WebVisions: The Salty WebWhy CMSs are Making Us All Bloated

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Brad Weaver

Client calls, they need a website or application, you pick a CMS, send a quote, and go. That’s how most of us have been doing it for the last several years to the point that WordPress now powers almost half of the entire web!

Much like over-prescribing antibiotics, we’re creating a web that is becoming resistant to real solutions. It’s time to step back a bit and establish some criteria to determine if you really need a CMS for that web project. When was the last time (ahem, yesterday) that you hacked or created a plugin to just get content to display in a way that you could do with raw code in 20 minutes? How about adding a 500K slider plugin just to do something that’s possible with two lines of jQuery?

It’s time to think through our small, medium, and large projects to sort out exactly what our clients need and how we can let our UX and design goals dictate the code instead of hacking a CMS. We’ll take a deeper look at not just technology but also pricing and client-relationship strategies that may work in your long-term favor (whether freelancing or in-house) to keep your website running lean, strong, and efficiently for the long-haul.


Hash #CMSBloat

Are you a

  • Designer
  • Front-end Developer
  • Developer
  • Unicorn
  • Other

Brad has worked with 41 CMS since 1998.

Why not just use WordPress?

WordPress is great, but it isn’t always scalable. If you need 40-50 plugins to do what you need, you may need to look at other option. Find the right tool

WCMS – Web based CMS
ECMS – Enterprise level CMS

Frameworks are not CMSs. Bootstrap and Foundation are not even frameworks! They are UI tools.

“UI Toolkits answer the what; CSS Frameworks answer the how”

Ghost – a node based CMS.

CMS must:

  • store content
  • control access to that content
  • check sontent in/out
  • manage the lifecycle of the content
  • allow version control
  • search for the content
  • publish content (sometimes)
  • provide analytics and reports

“Every content management system initiative should start with a thoughtful, intentional, and agreed-upon set of plans for design and implementation, worked out long before you start to use it.” Jacquie Samuels

We promise ourselves that this CMS is the one… It is insane to think that the same tool is right for every job.

4000-5000 pages in WordPress is too many? Slows way down?

The unholy trinity:


  • 150M downloads, 3000+ themes, 27,000 Plugins, Average update cycle 42 day2. Most user friendly.
  • Strong SEO. Very customizable. Very flexible.
  • Security is an issue. Incompatibility with old plugins. Limited content management (TinyMCE).
  • Good when a lot of users and you don’t have time to train. Good for eCommerce. Good if budget is limited. Best for blogging and SEO.
  • Not great with huge amounts of concurrent users.
  • Check out Barley CMS – New admin for WP or Drupal


  • 15M downloads, 1800 themes, 24000 plugins, Average update 51 days (much smaller changes)
  • Extremely flexible. Developer friendly (symphony framework). Strong SEO. Enterprise friendly (whitehouse.gov, Nato).
  • Upgrading is a nightmare! Need a data architect. People keep using old versions. Learning cliff. Lack of free plugins/themes.
  • “Requires” a framework.
  • Good for projects with lots of content. Best at stability, scalability and power. Good version control (for all content).
  • Bad if novices are maintaining the site. Or there is no training budget.


  • 30M downloads, < 1,000 themes, 7,000 plugins. Average update 36 days (small updates)
  • User friendly fro builder and client. Strong dev community in Europe.
  • Good for managing lots of content/deep content
  • Example: Big brother/ Big sisters (main and local sites)
  • Learning curve between WP and Drupal.
  • Lacks SEO. Limited Access control for multi-tier users.
  • Not a lot going on when first installed.
  • Good for high volume of users, but with limited interactions. Single type of user.
  • Not good for enterprise/ large sites.

WordPress powers half the Internet* – When internet is defined as sites that use a CMS (33% of all sites)


Expression Engine: Very flexible. Good for design oriented developers. Bad for advanced functionality. Scales well.

Craft CMS: New. People love it. Great WYSIWYG: Redactor

modX: Most flexible CMS out there. Doesn’t do anything out of the box.

Perch: Best $70 you can spend. Uses tiny DB. Super fast. Not open source.  Good support. Great for brochure websites.

Squarespace: Good for commerce. Cheap. Hosted.

PyroCMS: Similar to modX. Good developers out there.

Ghost: Kickstarter project. Lean blogging. built on nodeJS. Cool side-by-side editor.

ECMS (expensive, good support)

  • SharePoint
  • DNN (Dot Net Nuke)
  • djangoCMS
  • Symphoy
  • Sitecore
  • Mura

Flat file (super fast, super simple)

  • statmic
  • kirby


  • Macaw
  • Dreamwaever ;)

15 key questions:

  1. What is the site for?
  2. Who is going to use/visit the site?
  3. How will pages/posts be organized?
  4. How critical is custom design?
  5. How much user experience research has been done? (will UI elements need to change)
  6. Who will actually be editing the content, & how often?
  7. Do you need to sell anything from the website?
  8. How important is SEO?
  9. How important is search within the site?
  10. Will there be user interaction?
  11. How important is security?
  12. Will there be multiple sites or languages?
  13. IS there data coming in or out from anywhere else?
  14. How many people do you expect you to visit the site at the same time?
  15. How long does the site need to last?







Leave a Reply

You know you want to...