1999 Called: They Want Your Website Back
A quick primer for the non-technical readers: A Content Management System (CMS) is the technology used to make a website that marketing people can edit easily, without knowing how to code.
How Websites Get Built
Longer-term readers of my newsletter will know that I've written at length about the state of the CMS technology. If you really want to get nerdy, you can read my white paper on building a Headless CMS directly in AWS, but suffice to say the technology used to power most websites today (WordPress, Drupal, Sitecore, Adobe, etc.) is really old. How old you ask? So old, that if you were still using your cellphone from around that time, it would look something like this:
- There was no touch screen
- There were no color cellphones
- GPS was just being introduced
Indeed, full QWERTY keyboards were just beginning introduction. Blackberry circa 1999 looked like this:
What does this have to do with websites?
To be clear, I am not hating on cellphones. All of these phones were super cool at the time and were replacing older models. In many cases, they were breaking new ground with technologies that had never been available before, and they have lead to the amazing devices we now take for granted.
When it comes to Content Management Systems of the time, they were replacing ancient, incredibly expensive ERP systems designed by companies like SAP and Oracle — and they were doing it all powered by Open Source.
For a good fifteen years, things were amazing. In 2013 I wrote that “Open Source is the New Microsoft,” meaning people didn't get fired for choosing Open Source, when in the previous decade it had been a risky career move.
But the world has changed a lot since the year 2013, and even more since the early 2000s when all of these Content Management Systems and cellphones were designed.
My daughter was born in 2002 — the technology powering your website shouldn't be.
Your website probably sucks
If your website is built on a CMS designed in 2001, it's probably not very good. It wasn't designed with the Cloud in mind, and more importantly it's likely costing you more to maintain over the next three years than it would cost to replace.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the entire Gartner Magic Quadrant for CMS is entirely wrong; none of the systems listed below would be anything I would recommend for a customer.
We've Done our Homework
This declaration comes not only based on twenty years of working with CMSs, but also on the heels of an exhaustive thirty-one CMS review for a customer looking to replace an <ahem> “older” CMS. Technical Product Manager, Dave Bellous, and CTO, Tony Rost, will be sharing that data in an upcoming blog, but this research is actually best suited for websites with special needs. These include:
- Massive user databases (measured in millions)
- Giant traffic spikes (think televised events)
- Significant user functionality (web applications)
- Global localization needs (multi-country, multi-language websites)
Other than that, some of the off-the-shelf CMS products are actually just fine. My go-to recommendations are generally Squarespace for very small businesses or individuals, and Hubspot for everyone else — up to and including simple marketing websites for large publicly traded companies.
A Word on HubSpot
Much more than a simple CMS, Hubspot provides significant functionality levels on the marketing front (CRM, chatbots, analytics — even this email), making it an incredibly powerful platform. Anyone interested in learning more about Hubspot should check out their conference #INBOUND2020. It's virtual now, and we’ve found it incredibly valuable when we attended last year. We got a chance to connect with our Account Executive, Scott Rossow and not only learned a ton about the Hubspot ecosystem, but also sat in some super inspiring sessions. For our Director of Marketing and Brand, Corinna Gelster-Borgardt and I, it was truly eye-opening. This year Metal Toad returned as a full-fledged Solutions Partner.
What to do with your website
Now is a great time to rethink what your website is bringing to the table. Above all, there are four questions to ask:
- Can I be spending less on my website? (The answer is probably, yes)
- Can my website be easier to administer? (Again, probably, yes)
- Can my website bring more value to my customers?
- Can my website bring more value to my organization?