Written by: Jemal Cole, Sr. Developer
WordPress has seemingly taken over the Web. Now powering17.5% of all websites and more than half of those with a Content Management System (CMS), the open source project, backed byAutomattic, has begun to slow down its development and focus on becoming a mature publishing platform. Having overhauled and stabilized its theming and plugin APIs in version 3, recent releases have started filling in the holes that marked WordPress as a simple blogging platform and providing the power and customizations of full-featured packages like Drupal or Joomla.
Since the 3.0 release, WordPress has gained a great deal of functionality that was previously reserved for its more capable competitors:
- Multisite functionality that makes it easy to manage more than one site from a single installation
- Custom content types that allow for new entries beyond simple pages and blog entries
- Interface enhancements for high-DPI screens and tablets
- Improved media management with a simplified workflow
- Significant speed enhancements, as well as tweaks to the theming API
The next release, 3.6, focuses on content editing and publishing tasks. Autosave features will prevent users from losing data while editing, while a newly reworked revisions interface will make it easier to revert to previous versions of content.
Custom post statuses will allow for customized editorial workflows (e.g., pitch -> assigned -> in-progress -> ready-edit). Taking a page out of Tumblr’s book, post formats will allow different kinds of content (e.g., images, videos, audio files) to have their own individual display formats. These changes will make WordPress more attractive to enterprise users and publishing organizations.
The success of WordPress has meant that it has far more community support than its competitors. Features that it lacks can almost always be remedied by one of its almost 25,000 free plugins, and there are thousands of free and inexpensive themes that organizations can use to get up and running quickly. Almost all hosting providers will set up and maintain WordPress installations, and there are thousands of tutorials, walkthroughs and examples for new users and developers.
However, WordPress is still a bit limited in its flexibility, requiring more work than some of its competitors to create highly customized sites. Creating your own content types still requires editing code and most themes are not flexible enough to be customized through the Web interface. Plugins exist to bridge some of the gaps, and many theme providers have their own interfaces, but it would be better to have these kinds of features built in.
In addition, WordPress has very rudimentary user roles, and permissions are often not documented adequately. Organizations that need to allow users to create their own accounts and manage their data may find that systems like Drupal allow for more flexibility and more fine-grained tuning.
Automattic has sought to fill in many of the gaps through its collection of free and paid plugins, Jetpack. They allow for advanced features like:
- Automated backups and security scanning
- High-quality mobile theme
- Social sharing integration
- Spelling and grammar proofreading
- Posts by email and email subscriptions
- Infinite scrolling
They also run WordPress.com, a commercial hosting service used by traditional publishers like The New York Times and Reuters, new media like Mashable and BuzzMachine, and Fortune 500 companies like General Motors Corp. and Sony. They offer free and paid support tiers and can handle enormous amounts of traffic.
WordPress is clearly a good solution, especially for individual bloggers and publishers, and is growing into a mature publishing platform. There are still many factors in deciding if WordPress is the right publishing platform for a given organization.