Is WordPress An Actual Content Management System (CMS)?

Is WordPress An Actual Content Management System (CMS)?

Have you ever been at a party and heard someone (who’s probably had a few too many) blurt out that WordPress isn’t an actual CMS, and you then get incensed (probably because you’ve had a few too many too!) and an overwhelming need to step in and defend WordPress kicks in and other partygoers have to restrain you from taking on this ignorant stranger?

Well, I have … too many times to remember!

So, in case you ever get challenged privately, publicly (or even socially on Instagram or Snapchat) about WordPress being an “actual” CMS and not just a tool for setting up blogs or small business websites, here are some facts to arm yourself with for such an occasion.

Can WP manage all this? Read on to find out!
Can WordPress manage all this? Read on to find out!

What Is A CMS?

Want to know if the WordPress CMS can handle more than just blogs and small business websites? Then check out the video below …

Rather than use the definition of CMS that my elderly mother thought she heard me say once during a family dinner (“Can’t Manage My Sister”), let’s turn to the stalwart of the online community for seeking actual and factual enlightenment, Wikipedia:

“A content management system (CMS) manages the creation and modification of digital content. These systems typically support multiple users in a collaborative environment, allowing to perform document management with different styles of governance and workflows.”

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_content_management_system)

Now, I could quote Wikipedia all day long, and so I will once more. The above quote continues thusly …

“Usually the content is a website … and the term commonly refers to web content management systems. Web content may include text and embedded graphics, photos, video, audio, maps, and program code … that displays content or interacts with the user. By their nature, CMSs support the separation of content and presentation.”

Read the above definition in its totality and take a moment to contemplate the plurality of “CMSs” and to breathe in the combination of fricative sibilance, alliteration, and rhyming consonance in the final sentence “CMSs support the separation of content and presentation.

Before we dissect this definition further, here’s what Wikipedia also has to say about the structure of a CMS, or a Content Management System:

“A content management system (CMS) typically has two major components: a content management application (CMA), as the front-end user interface that allows a user, even with limited expertise, to add, modify, and remove content from a website without the intervention of a webmaster; and a content delivery application (CDA), that compiles the content and updates the website.”

You could defend WordPress’ (not WordPresss) honor as an actual CMS armed with just the above information, regardless of whether you’re engaged in a text message war with an ignorant luddite or facing a mob of drunken social influencers at a party in Ibiza.

But, let’s not stop there. Let’s bring in the ultimate show stopper of factual honest to goodness truth … charts!

CMS usage distribution for websites using CMS technologies.
CMS usage distribution for websites using CMS technologies.

According to trends, intelligence, and internet research company BuiltWith, WordPress is the world’s leading platform of choice for  websites using CMS technologies. WordPress powers over a third of the web’s CMS websites and blogs.

In fact, as the chart below from W3Techs.com – a company driven by a vision to provide the most reliable and most extensive source of information on web technology usage shows (and they spare no expense when it comes to graph and chart design), no other CMS platform even comes close to WordPress in terms of market dominance.

This diagram shows the market position of WordPress in terms of popularity and traffic compared to the other most popular content management systems …

WordPress market position.
WordPress market position.

W3Techs.com even anticipated the fact that doubters may disregard charts as “alternative facts”, and so they committed their results to print …

Usage statistics and market share of WordPress.
Usage statistics and market share of WordPress.

Just to restate the above …

“WordPress is used by 61.2% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 34.5% of all websites.”

There it is, those three sweet words again … “content management system.”

If around two-thirds of all the websites whose content management system “we know” use WordPress and WordPress is used to power over a third of all websites, then please try the following right now:

  1. Look at your website.
  2. Look at the website on your left,’
  3. Look at the website on your right.

One of these is a CMS website running on WordPress.

And it’s happening right now as you are reading this with your mouth hanging open in astonishment. Folks are downloading and installing the free self-hosted version of WordPress like they found an ATM that’s spitting out free money …

WordPress Downloads
WordPress Downloads. (Source: https://wordpress.org/download/counter)

Can You Actually Spot An Actual CMS Website?

Before we attempt to prove conclusively and once and for all if WordPress is an actual content management system, try and see if you can actually spot an actual CMS website built with WordPress.

You see, WordPress has long been stuck with the “oh yes, that blogging platform” status.

Although WordPress did start out as a “blogging” platform, it has evolved way beyond a technology for publishing blogs.

Businesses of all sizes use the WordPress CMS platform to power their sites, even big businesses …

Glassdooor.com website.
Glassdooor.com website.

You can check which web technologies are being used to power websites using various online tools. For example, here is what W3Techs.com has to say about Glassdoor.com …

Glassdooor.com website - Powered by WordPress CMS.
Glassdooor.com website – Powered by WordPress CMS.

But it’s not just businesses that are using the WordPress CMS to power their sites. Governments are in on it too …

State.gov website.
State.gov website.

Once again, this is confirmed by checking a technology identifying tool like W3Techs.com …

State.gov website - Powered by WordPress CMS.
State.gov website – Powered by WordPress CMS.

In a previous article, we looked at just how many university and college websites depend on the WordPress CMS …

Boston University website - powered by WordPress CMS
Boston University website – powered by WordPress CMS

It’s not just business, government, university and college websites, however, that are using the WordPress CMS to power their online presence. If you want true validation of WordPress as an actual CMS, then check out the websites of those who have dared to boldly go where no one has gone before … celebrity and fashion websites!

May WordPress live long and prosper as a CMS!
May WordPress live long and prosper as a CMS! (Source: https://williamshatner.com/ws)

Whenever those we respect, idolize, and venerate take up a cause they believe in or promote something to make bucketloads of money, it becomes de rigueur for the rest of us all to follow suit. Planetary and interplanetary leaders are using WordPress as a CMS. If this is not validation of WordPress as an actual CMS, then what is? If not them, who? If not now, when?

WordPress.org Showcase
WordPress.org Showcase (http://wordpress.org/showcase)

To see many other examples of websites and blogs being powered by a WordPress CMS to serve all kinds of purposes for all kinds of people and institutions in all kinds of industries and walks of life, just visit the WordPress Showcase section.

WordPress is an actual CMS ... believe it!
WordPress is an actual CMS … believe it!

WordPress As A CMS (More Than A Gut Feeling)

Now that the Word’s on the street and everybody’s talkin’ ’bout it (and bloggin’ and publishin’ with it too!), it’s time to turn our attention inwards and take a gutsy look at the guts of the WordPress platform.

If we transform Wikipedia’s definition of a CMS into a really cool infographic, it would look like this …

CMS
A really cool infographic depicting a CMS

Anatomically speaking, WordPress has an almost identical (yep!) structure to the CMS defined by Wikipedia, with advanced website features for managing web design (i.e. themes) and site functionality (e.g. plugins, widgets, blocks, etc.)

In fact, we could rewrite Wikipedia’s definition of a content management system to describe WordPress …

“WordPress manages the creation and modification of digital content. WordPress supports multiple users in a collaborative environment, allowing to perform document management with different styles of governance and workflows. Usually the content is a website (or blog) and the term commonly refers to web content management systems. WordPress sites may include text and embedded graphics, photos, video, audio, maps, and program code (such as for applications) that displays content or interacts with the user through posts, pages, and custom post types. By their nature, WordPresss support the separation of content and presentation.”

(Source: A wise guy)

Under the “Common Features” section of its CMS page, Wikipedia lists a bunch of features that content management systems typically provide. Let’s go through and compare these features with what WordPress offers:

  • Search engine optimization: This can be easily achieved using permalinks, categories, tags, SEO plugins, anchor text hyperlinks in content, internal linking, etc.
  • Integrated and online documentation: WordPress provides official documentation (Codex), including support forums, and many sites include video-based and online WordPress tutorials.
  • Modularity and extensibility: We call’em ‘plugins‘.
  • User and group functionality: WordPress has built-in user roles and capabilities, collaborative features, comments and discussions, and can enhance user and group functionality through all kinds of plugins.
  • Templating support for changing designs: Yup, we call’em themes.
  • Installation and upgrade wizards: Easy peasy cee-em-ess-eze! WordPress can be installed in just a few clicks and the same goes for upgrading its core software, plus any installed themes and plugins. Many plugins even come with setup wizards.
  • Integrated audit logs: Yup, got those too! From system and debugging reports, to stats in the dashboard that stare right back at you as soon as you log into the admin section.
  • Compliance with various accessibility frameworks and standards, such as WAI-ARIA: Pretty sure WordPress’ got this!
  • Reduced need to code from scratch: Who needs to code with WordPress when you got plugins, widgets, blocks, and shortcodes?
  • Unified user experience: United we stand … hooks, lines, and filters. We don’t <div>
  • Version control: WordPress has no aversions to versions. In fact, WordPress releases a new version approximately every 3 months (it’s like version control is out of control!). Check ’em out here: WordPress History
  • Edit permission management: With WordPress user roles and capabilities, admins can assign default permissions to different user groups and customize these using various plugins and modifications.
  • Indexing and search: WordPress has its own built-in search functionality, and all content, posts, pages, etc. are indexed and archived in the database and can be easily retrieved, filtered, and sorted internally (e.g. Table of Posts) and externally (e.g. tags, categories, calendar widgets, etc.)
  • Format or style management through themes: You haven’t lived until you’ve installed and activated a new WordPress theme.
  • Web-based publishing: WordPress doesn’t just publish, it can also get your site automatically indexed in search engines and your content syndicated to social networks and other sites and directories using built-in features like pinging services and RSS feeds, and various plugins and integrations with 3rd party services.

Given all of the above, it’s hard to dispute that WordPress is an actual content management system.

So, next time you’re at a party and everyone’s had a few too many and some old timer is reminiscing about reviving Frontpage or harping about the merits of some other CMS, you can deliver the kicker … WordPress is not only an actual content management system, it’s so much more!

WordPress is becoming more than a CMS, or even a web publishing platform! With the ability to use REST APIs to create a Headless WordPress CMS and developments like ‘blocks’ introduced with the release of WordPress 5.0 (aka WordPress Gutenberg), the entire platform is shapeshifting to something that even William Shatner would be proud to blog about on his WordPress site.

To quote Einstein had he been smart enough to blog before blogging and content management systems became relatively popular, WordPress = CMS2.

WP=CMS2
WP=CMS2

Tags:
Martin Aranovitch
Martin Aranovitch Martin believes that we can all live sustainably in a WordPress-centric digital universe and spends most of his time taking copious notes and creating epic tutorials to prove his theory. Before joining WPMU DEV, Martin authored many WordPress guides and courses for beginners.
Are you using WordPress as a CMS for sites other than blogs and small business websites? How do you explain WordPress as a CMS to your clients? Post your comments below ...