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Missing the Point of WordPress Entirely

A post by Kevinjohn Gallagher on “no longer recommending WordPress” to his clients has gotten a bit of traction lately. While there’s legitimate criticism to be leveled at WordPress, Gallagher’s isn’t (for the most part) it. If you’re approaching WordPress with the expectation that it’s the be-all and end-all of content management systems (CMSes) you’re going to be sorely disappointed. And frankly, I hope WordPress never tries to fit the ridiculous list of requirements that Gallagher tries to saddle it with.

Apparently this has been brewing for a while, judging by Gallagher’s comments on WPTavern in December. While Gallagher has a few legitimate complaints (no doubt many users wish the admin UI would just settle down a bit), carping about lack of reporting and support for IE6 demonstrates criteria that are more than a bit out of whack.

What Is And What Should Never Be

Let’s look at some of Gallagher’s requirements, and ask ourselves was WordPress ever intended to do these things or were the expectations a little off?

You can approach any piece of software and walk away completely disappointed if your expectations are out of whack. Gallagher’s complaints are as much a reflection on his poor choice of software as any failings on the behalf of WordPress.

Gallagher says that WordPress has “no, or severely limited” document management, workflow management, single sign-on, digital asset management, publishing options, WYSIWYG editing, multi-lingual and many others. WordPress.org describes WordPress as “web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog.”

As WordPress has grown, it’s cautiously taken on the CMS label, but it does not promise to be a full-blown content management system in the old school tradition of biggie CMS installations. And despite the fact that many folks pine for WordPress to become the Swiss Army knife of CMSes, it simply cannot while staying true to its core community.

Designing “beautiful” websites has very little to do with digital asset management features. Single sign-on is something that would be nice to have in WordPress, but is it really something that would benefit a large percentage of WordPress users for the effort required? Is true WYSIWYG editing really promised or required to build a Web site, or even necessary in any CMS?

Many of the features Gallagher wishes for are available via plug-ins, though perhaps not implemented exactly as Gallagher would wish. For example, you can get some document management with plugins. You can get workflow management with a plugin. Note that these may not suit your tastes, but then again – they might not suit your taste if they were implemented in core WordPress, either. The nice thing is that you can get different implementations that suit different use cases.

WP Document Revisions

It’s also worth noting that some of Gallagher’s complaints about WordPress are inaccurate, overly vague or exaggerated. I’m not even sure what n-to-n sharing is, and trying to find that on Google didn’t help. (Any CMS gurus care to enlighten me in the comments?) The claims that WordPress beta didn’t work in Windows at all is a gross exaggeration. And it’s a bleeping beta anyway. And was this in Internet Explorer, or all browsers? I suspect when Gallagher says “Windows” he really means “old versions of Internet Explorer.”

Setting Expectations

You can approach any piece of software and walk away completely disappointed if your expectations are out of whack. Gallagher’s complaints are as much a reflection on his poor choice of software as any failings on the behalf of WordPress. As he even says in his post, “Our clients have consistently given us worse and worse feedback on the update process, and asked for more and more features that WordPress simply isn’t capable of. That is not a criticism of the software itself, though I know many will think that, it’s just that it’s not able to do what we constantly try to make it do.”

Well, yeah. WordPress also doesn’t make me waffles and wash my socks. Then again, I never expected it to.

Long story short? Gallagher utterly failed himself and clients if he’s been banging away at WordPress for four years with increasing disappointment. While requirements do emerge over time in any project, it sounds a lot like the biggest failure here was in gathering requirements at the start of the project and ensuring that WordPress met them.

As I’ve said here and elsewhere a number of times, I’m a big fan of Vim. It matches my requirements for a text editor perfectly, but it’s simply not suitable for any users who are unwilling to put in the time/effort. It’s not suitable for those who need something radically different, like revision tracking features in Microsoft Word. Want an editor that runs on the iPad? Sorry. That’s not a failing on the part of Vim, it’s simply a mismatch.

All too Common

Unfortunately, Gallagher’s reaction to WordPress is typical. It sounds very much like Gallagher plunged into recommending WordPress without really scoping his client’s requirements under the assumption that it can do anything. WordPress does have its failings (so do the other CMSes) but it’s also chock full of awesome for a wide range of projects. Part of supporting WordPress is knowing what those projects are.

Gallagher, his firm and his clients should use whatever works for them, of course. It doesn’t sound like WordPress fits the bill for whatever requirements they have, and that’s fine. But don’t slag WordPress (or any other software) for failing to deliver something it never promised in the first place.

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