Let's face it, there simply is no other CMS that has even come close the the level of popularity that WordPress has managed to achieve. It's an admirable accomplishment that is well deserved. WordPress has taken what used to be complex functionality that only technical people could accomplish and dumbed it down to make things, for the most part, easier for the average user. As with most things however, it's only a matter of time before a better solution comes around. Nothing can stay on top forever so the question I will pose today is, what will it take to dethrone WordPress?
In this article, I'm going to reference Ghost quite a bit. The reason is simple, there are still some things I feel they are doing incorrectly but for the most part, they are following what I consider to be a successful strategy.
If there's one thing Matt and his team have done well, it's branding. Branding is the key to everything. If you can get your brand out there and make it stand for something, you are pretty much guaranteeing yourself success. What is WordPress known for? Simplicity.
The funny thing, however, is that it simply isn't the easiest CMS out there but none of that matters because for years, they've been telling you it is and so has everyone else. That's the key to branding. It doesn't matter if there's a better product out there, if you can convince people your product is the best at something, you will conquer the market. People will not only believe you, they'll tell everyone else they know that it is as well, if only to appear as though they know what they are talking about.
That's in no way a slam against WordPress or the people using it either. It's simply the way marketing works and has worked for years. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and WordPress certainly wins that battle.
The downsides to this kind of thinking, however, is that people will often recommend it immediately without any thought even if it is indeed the absolute worst tool possible for a situation. The same applies to any brand.
There are plenty of content management systems out there that offer nice themes but WordPress is, again, the king in this arena. There are more themes for WordPress than any other CMS in the world and that's an impressive achievement. Why are there so many? First, people are using the product therefore theme developers know they have an active community of users who they can convert into potential customers. Second, creating themes for WordPress is relatively easy to do (and there's good documentation showing how to do it). Third, the product is very flexible and easy to manipulate meaning the opportunities to create something unique exist for developers allowing them to be less limited with their imaginations.
Is it the perfect system? Of course not, but there are plenty of very successful theme companies making millions of dollars selling WordPress themes. Something that cannot be as easily stated when it comes to other CMS out there. Sure, there are lots of great Joomla template houses but nowhere near as many as WordPress.
No plugin system is perfect but WordPress has the advantage that their plugin system offers huge amounts of additional capability to users of the product. This is largely thanks for the open source model that WordPress operates under. Freely available code means the massive community now has the ability to extend the product on their own and that means a large number of freely available themes. There are some premium ones as well but the bulk are free and updated regularly.
We've seen some successful upstarts come out of the wood work to try to take a piece of the pie and some are doing quite well in gaining momentum. One particular contender that comes to mind is Ghost. The product is far from perfect but managed to come out of nowhere, generate a ton of interest via their Kickstarter campaign (a brilliant marketing strategy) and gain the interest of theme developers. As a result, there's a brand new Ghost Themes category in Themeforest and plenty of themes being submitted to it daily.
To beat WordPress one must focus on a several step process:
The right product needs to target themselves towards the massive blogger community (like Ghost has) and focus on marketing to the developers. If you can get developers on board and get them working on pounding out themes and plugins for the product, then the product will be in the position to start attracting the interest of the userbase.
Implement an easy migration path for those already on WordPress to easily move to your platform. This is something that currently does not exist within Ghost but needs to in order for them to succeed. Yes, they have the beginnings of a method ( shown here ) but it's still not easy enough. People who have invested large amounts of time pounding out content on WordPress don't want to go through a million steps just to move their stuff over. A simple one-plugin process that imports from WordPress would be the ideal solution. Granted, the fact that one currently exists (even if it is a bit complex) is better than nothing.
Here's another way Ghost has attempted to duplicate the WordPress recipe, by implementing a hosted solution. The problem is that Ghost has offered this only as a paid option which has limited appeal to the millions of people on WordPress.com that currently don't pay a dime. If Ghost was to alter their monetization platform to offer it up for free with paid upgrades, they'd be in a better position to compete. As it stands right now, I don't think they have chosen the right path as of yet. Furthermore, the pricing is too high in my mind. $10 / month, while it may not seem like much is simply too high for a beginner pricing model.
The next step is to build up a community and stay active in it. If you can show that your community is active and that your developers (or at the very least, a team of volunteers) are actively answering questions and encouraging users, this will naturally make other potential users feel like they won't be left alone in the dark if they move to your platform. Nobody wants to move to a platform with an inactive community. If you can make people feel welcome and supported, they will move.
Those are my thoughts as of the moment. I'll be adding to this article as more ideas come to mind but I think it warrants an interesting discussion. I'm not suggesting that WordPress needs to be dethroned either but rather opening up a discussion for those to celebrate the success of the product and to offer up recommendations for other projects looking to become more successful. I personally feel WordPress will be around for many more years and will continue to evolve in its functionality and I'm looking forward to seeing how things change.
What do you think? Join in below in the comments.