Why WordPress Should Not Have Won the Open Source CMS Award

December 23, 2009

Packt Publishing announced the winners for their annual Open Source CMS Award in November, and since then I have been a bit disturbed that the 2009 winner was WordPress. My first reaction was this:

"… So a blogging platform won the content management system award? How sad is that?"

My knee-jerk "how sad is that?" reaction comes not because I don’t think WordPress is worthy, but because of what it implies about the state of other open source CMS projects. The reaction comes from the fact that a blogging platform is kicking your CMS’s ass in its own category.

WordPress bridges both the blogging and CMS categories due to the ‘Pages’ feature, and is extremely useful for managing a blog-focused website. Mostly. That is, until you want to do something that a CMS should be good at, like have an event calendar, custom form, photo gallery, etc. – which is why WordPress is not focused on being a CMS in the first place. Yet it does such a better job at the basic things like creating new pages, tagging, categorizing, comments, and having custom SEO-friendly URLs out of the box that it edged out other software projects like Drupal MODx and Joomla! SilverStripe whose sole focus is content management. Sad indeed.

The fact that I can go through literally hundreds of open source content management systems and still end up settling on WordPress because I know it’s the only one that won’t totally confuse my client is what’s sad. Usability and ease of use matter. They are the number one feature to the end user. If you’re involved in a CMS project, you need to do better. A lot better. Right now.

UPDATE: Some commenters have pointed out that the awards website has a specific rule:

Previous winners of the Overall category are not eligible for the Overall category in 2009. Previous winners compete amongst one another in a separate Hall of Fame category designed specifically for them.

Since both Drupal and Joomla! have won the award previously and thus were automatically excluded, I replaced their names with the CMS projects that were 2nd and 3rd behind WordPress (MODx and SilverStripe) instead. The premise of the post still holds true.

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