Websites are dead ... long live CMS!

Great March 01, 2012 column by John Coonen, writing on the sea-change brought around by open source content management systems and their impact on the old, static content, static development methods.


Rest In Peace, Web Sites. Long Live CMS Sites!Over fifteen years ago, the switch-over from static Web Sites, to dynamic CMS Sites began. The benefits were undeniable: CMS Sites were easier to update, less expensive to maintain, they empowered collaboration, creativity and it didn't take a programmer to drive. However, the big draw-back for users was cleary the high cost of ramp-up. Back in the day, it wasn't uncommon to lay down $50,000 for a bare-bones system. Ouch.

Still, the businesses and organizations that could justify the expenditure, did so at break-neck speed. The clear ROI leverage, combined with a hefty ticket price became a very fat cash cow for development firms world wide.

For enterprises, a multi-million dollar investment in the right CMS paid back huge dividends, streamlining operations, speeding time-to-market, unifying the message, engaging stakeholders, simplifying processes and creating massive competitive advantages over their arch rivals. They learned how to do more with less effort.

Systems are like that. ;)

OK, so fast forward a decade or so.
The Open Source wave hit us, bringing with it a first wave of community-powered Free Open Source CMS solutions. Joomla! clearly led the charge in the beginning, followed by then lesser-known Drupal and Movable Type, TYPO3, joined soon by a little-known orphan project called b2cafelog, picked up by Matt Mullenweg, and re-branded WordPress (a bazinga! moment).

They came together at just the right time, playing off Tim O'Reilly's perfectly marketed Web 2.0 ideas, just as that movement gained traction, to provide nothing short of "A CMS for the rest of us." Collectively, that first wave of FOSS CMSs, delivered any time of day or night via the magic of a smiley-faced Fantastico button (you don't think I'd forget that, do you?), brought many of the powers of a million dollar CMS to the desktops and servers of non-profits, churches, community service clubs, college dorm hackers, entrepreneurs and other early adopters in education and government.

Stick with me here...

So skipping ahead to the end, it was clear that there would be a very messy battle between the enthusiastic Open Source advocates, and vested and entrenched Closed Source Proprietary brands. This in of itself warrants several book titles, but in the end, I believe the surge of Free, Open Source CMSs, and the battle for position itself, only helped to propagate both sides. Today, CMS is more popular than ever on both sides of the "Source" battle.

So who won the battle? I can honestly say, everyone.

That's not just kumbaya talk either. ;) I'd also say we're either in a long lull, or the "battle" may be over (knock on wood). My sense is, this bloodless war of ideology is over, and all...sides...won. Weird, I know. I think it comes down to the fact that everyone's so damn busy on projects, there's no time, nor compelling reason to fight. We'll see what happens when tech budgets get tight, but I don't see that happening soon.

The biggest winners during the first five years of the battle (2005 - 2010) were end-user non-profits, small and middle tier businesses and organizations. Accessible, self-serve, affordable and fast-adapting "CMSs for the rest of us" introduced the Content Management System's processes of workflow, collaboration, access control, storage & retrieval, user management, and much more to an audience of users that were all too happy to bury FrontPage and Dreamweaver, and get more work done by many staff members, rather than risking the entire web-side of the business on a moody geek with an attitude, hording the keys to the kingdom.

My sense is, starting recently, and in the long run, the big Enterprise CMSs will win out as well. Necessity is the mother of invention, and they've whole new business models and a stonger focus on Cloud technology has empowerd the stalwarts. The talent pool is much bigger as well.

Most importantly, Proprietaries now have a prepped audience that's already educated and sold on the idea of CMS itself. Now, they just need to decide which one fits their needs best. That's a big deal. That means the sales funnel not only widened exponentially, but the time in the sales cycle just shaved months, if not years off the timeline for many would-be buyers, and the Proprietaries didn't have to do a thing to widen the funnel, nor shave the timeline.

The number of would-be buyers who have self-educated via the FOSS solutions is massive. Now, it's up to the Props and quasi-open folks to figure out what to do with that audience. Either way, the universe they operate in is much, much bigger.

Now years later, as some in the FOSS user realm are naturally frustrated by its real and/or perceived shortcomings, some are making the jump, with no help or prodding along the way. Why? Many reasons, including service, security, fast turnaround, privacy concerns…

But look back at the battle, and realize, it's not between static vs. dynamic any more.
That's why it's clear, static sites are for all intents and purposes, dead. History. Finito. The argument is taking place on a much higher plane now. The evolution is not 100% complete by any means, but it's crystal clear, the tombstone has already been engraved for static Web Sites, both feet are in the casket, "great grampa" has done his part, and is now laying down with a smile on his face. Now, it's time get home to get back to work, together.

Rest In Peace, Static Web Sites, rest in peace. Long live CMS Sites!

Market IQ is a website development, graphic design, publishing and marketing agency in Victoria, B.C. Canada. Market IQ is focused on delivering results for valued clients both online and in print. All images, text, software, documentation, electronic text and image files, audio and video files and clips, and other materials on this website are protected by copyright laws and may be covered by other restrictions as well.

SEPT92013block