Let's not talk about the technology.
In the majority of my projects creating business or ecommerce sites for clients, there is usually a very short discussion on what software we’ll be using for the site. Everyone’s heard of WordPress, and I’ll admit it helps keep this conversation short…which is a good thing. After all, the outcome (more leads or conversions) is what we’re both interested in, and the ‘how’ is my problem, not theirs.
Over time, however, there seems to be a couple of straws that are breaking the camel’s back. It always comes back to the client’s experience.
...Except for a necessary discussion about the admin dashboard.
In the lifecycle of a client's WordPress project, there's often a necessary discussion discussion around the back-end WordPress admin dashboard. I am happy to do so; in fact I've created lots of tutorials, videos, etc. to help clients with this. But in situations where a client wants to retain me to keep things humming along, it’s a relief because I can spare them from unnecessary confusion.
To non-WordPress users, the admin dashboard, and more specifically editing content, just doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you are new to WordPress, you will naturally wonder why there are multiple places to edit content, through various text fields, plug-ins, WSIWG (front-end) editors. This is in part because plug-ins can solve almost any front-end problem in WordPress. This flexibility has historically been it's strength. But if you're not paying attention, all of these fragmented systems storing markup and style specs can lead to inconsistent formatting and possibly redundant efforts.
The other issue is management of pictures and graphics. These elements are almost as important as the text on a site. That’s why it never quite sat well with me that I often must upload different versions of an image to get precisely defined dimensions for different purposes. Sure, I can write custom post types that handle images for different view situations, or getting a plug-in. But I always thought with some ingenuity, WordPress could do a bit more to let content editors (the client) better leverage different presentations of images across different views, without my intervention.
The Pareto principle: "We're never gonna need 80% of this."
As a site gets heavier with plug-in functionality to solve various issues, the site starts to feel...(bear with me on the analogy) as if you were carrying around a Swiss Champ. My grandpa gifted me one of these huge pocket knives when I was a boy, and I thought it was amazing because it could do almost anything. But carrying it around in my pocket was ridiculous because it was so heavy that it would literally rip my pant pockets. The kind of web technology I would really like, to use this same analogy, is the SwissCard: portable, light, streamlined and fast.
Now, I know WordPress Gutenberg is meant to address a lot of these issues. It is just that I am not entirely sure that I understand where that ship is sailing. It seems that Automattic (WordPress) wants to compete with Squarespace and Medium.com on the front end builder…but keep the open-source, self-hosted thing on the back-end…and I end up thinking they should just optimize a fully headless version and focus on improving the back end…frankly, it shouldn’t be this hard to explain.
So how did we get to a discussion about WordPress in the first place? I first learned programming with object-oriented languages like C+ and Java way back in college. Because of that background, I began web development by hand-coding from a blank page because it was my natural inclination to learn from the ground up, rather than top-down (a.k.a. "designing" WordPress sites without being able to code). But I knew a blogging platform was a great central function for a website because it made story telling a priority, which is a great activity for any brand. WP is first and foremost a blogging platform, and so it makes a sensible solution for business websites. And of course, from my perspective, it’s great to have such a large market to serve (75 million websites and counting!).
Changing of the guard? Maybe not quite yet...
However, I think every platform will reach an apex in popularity, and, constrained by it’s legacy, will be eclipsed by something better…as is the way with technology in general. There is an important network effect in the growth of a web platform, in that more adoption leads to further development, better performance and expanded functionality. Especially in more specific use cases or market segments.
This year, I spent more time developing non-WordPress platforms (even Shopify) when I saw a better specific use-case for them. I have found one in particular that has really caught my eye. As adoption ramps up, Craft CMS could very well be the thing that eclipses WordPress for many use-cases (like my work with clients), and even more broadly.
Now, it's very dangerous to predict that an upstart will displace an incumbent. A compelling business case to rebuild a brand new WordPress site on Craft would be the exception rather than the rule, and Craft is a relatively new platform. I wouldn't say WordPress will face any serious competition, in terms of overall adoption, any time soon.
But wow. I won’t get into all of the possible ooo-ing and ahh-ing over it, nor do the 'Craft vs. WordPress (vs. you name it)' showdown…there are plenty of articles that do that already . I will just say the admin dashboard-related problems I mentioned above, and many others, have been addressed beautifully. In fact, the Pixel & Tonic folks (the vendors of Craft CMS) seem to have built it from the ground up to address problems inherent in many true CMS systems, not just WordPress' blogging CMS. And what I want the most is built right into that solution: a great experience for my clients when they will be using it down the road.
So, what next?
Instead of giving you a technical features comparison like the articles referenced below, I’m going to (hopefully) complete a blog series chronicling the build of an ecommerce site with Craft CMS. As I go, I'll showcase why it will be great from the client perspective. I'm working on a new project that's as good as any to use for showcasing Craft. Stay tuned!