Using the same Content Management System every day can lead to a sense of insulation and a center-of-the-universe perspective that makes it easy to forget there are other ways to publish online.
That’s why I attended last week’s Vancouver WordPress Meetup: “Creating a New Site for Your Business,” at The Network Hub downtown. I wanted to learn about CMS platforms other than WP.
This meetup was hosted by Bonnie Sainsbury, founder of Smarter Social Media , (and named by Forbes as #13 among the top 20 most influential women and among the 28 most top most influential social media people.)
Bonnie spoke for the WordPress camp, but first she introduced Margaret Reynolds to give us a tour of Wix.
Tel Aviv-based Wix, offers lots of industry-specific themes to choose from, Margaret said, and it allows easy customization of the design, has basic SEO tools, templates for sub-pages, contact forms, maps, photo galleries. Video loading is easy and there are lots of options for presentation. There are Apps, which are Wix’s version of plugins, as well as built-in pictures and graphics. And yes, Wix is responsive.
“You are limited only by your imagination,” Margaret said.
Sites that use “Wix.com” in their URL are free. If you want to use your domain, annual plans start at $4 per month with ads displayed. An ecommerce site starts at $19 per month.
From what Margaret showed us, Wix seems like a great option for a small business owner who’d prefer to never see a line of code.
Wix is definitely not for geeks.
To compare WordPress.org with Wix, Bonnie introduced us to the concept of digital sharecropping: posting in a place where the user does not control their own digital content. Facebook, Twitter and all the free hosting sites are places to grow a site on someone else’s property.
With WP, she emphasized, you can self host for about $60 per year with unlimited domains. She likes premium themes because they are updated as WordPress versions are updated.
WP is easy to integrate with social media, does not need customization and has a legion of users and developers who form a giant support network.
On the subject of WordPress plugins, Bonnie waxed glowingly about Yoast’s WP SEO.
“It’s like secrets of the universe when it comes to SEO for mere mortals!”
By the time computer engineer Curtis Hemingway got up to speak for Joomla, he seemed to be waving a white flag.
He approaches platforms like Wix, WordPress and Joomla as the same: a collection of applications. He sees his job these days less as a developer and more of an application manager.
“Custom solutions don’t have a place in the market today. There’s too many well-made turnkey business solutions that are so cheap and you can deploy very quickly. If you are having someone custom program each page you deserve to live in the 90s – forever.”
He said the industry has devolved him out of a job, but admits that it’s better for businesses that way.
“What I try to do now is deliver a solution, so that when I don’t show up for work or answer the phone someone else can step in and run with it, and it won’t compromise the business.”
Instead of focusing on the tools, he suggested, get the website straight in your head. Visualize your site before getting to the interface.
Differences Between WordPress and Joomla
Many questions were asked about the Joomla community, and the WordPress updates, but the biggest difference I heard is that size matters.
“Wordpress was designed as a blog and has evolved into a CMS. Joomla was born as a CMS and has been handling big sites for a long time, but it’s newer to blogging,” Curtis said.
And then there’s Drupal, considered the granddaddy of them all, possessing industrial strength powers. For a small business to use Drupal, Curtis said, “Is like sitting in a Ferrari in a play-school zone.”
As a CMS, Joomla may have the better track record, but WP has the most traction.
“What that (traction) does is attract developers to these platforms to develop proprietary software to give us more choice,” he said.
Bonnie said, “It’s a matter of understanding what’s you want to accomplish with your site and understanding what’s available to you, and then making a decision.”
To close up the debate, WPYVR ringleader Morten Rand-Hendriksen stepped in to sum up the difference between WordPress and Joomla, and by extension, Drupal.
“WP is very easy to use for the end user and that comes to the detriment of very advanced functions.
“Joomla is in the middle as a CMS, but it’s less easy for people who end up managing it.
“With Drupal the chance of the client destroying the site in an attempt to update it is very high.
“You have to balance how strong the security should be, why you’re actually trying to build a site, and what stuff you’re putting in the site. Look at what you’re trying to do, how much you can invest to make it work, as well as the end person running it.”
Essentially, when considering what platform to use, the question is: do you want an easy user interface for the person managing your website?
Update: Read more about Wix in Why Wix Works for Photos, my experiment in creating a travel photo site with Wix.
The Vancouver WordPress Meetup is a great place to learn about WordPress (and other platforms) for users as well as developers. I encourage all my Vancouver followers to sign up to receive invites to the meetings. They fill up fast!