Jesse Lawson

Bestselling author and open-source evangelist.

Oct 30, 2013 - WordPress

Making the Case for a New, Lightweight WordPress Release

WordPress is incredibly powerful as a CMS and the back-end is clearly designed for website architects. However, WordPress was originally intended to be a personal publishing platform, and by bombarding would-be bloggers with CMS functionality we are turning off a whole community of WordPress users who are, quite frankly, hungry for a blog platform without the bloat.

In this article, I’m going to make the case for a new, lightweight WordPress release, one without the bloat.

For more than just blogging

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of Ghost, the up-and-coming blog platform that touts “Just a blogging platform” as its motto. The system is built on JS and is, as far as anyone else can tell, it’s lighting fast and easy to use. It does come with a slight learning curve if you want to customize it, but as far as blogging is concerned, it’s basically everything strict-bloggers wanted from WordPress but can’t get because of WordPress’ commitment to CMS functionality.

This isn’t a bad thing and it’s not a good thing. It’s a neutral thing. For starters, WordPress is either adapting to the consumer demand for the continued commercialization of WordPress (WP as a business model) or adapting to the demands of internet communication. What I mean by this is that the way we think about websites and website development today is different from what we considered “web development” ten or fifteen years ago. Back then, it was normal to say “Welcome to my website!” and have a guestbook for people to sign. Nowadays? Not so much. Perhaps, then, WordPress has embraced CMS functionality so much because that’s just what we as internet users have come to expect from a system designed to manage the publication of content.

In this way, we could consider the idea of personal blogging — where we just write articles and publish them and nothing more — to be an out-dated one; the sharing of knowledge today requires more than just writing and publishing articles, and WordPress’s development over the years has reflected that.

Either way, what we have is a break from the traditional role of WordPress as a personal publishing platform and a tool that has been designed as a content management system first and blogging platform second. I don’t believe that this was the intended result, but rather, I think this was the inevitable result.

We’re left with two options: either the accept that “blogging” and personal publishing necessarily involves CMS functionality these days, or we strip out those CMS features from WordPress entirely. The latter is the direction I’m going, here, but we don’t have to be so bold.

Different releases for different usage

Instead of stripping functionality from WordPress or gutting core components from what has been a very viable and feature-rich system, we focus our attention back on the blogger. What are the requirements of our end users, and how can we best satisfy those requirements while not swaying from the principles and architecture that is the foundation of the software’s credibility?

The answer lies in a new WordPress release. We have to take WordPress as it exists right now and understandably market it toward people who are interested in a fully functional and powerful CMS system. From there, we can stop focusing on WordPress as a solution to every web information problem out there and can point people into more relevant directions when they ask, “Should I use WordPress for my blog about XYZ?”

“Yes, you should use WordPress,” should be the answer, followed by, “in fact, there’s a WP release specifically for people who just want to blog. You can turn on CMS features if you’d like, but if you don’t care about all that, you can just blog with it.”

Some parting thoughts:

  • Can we really expect coexistence of multiple WordPress releases catered toward different audiences? (I asked this question here, too.)
  • Would an ultra-plugin — a works-out-of-the-box system that you just drop into WordPress’s root directory) benefit developers and site engineers? (Think: Setting up a new blog for a client who does not want to use the CMS features. You ready the site, you get them set up, then you drop in the super-plugin and *poof* the back-end is instantly changed to a lightweight, clean blog handling system).