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WordPress for Government – A Problem of Perception

Over the past several years WordPress’s market share has enjoyed explosive growth across virtually every industry. Today, it powers nearly a quarter of new sites, and is the CMS of choice for more than two thirds of the top-million sites on the web making it the world’s most popular publishing platform by a long shot. Yet one group of seemingly ideal users has been slow to take the former blogging platform seriously: .Govs.

Drupal powers twice as many federal .Govs as every other CMS combined. That’s more than six Drupal sites for every one WordPress .Gov alone, not to mention the Joomlas, MovableTypes, and SharePoints of the world. The build-it-yourself software powers the White House, the House of Representatives, half a dozen agencies, and countless data-driven microsites like Recovery.gov and the IT Spending Dashboard, and its public sector use is equally if not more impressive abroad.

A Problem of Perception

Typical Enterprise Misconceptions

  • WordPress is a blogging platform
  • WordPress doesn’t scale well
  • Most plugins are written by hobbyists, not professionals
  • WordPress is less secure
  • WordPress can’t handle complex data types or user roles
  • There’s no enterprise support
  • There aren’t many WordPress developers
  • No “serious” people use WordPress
  • The WordPress codebase is immature

WordPress’s disproportionately low government adoption is arguably the result of a handful of factors. For one, custom post types, the feature that formally graduated WordPress from a mere blogging platform into a full-fledged content management system has only been around since June of last year. Yet, even among new sites, the ratio remains somewhat stagnant, if not shrinking, leaving one to believe that the technology has lapped its own already stellar perception.

When you stack the two side by side (or against any other CMS for that matter), WordPress is objectively the prudent choice. On paper, you’d be hard-pressed to make the case for anything else. But, it’s not a technical problem. It’s a human one. It seems that WordPress’s greatest asset – ease of use that has resulted in widespread adoption by a largely non-technical user base – is threatening to become its greatest liability.

Among those empowered to make purchasing decisions, there seems to be a sense that WordPress is what you use on the weekends to post pictures of your lunch while Drupal is what you use for “serious” business, and with good reason. For better or for worse, Drupal has positioned itself as not just a CMS, but rather the enterprise solution — an inseparable fifth layer of the increasingly ubiquitous enterprise LAMPD stack.

Continue reading WordPress for Government – A Problem of Perception by Benjamin J. Balter

Related posts:

  1. Analysis of Federal Executive .Govs
  2. Open-Source Alternatives to Proprietary Enterprise Software
  3. Towards a More Agile Government


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Comment by Bill Brantley on March 8, 2012 at 10:15am

As a follow-up on my posting about integration - introducing Collabograte.Notice that WordPress is part of the package.

Comment by Michael McGee on March 7, 2012 at 6:33pm

I’m a big fan of Joomla! which approaches Drupal in providing a high level of functionality and control while coming in a lot closer to WordPress in terms of technical costs / expertise for running the site.

Comment by Benjamin J. Balter on March 7, 2012 at 4:28pm

@Katie, sorry for the confusion there. Honestly. The article was originally published in a print publication from which I put a small excerpt on my site, which I thought got some of the main points across.

Much of what is in the rest of the article is oddly in the comments here, and on the original post, but to paraphrase, (2) building a stronger pro-government user community to serve as a resource for training/learning, (3) Outreach and education as to (new-ish) CMS capabilities (see the thread below as to why), (4) Continuing to build more "serious" features into core, etc.

As someone mentioned below, it's not necessarily a Drupal (or Liferay or whatever) versus WordPress thing. Any open source is a good thing. I myself am a government Drupal user. Mainly set out to look at WordPress's lack of adoption, and try to ferret out why (and how to improve).

Decision lag combined WordPress's lack of custom post type support 3 or 4 major versions ago seem to be the biggest culprits.

Either way, thanks for taking the time to read/comment and feel free to contact me and I can try to send the rest of the post your way.

Comment by Andrew K Kirk on March 7, 2012 at 2:49pm

While I know many who love it, Drupal seems oddly organized and overly complicated. In contrast, WordPress feels intuitive, easy to use, and as robust as needed. 

Comment by DUBOIS Michel on March 7, 2012 at 1:37pm

Hi, ...

When you create an account on WordPress, it is IMPOSSIBLE to delete it ...

It's written very deep into their conditions of use ... 
They don't prevent before you have created your account ...  

...

M.D. 

Comment by Katie P. on March 7, 2012 at 1:18pm

This post has a "continue reading" link which takes me to the article on the author's personal site, but that article is "an excerpt of an article originally printed in the March, 2012 issue of The WPCandy Quarterly.  Continue Reading." The Continue Reading link takes me to the site of the print-only(?) WPCandy Quarterly magazine.  No opportunity to keep reading on the web.   The excerpt says there are small steps to take, then there is one numbered paragraph, and that's it - it doesn't address the other 'typical enterprise misconceptions,' which is what I am interested in.  So....anyone care to tackle the "There’s no enterprise support" misconception in these comments?  Thanks in advance!

Comment by Adam Arthur on March 7, 2012 at 1:11pm

Wordpress with the Catalyst theme framework makes the best coded, best featured, easiest to manage websites I've ever seen hands down. I will use nothing else, and I've used everything out there.

Comment by Brian Gilday on March 7, 2012 at 12:29pm

Hear Hear Bill!  I agree that Drupal and WordPress are both great open source tools and there are many more excellent open source tools out there.  It should not be an either/or argument.  It makes sense to use what's best given each organization's unique requirements.  We use Drupal for city websites that we build since it works so well for us, but there are certainly many other cases (as you point out) where other options, or combinations of multiple platforms, make best sense.

Comment by Bill Brantley on March 7, 2012 at 12:17pm

I'm not sure why this has to be an either/or argument. I use Drupal AND WordPress AND TikiWiki for my personal site and have helped others set up sites that use both Drupal and WordPress. I got into Drupal, WordPress, and phpBB because of Douglas, Little, and Smith's excellent book on using the three tools together to build online communities. It's the platform and not the individual software that makes your online presence successful.

That's the beauty of open source; I can mix-and-match software to fit virtually use case I have.

Comment by Jennifer K. Smith on March 7, 2012 at 11:35am

Very interesting article -- and it hits home. Over a year ago, our Communications Office realized WordPress was a viable CMS option -- and not just a "blogging tool." Partnering with our Dept. of Technology Services, we formally adopted WordPress as our "alternative CMS approach" to building (or rebuilding) new websites. So, far it's been highly successful, allowing us to create new websites quickly and efficiently (LOW cost!). And equally important -- the content updaters/internal clients are thrilled. An easy-to-use tool that accomplishes their business objectives -- imagine that! You've heard the phrase, "There's an app for that." Well with WordPress, there's a PlugIn for pretty much everything. Is it perfect? No. Is it working well for very low/no cost. Yes. (Note: One challenge we're starting to deal with more aggressively is creating consistency across the new sites.)

A sampling of sites we're running on WordPress (and more in the works): library.arlingtonva.us, columbiapikeva.us, freshaireva.us, arlingtonplace.us.

 

(For technie folks: Our Tech Services Dept has set up a multisite installation of WordPress to create efficiences in enterprise-level site administration -- hosted externally.)

 

If you're not spending a ton of money on something, it must not be good, right? Wrong! ;-)

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