As WordPress has taken the place at the top of the Content Management System world, it’s easy to forget that alternatives exist. WordPress is so capable and can now be pretty much used for every site type, from simple personal blogs to complex web applications, forums, social networking and just about every vertical under the sun. But is it always the right tool to use for the job?
I thought it would be interesting to take a step outside the world of WordPress and see what alternatives exist and what they can be used for…
Medium was created by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, who also created the Blogger platform so the site has a great pedigree. Medium is a platform for writers who wish to share long-form content and has the aim to “shift our daily reading habits away from consuming incremental news bites and towards engaging with enlightened ideas curated by an intelligent algorithm. ” The intelligent algorithm mentioned works by measuring the time spent on an article and recommending similar pieces of content, rather than the usual metrics of click through rate, which can be gamed, as seen by the now horrible click-bait titles which appear in our Facebook feeds each day.
Signing up to the service is a breeze, you simply click the “New Story” button on the homepage and sign in with Twitter or Facebook.
Adding a post on Medium is so simple and easy, it has a highly minimal post editor – simply click and enter your post title, click and enter text or add an image. You can also upload a background image for the post section. You can add multiple post sections and have different backgrounds for each.
Everything is very intuitive, for example: to edit your text style, simply highlight a piece of text and a popup will appear with text styles so you can bold, italicise, add a link or quote:
I really liked using Medium, it really does feel like a step forward for web publishing with an easy to use editor and reward for writing great content it looks like a great way to reach new readers and publish longer content. The only drawback is that due to it’s hosted nature, you never really own your site and content there so you are not free to do what you want with it.
Ghost is an open source blogging system which was launched last year by John O’Nolan after a widely successful Kickstarter campaign where it raised over £196k. A lot of the Kickstarter success was down to the lovely-looking and simplified post editing and dashboard screenshots:
Ghost allows you to signup for free or download a copy for use on your own hosting. If you wish to use their hosted version, you can signup in seconds and have a free 14 day trial of the service:
After your 14 days free trial the service costs from $10 per month for 25,000 views and goes up to $250 per month for 1million views so you can see it can be quite pricey if you have a hugely successful site.
Post editing takes place in a split-screen layout with post preview on the right and you edit on the left using markdown.
The default layout is highly minimal and quite similar to Medium’s approach:
There is a marketplace with a large number of free and paid themes so you can customize your Ghost blog and there are also themes available on marketplaces like ThemeForest, which has 160 themes currently listed.
Ghost has good promise if you are looking for a simple blogging solution with a minimal post editor – at the current moment though I don’t see much reason to choose it over WordPress, WP has more themes and plugins available and I’m not a fan of using markdown for the post editor – it’s something extra for people to learn when a visual editor would have been better.
Tumblr is huge and one platform which is giving WordPress a run for its money, they currently host 203 million blogs with 91billion posts. It has driven the “tumblog” way of posting where you can choose whether to post text, photos, quotes, links, chat, audio and video which was copied by WordPress when the introduced Post Formats.
Adding a post is really simple, choose your post format icon at the top, enter content and tag it and hit “post”:
Tagging is important on Tumblr as this how other people can find your content and follow your blog:
The Tumblr interface is easy to use, it’s reminiscent of an early Twitter layout but the styling is not really to my tastes but with the huge audience on Tumblr it’s a good platform to use if you tailor your content to the tastes there.
Craft is a free CMS available for download which is aimed more at developers who need a CMS they can customize by hand:
Craft is for folks who like to take their time and do things right, building out their HTML, CSS, and JS by hand. This is not a site builder or some sort of design tool. There are no themes, and you won’t find any flashy UI tools full of sliders and other gadgets that will help you “design” your website in minutes.
It’s free to use with one channel ( a channel is one section of a site, like a blog ) or for unlimited channels you will need to pay $199 or more.
Expression engine is a highly customizable CMS aimed at web professionals, it has a steeper learning curve than WordPress but is more highly configurable for different types of website:
Put ExpressionEngine in the hands of a talented web professional, and you’ll find you’ve got a platform flexible and powerful enough to build almost anything you can imagine. From the beginning, ExpressionEngine was designed to easily manage and flexibly display multiple channels of content. No stiff, stodgy themes to wrestle with here.
Of course I have only scratched the surface of available CMSs here, there are a huge number of other alternatives available but I saw these ones as the main alternatives to WordPress. You can get other systems tailored for specific uses such as forums and for specific niches.
Do you have any to add ? What I have I missed? Let me know in the comments …