Are you often baffled by the techno-jargon used by software programmers? Do you sometimes wonder what all those acronyms mean – CMS, PPC, PHP, CSS, C++, .NET…? Rest assured that you are not alone. Just like lawyers and doctors, programmers have their own technical jargon. If you are not a lawyer, doctor or programmer, you can’t be expected to be fluent in their language. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be informed, particularly when you are in need of their services.
This blog is designed to make marketing technology more accessible to those who need to understand it for their work but don’t have to actually create it themselves. Some of the more techno savvy readers might find the presentation too elementary, while the technophobes among us might find it somewhat confusing. I’ll do my best to satisfy the broadest audience in the middle. I’ll also ask those of you with more in depth knowledge to keep me honest with your comments, and those with less knowledge to ask questions if something doesn’t make sense. Hopefully we’ll all gain in the process.
Let’s jump right in with a discussion about a software system that is now ubiquitous in the marketing technology world – WordPress. What is it? What’s is good for? And what are its limitations?
According to Wikipedia “WordPress is a free and open source blogging tool and a content management system (CMS)…” Let’s dissect this definition. First, WordPress is “free and open source” which means that anyone can use WordPress software, without paying a licensing fee. It also means that programmers can contribute their own enhancements to the code (“plugins”) to expand its core functionality. As of this writing, there were 26,801 plugins available for WordPress. With so many plugins, shouldn’t WordPress be capable of almost anything? Not necessarily since many of these were built to compensate for WordPress’s limitations, and they certainly aren’t all of equal quality.
Next, WordPress is first a “blogging tool” and second, a “content management system”. It was initially released in 2003 as a blogging platform and still retains many of the idiosyncrasies of a system designed for blogging, including a heavy leaning toward chronological publishing. To the credit of the WordPress development community, the platform has been tremendously enhanced into a fully featured content management system for building and maintaining websites and web content. In fact, WordPress dominates the market for open source content management system with a whopping 58% market share!
Why is WordPress so hugely popular? The same reason Google, Facebook and Twitter dominate their markets – they are easy to use and at some point they all built a critical mass of followers, and strong brands to make them unassailable. With a huge base of users and developers, WordPress has earned its place as the default content management system for most standard website applications. If your website isn’t too complicated, or doesn’t have to communicate with too many other systems or databases, then WordPress is probably your best choice as a content management system.
In short, WordPress is a lot like Legos. It is a compilation of standard parts that are, well designed, intuitive to work with, and can be used to create some amazing structures. However, when you need to build a house to withstand the elements, concrete, 2x4s and sheetrock do a much better job. In a future issue/post I’ll discuss what other content management systems might be more appropriate for building more industrial strength websites and web applications.