordPress forums) – some people are affected by it, some people are not, it is like an twisted kind of lottery for WordPress users.. this does not seem like something business will stick to long term. And who wants to be upgrading their blog 12 times a year as happened in 2007? How many businesses are going to commit that kind of time to it?

    What business wants is something simple that works and something they don’t have to constantly upgrade.

    I think something like Injader probably has a better shot at winning business customers long term. It is also open source, it is also free, the difference is it seems to have some kind of clue about what the users want from blogging software rather than being on some egotistical “we’ll make our software do a bunch of stuff that you used to use plugins for only our software won’t work as well when we do that” trip. If you use wordpress, you might want to install Injader and have a look at it.

    I don’t recommend that people upgrade to 2.6 – I do recommend people read this post – Where did WordPress go wrong? – and start asking themselves the same questions that appear in there, and maybe some other ones that occur to them. 759 bugs vanishing in 24 hours? No longer supporting previous versions, even 2.5?

    It is a shame to see something that a lot of people took up lose the plot in such a major way. :( And when the plot gets lost, people jump ship.

    Cheers,
    Snoskred

  24. One thing that business looks for is something reliable. The recent bug filled release of WordPress 2.6 – including a bug that prevents people from logging into their blog at all which still does not have a fix (well, not a fix that doesn’t open up a security hole according to Otto from the WordPress forums) – some people are affected by it, some people are not, it is like an twisted kind of lottery for WordPress users.. this does not seem like something business will stick to long term. And who wants to be upgrading their blog 12 times a year as happened in 2007? How many businesses are going to commit that kind of time to it?

    What business wants is something simple that works and something they don’t have to constantly upgrade.

    I think something like Injader probably has a better shot at winning business customers long term. It is also open source, it is also free, the difference is it seems to have some kind of clue about what the users want from blogging software rather than being on some egotistical “we’ll make our software do a bunch of stuff that you used to use plugins for only our software won’t work as well when we do that” trip. If you use wordpress, you might want to install Injader and have a look at it.

    I don’t recommend that people upgrade to 2.6 – I do recommend people read this post – Where did WordPress go wrong? – and start asking themselves the same questions that appear in there, and maybe some other ones that occur to them. 759 bugs vanishing in 24 hours? No longer supporting previous versions, even 2.5?

    It is a shame to see something that a lot of people took up lose the plot in such a major way. :( And when the plot gets lost, people jump ship.

    Cheers,
    Snoskred

  25. …shuddering at the thought of 20-yr old Cobol reports :{

  26. …shuddering at the thought of 20-yr old Cobol reports :{

  27. That sure is a shuddering thought : 20-year old Cobol reports and running a company off Excel.(grrr…)

  28. That sure is a shuddering thought : 20-year old Cobol reports and running a company off Excel.(grrr…)

  29. Hi Chris, good article. Just for clarity, the 10 Downing Street web site was actually built by New Media Maze and will be launching in the next week or so.

    As you rightly say it’s 100% WP but with some fairly heavy mods for functionality and security. Happy to give you and readers some more insight once it launches.

  30. Hi Chris, good article. Just for clarity, the 10 Downing Street web site was actually built by New Media Maze and will be launching in the next week or so.

    As you rightly say it’s 100% WP but with some fairly heavy mods for functionality and security. Happy to give you and readers some more insight once it launches.

  31. I don’t want to rain on the parade but there is a very well informed body of opinion which thinks WP is overrated. The cogniscenti have long ago moved on to Textpattern, Expression Engine and now Habari. Matt Mullenweg certainly enjoyed first mover advantage but WP org seems to have been off the boil since the WP com hosted service was launched and the VC guys got involved. Certainly 20 million bucks might take your eye off the ball. There are also very serious implications for privacy and potential abuse in using the default askimet anti spam filter which is also an Automattic creation. The misuse of this tool against users in the Automattic corporate interest would put the KGB to shame. Defensio is far better – and is cross platform.

    From the SEO standpoint WP does better than some CMS but it still requires quite an experienced developer with some SEO exposure to rig it up correctly and max it for social media penetration with plugins. This problem is often compounded by the huge number of very poor quality free themes which can be a false economy.

    Finally there are a number of serious security and resource hogging issues surounding WP useage particularly the older versions or the very new releases. Many a user has been thrown off their host because of the poor formation of the WP mysql queries
    leading to web hosts being tied up. Sadly many corporates – and even *designers* who hold themselves out as WP experts do not know how to use svn from trunk to keep the software patched regularly.

    And please do not get me started on php5 OOP or the lack thereof in WP plus its sole support for mysql. Not to mention the monstrous size of the download.

    Using free open source software is partly a vote for the culture.
    And by that benchmark WP just doesnt stand up.

    Just my 2 cents.

  32. I don’t want to rain on the parade but there is a very well informed body of opinion which thinks WP is overrated. The cogniscenti have long ago moved on to Textpattern, Expression Engine and now Habari. Matt Mullenweg certainly enjoyed first mover advantage but WP org seems to have been off the boil since the WP com hosted service was launched and the VC guys got involved. Certainly 20 million bucks might take your eye off the ball. There are also very serious implications for privacy and potential abuse in using the default askimet anti spam filter which is also an Automattic creation. The misuse of this tool against users in the Automattic corporate interest would put the KGB to shame. Defensio is far better – and is cross platform.

    From the SEO standpoint WP does better than some CMS but it still requires quite an experienced developer with some SEO exposure to rig it up correctly and max it for social media penetration with plugins. This problem is often compounded by the huge number of very poor quality free themes which can be a false economy.

    Finally there are a number of serious security and resource hogging issues surounding WP useage particularly the older versions or the very new releases. Many a user has been thrown off their host because of the poor formation of the WP mysql queries
    leading to web hosts being tied up. Sadly many corporates – and even *designers* who hold themselves out as WP experts do not know how to use svn from trunk to keep the software patched regularly.

    And please do not get me started on php5 OOP or the lack thereof in WP plus its sole support for mysql. Not to mention the monstrous size of the download.

    Using free open source software is partly a vote for the culture.
    And by that benchmark WP just doesnt stand up.

    Just my 2 cents.

  33. @Chris – Any tool has its uses and places where you would be best using something else. Once you get to love your hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail ;)

    @Monica – I have never migrated from Joomla, best asking on the support forums. Not integrated with Quickbooks either, not sure how or why you would. You get to market quick with a faster development schedule, sooner you get to market sooner your potential customers see what you have to offer. Also an easy CMS allows the sales team to develop content and landing pages, rather than having to farm that work out and slowing down the cycle. Lastly, WP blogs are renowned for being well-supported for SEO.

    @Graham – As I say above, while it is great for most, ANY generic solution is going to find areas on the fringes where it falls down.

    @Don – Cool, I will check it out :)

    @Sandy – Yup, I still hear of IT directors insisting on 6 and 7 figure license agreements rather than look at open source though, there is for some people a credibility gap and I think it comes down to fear of career limiting decisions :(

    @Snoskred – I agree the WP team has made life unnecessarily difficult for small businesses to keep up. The mandatory upgrades should never contain new or upgraded features and older versions should be supported.

    @raj – I love cobol :)

    @Ganesh – It’s not just the small companies either. You would be amazed at the huge companies who have rebellious departments creating silos stitched together with the computing equiv of gum, glue and string.

    @dave – Thanks for the clarification, great work

    @Simon – Opinions differ, they always will. Your 2c is welcome :) The proof though in my mind is in the end experience, and in that most users are happy. Does it meet customers needs? Yes. Are they delighted with the result? Yes. Do you think a small engineering firm, architect, accountant or a realtor care about OOP, PHP5 or which database their site runs on? Geeks can argue about the tech until they are blue in their face, customers just want to achieve their objectives. I do have concerns about the way updates are released for critical security issues, but not so concerned that I would look to other platforms. I stick with WP because it has the most support, it just works and I know it well :)

  34. @Chris – Any tool has its uses and places where you would be best using something else. Once you get to love your hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail ;)

    @Monica – I have never migrated from Joomla, best asking on the support forums. Not integrated with Quickbooks either, not sure how or why you would. You get to market quick with a faster development schedule, sooner you get to market sooner your potential customers see what you have to offer. Also an easy CMS allows the sales team to develop content and landing pages, rather than having to farm that work out and slowing down the cycle. Lastly, WP blogs are renowned for being well-supported for SEO.

    @Graham – As I say above, while it is great for most, ANY generic solution is going to find areas on the fringes where it falls down.

    @Don – Cool, I will check it out :)

    @Sandy – Yup, I still hear of IT directors insisting on 6 and 7 figure license agreements rather than look at open source though, there is for some people a credibility gap and I think it comes down to fear of career limiting decisions :(

    @Snoskred – I agree the WP team has made life unnecessarily difficult for small businesses to keep up. The mandatory upgrades should never contain new or upgraded features and older versions should be supported.

    @raj – I love cobol :)

    @Ganesh – It’s not just the small companies either. You would be amazed at the huge companies who have rebellious departments creating silos stitched together with the computing equiv of gum, glue and string.

    @dave – Thanks for the clarification, great work

    @Simon – Opinions differ, they always will. Your 2c is welcome :) The proof though in my mind is in the end experience, and in that most users are happy. Does it meet customers needs? Yes. Are they delighted with the result? Yes. Do you think a small engineering firm, architect, accountant or a realtor care about OOP, PHP5 or which database their site runs on? Geeks can argue about the tech until they are blue in their face, customers just want to achieve their objectives. I do have concerns about the way updates are released for critical security issues, but not so concerned that I would look to other platforms. I stick with WP because it has the most support, it just works and I know it well :)