Suzan Gray

"WordPress is a CMS" says Adii (WordPress RockStar)

by Suzan Gray


I strongly disagree.

On Wednesday night I attended WPCPT3 - shorthand for the 3rd monthly meeting of the Cape Town(CPT) Wordpress(WP) enthusiasts - where Rafiq, one of my SEO team members was speaking about how to SEO a WordPress blog.

The evening got off to a good start - interesting info about WP security flaws, themes, tips, WP tricks – that was until Adii (local WordPress RockStar & creator of cool internationally renowned WP themes) started speaking about how… “WordPress is a CMS”.

Screech! Halt! I almost choked on the slice of sponsored pizza from Butlers.

I was so the wrong person to be sitting in that audience, while Adii was being so cavalier and sprouting profane, blanket statements about CMS.

(To put my reaction in context: In one of my past incarnations, before Quirk, I was part of Deloitte’s Global Office of Knowledge Management (GOKM) for a year in Washington DC.

Here I was able to outline what Deloitte’s Global Intranet serving 90 000+ employees should look & function like. I also sat on the global technology selection committee IT Budget: $50M for the first year. We looked at things like enterprise portals, document management, workflow process solutions, eLearning Tools …and… great B-I-G CMS’.)

But enough about me - let’s get back to Adii and his “WP is a CMS” statement. (Check out the slide set which caused me such techno-consternation.)

Firstly, with due respect, do most people know what a CMS is? I mean a real CMS.

Do they realise you have 3 main categories of CMS’s:

  1. Enterprise CMS’s – which handle major volumes of content across technology platforms, databases and geographies.
  2. Open Source CMS’s – like Drupal or Joomla – which are fast becoming players in the small to medium enterprise space
  3. Home grown CMS’s - created for bespoke purposes by developers with a specific content management requirement.

Compared to a most of these CMS categories, WordPress is little more than a glorified content delivery system… albeit with a large and growing user base and nifty ease-of-use benefits.

Whether WordPress is a CMS or not - depends on what you think a CMS is. And frankly, the term “CMS” is getting applied too loosely lately to things which have no place calling themselves a “management” anything.

In my not so humble opinion (IMNSHO), WP "aspires" to be a CMS, but it is far from that in reality. It lacks many of the necessary protocols (like security, complex content management functionality, robust software version maintenance, update processes and user controls) which any self-respecting, scaleable CMS offers as standard fare.

To punt WordPress as a CMS is to force it to punch way above its natural weight class.

Secondly, simply because WP doesn’t qualify as a true-blue CMS does not mean it’s not a highly valuable tool which suits the needs of millions of users – who actually do not want or need the full functionality and complexity (read: hassle) of a CMS system.

Maybe WP will become a mini-CMS when it grows up… but that'll take some growing, in substantial CMS terms.

I question whether becoming “more of a CMS” is even a good thing for WP. Most of the natural growth of WP user base comes from the delight users experience when they install and use WP easily. If that value proposition works, why mess with it?

Becoming a CMS could complicate and bloat the code and perhaps make the software lose some of its natural ease of use – which is part of its ubiquitous charm.

My question is – Should WP even try to be a CMS? Aren’t there enough pretenders to that throne already?

Lastly, Adii spoke about New York Times as “using Wordpress”. Again - with due respect - that’s misleading.

In a CMS context, that statement implies WP manages and services their underlying content management needs.

If you read this article, you will see that it is not truly the case. NY Times are not running their primary content management engines on WordPress. It is merely part of a wider strategy to for NY Times to start embracing citizen journalists and allow them to use a blogging tool, which just happens to be WordPress, to start doing that.

As a matter of fact, Content Management Systems like Drupal probably have a much stronger claim to “newspaper” fame since sites like Fast Forward and NY Observer run their core content management on Drupal.

Enthusiasm for WordPress is great!

WP is a good, cheap little tool for many smaller or niche needs and possibly some larger ones as well. It has some interesting content manipulation capabilities.

However, to try and promote WP to the level of “CMS” – is probably taking the scope of WP a little too far. IMNSHO of course.

About The Author


I must agree - that said, I have run a site using WP as the "CMS" before. Not great but functional.

Ps: Nur - nicely done, everybody I have chatted to enjoyed the event!

Posted by Tim Shier on 2008/05/30

thanks for article

Posted by arama motoru kayıt on 2008/05/30

Thank you, Amen.
Agree with you 100%.

I love wp, but it is not a CMS. You very correctly call it a Content Delivery System - I think that is a far more apt description of wp. Evwen for a teeny tiny site whilst it may be adequate as a "wanna-bee" cms, it is really just a cool content delivery system.

Nice post, thanks. Nice to read I'm not the only one who thinks this, and I ain't no fundi like you are :)

Posted by Candy on 2008/05/30

Surprised you didn't challenge me on these points whilst doing my presso; as I really love discussions like this.

See, ultimately the purpose of my talk was to show that WP doesn't only need to be a blogging platform and that there are other possibilities / uses for it. Whether it is the best CMS, is debatable and whether corporates would ever use an open-source platform vs spending millions on their perfectly defined CMS is improbable. Having completed my bachelors in accounting (to become a CA), I also know all too well that accounting firms are probably least likely to every trust something like WordPress... :)

That said, WP will soon offer everything (and more!) that Joomla / Drupal does, as the community powering it is just so much stronger. And one of the main reasons for WPs popularity is the fact that end-users find it easy and as Facebook has shown: a big enough fanbase means that anything can become an online success.

In the end, this is probably a preference debate... If a company really has quarter of a million to waste, then by all means should they develop their own, specific CMS. But for everyone else, that wants to spend less than R30K on a feature-rich, easy-to-use CMS, there's WordPress... :)

Posted by Adii on 2008/05/30

Hmm, thats a good point.

Volumes speak volumes :p

Posted by Tim Shier on 2008/05/30

As an aside, there is a WP collaboration happening this weekend - I'm no guru... so I could def do with some remote advisors - its outreach (xenophobia) related so if you keen to help in person or remotely please email me tim [! at !] quirk . biz .

Cheers and thanks,


Posted by Tim Shier on 2008/05/30


Some good points.

(you create cool WP themes/designs btw..)

I didn't comment at the presentation because it would have side tracked the meeting & we were eager to hear what Rafiq had to say ...after you ;)

I mentioned Deloitte because it put the comments in context...the argument is not specific to large financial services..I think the same points apply for all enterprise vs small solution debates..

The WP community notwithstanding... there are still a number of fundamental/core technical & functional issues which preclude WP from asserting itself as being a robust CMS...(one of the previous speakers that night alluded to some of them..)

People who've worked with larger CMS' s will understand this - because they may have faced the unenviable task of trying to scale a CMS solution, without the basic CM fundamentals in place.

You are correct though - for many or most low-budget projects (which don't really need proper CMS functionality and probably won't scale anyway) - WP can stand in for a CMS & fake it - but it's not fundamentally an authentic CMS....

I know people have written WP plug-ins to make Wordpress adapt to being a CMS...but as the core stands, WP itself should probably not technically & honestly marketed be under the title of "CMS", at present.

Semantics....But important anyway.

Posted by Suzan Gray on 2008/05/30

Is WordPress a content management system? To a degree, yes. Is it an enterprise CMS? Hell no. Like you said, it depends on how you define a CMS.

I've had great success deploying WordPress as a CMS for smaller websites, but it's not grown up enough to be used on large scale projects. The code is a mess under the hood, and WP sites can be extremely slow due to WAY too many SQL queries from all the plugins that are required to use WP as a CMS.

I'd like to see WP define itself as a blog and publishing engine, but it might be best if they didn't try to use the label "CMS", which would draw comparisons to the big boys and only make WP look bad. First and foremost though, WP needs to be refactored, regardless of backwards compatibility with plugins.

Posted by Sam Stevens on 2008/05/30

Haha. Sounds like a Rather Jacob Nielson style approach to commenting on wordpress being a cms.

You yourself though have admitted that there are different levels of CMS. I think Adii's presentation very cleary states in what capacity he was mentioning wordpress being used as a CMS.

CMS - Content Management System. Yes it's a system which allows you to manage content. Of course it does not solve all problems, but then many of those problems are not CMS problems but involve more than just content management.

So, basically, I disagree in part and agree in part.

I also agree with Adii, those who have criticized what was spoken about were hardly involved in the discussion on the day.

Posted by nomad-one on 2008/06/04

Great article, it was very helpful! I was close to installing WP for my companys site which has lots of different content types. I think I'm going to try one of those open source cms's. Thanks! =)

Posted by Tom on 2009/06/23

I believe that Drupal is the best CMS out there…It is very powerful and robust and with all the modules that you can add you can extend its power even more..Customising a drupal site is not that difficult too…Drupal 6 is even more amazing I just cant wait for Drupal 7.

Posted by Robbin on 2009/07/13

Obviously all your argument no longer apply.

I use wordpress as a CMS for all my clients.

They love the fact that they can change anything on any page by just clicking edit. They also love the fact that it has one click auto-update and one click plug-in installation.

I tried joomla, drupal and php nuke and the learning curve is impossible for the average end user.

That my two cents...

Posted by James on 2009/09/29

Hi James,

Many of my statements still apply - since I was talking mainly about true-blue enterprise-scale CMS'.

WP has made strides in the last 12 months with MU etc - but it is still more of a very effective content DELIVERY system - which is aiming towards being a content MANAGEMENT system.

By enterprise standards - WP still a way off being a robust way to "manage" content, especially in complex environments or for substantial sites which require scaling and content workflow for approvals etc.

Often - when clients want a scaleable CMS, which can handle thousands of pages of content - with authority levels, publishing permissions etc Wordpress is not enough... and we could not recommend it as a CMS to such clients.

However, I fully agree with you on the point about smaller clients though - for most small to medium clients - or clients looking for a simple way to delivery up-to-date content (eg via a blog) or set up a smaller's a GREAT tool which is relatively easy to use.

Thanks for your comment.

Posted by Suzan Gray on 2009/10/01

Thanks for the CSS tip Daryl – it’s much appreciated!
I am asked about that issue a lot… so I’ll add it to the FAQs in the README.txt.
Thanks again,

Posted by china wholesale on 2009/10/28

I believe that Drupal is the best CMS out there…It is very powerful and robust and with all the modules that you can add you can extend its power even more..Customising a drupal site is not that difficult too…

Posted by chinese wholesalers on 2009/12/28

"Wordpress is a CMS", I strong agree.

And I plan to use wordpress to set up my new website. HOHO

Posted by wholesale electronics on 2010/03/19

thanks, this is definitely what I need for my new website

Posted by dollar items on 2010/04/13

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