There are plenty of content management systems available in the internet space. In 2009, in the context of finding a replacement tool for a proprietary, highly-outdated, web app at the local Community Network Naples Free-Net, I took about 12 months to test plenty of content management systems.
Non-Technical Aspects of Content Management Systems
- How can a volunteer driven organization maximize support
- How fast can an organization publish their most relevant content online?
- Size and culture of the community, and
- Ecosystem to extend existing functionality.
Of course, nothing is perfect. Once you know a system provides all the essential features is comes down to the trade-offs, you’ll face. What’s the level of annoyance encountered when something goes wrong.How hard is it to obtain missing features and enhancements when you outgrow a system. Last but not least, what is the likelihood that the CMS will be around in four, five, years from now.
WordPress became the CMS of choice for the Naples Free-Net and now for NPTechProjects. Since 2010, we also use, almost exclusively WordPress for business websites and digital marketing clients in our commercial projects as well.
Working with nonprofits for a decade now, I noticed that the techies were long the guardians of online content and mostly bottlenecks in getting information into the community promptly. During the weekly transition workshops to WordPress, I noticed that one by one, the techies went away, and the newsletter editors, the communicators, and the membership chairs of the respective organizations started participated in the creating and published content. What a great outcome! I was thrilled and confident that the shift to WordPress was the right decision for these organizations. Put the communicators in control! And democratize publishing!
Now let me break it down some more:
Why WordPress is a good choice for Nonprofits of all sizes?
WordPress is open-source.
- Free as in free beer = doesn’t cost anything,
- free as in free speech = freely distributed, and
- free as in free kitten = in need of some TLC, to say the least.
We looked at the community of developers that support the WordPress core application. It’s a large bunch of bright people that have come together to develop and maintain the code. Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress, lists 218 developers in his post about the release of WordPress 3.0 of June 17, 2010. In 2015, Matt’s slide showed 806 contributors. If you learn more about where WordPress is heading and are interested in some more numbers in 2017, watch Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word from 2016. Matt Mullenweg is the co-founder of WordPress together with Mike Little.
WordPress is not only a community of coders but also a large community of WordCamp organizers and local WordPress Meetups. It has a healthy group of core developers with a consistent record of updates and bug fixes. A total of 1400 individuals committed code, documents and bug reports to WordPress development environment.
WordPress is ubiquitous
By the end of 2016, WordPress powered 27% of all websites. It’s one of the few CMSs, experiencing constant growth of user base in a full field. The system has been tested and fixed and tested and fixed quite a few times. And if we need help, the user community and the developer community both are reachable almost 24/7, on forums and blogs. Support is also ubiquitous. This part is critical. At NPTechProjects, we are dedicated to the project and do additional research and expand our knowledge, but we are only a few and don’t know everything. Where would we go when we need help ourselves?
WordPress is cross-browser, cross-platform.
WordPress is accessible for visually impaired and not-English speakers.
WordPress is flexible.
WordPress is expandable.
WordPress has probably the most consistent open system that allows others to expansion and augmentation. WordPress can be expanded to design and layout area by “Themes,” and enhanced with additional features and functionality by “Plugins.” The system, how to swap out a Themes or add and remove Plug-ins is very transparent and mostly standardized. It gives developers as much as site owners a unique way to find and use both, Themes and Plugins. It also provides a central repository for those enhancements on WordPress.org. You can search for Themes and Plugins; you can rate them, see screenshots and get links to developers and support forums. There are also 3rd party sites showcasing and selling WordPress Themes and premium plugins.
Being expandable also means, that even if the initial installation does not provide a particular functionality, we might find it in the Plugin directory. In fact, most of the time you’ll find six to ten different solutions available, all from different programmers, all following the minimum requirements of WordPress. Not only other nerdy programmers come up with plugins. Major players in the business software community find it worthwhile to spend time and money to create plugins for WordPress site owners; just to name a few: Salesforce, MailChimp, Eventbrite, even Microsoft (no joke!).
Today there are 49,855 plugins listed with over 1.4 Billion total downloads.
Yes, with this vast amount of plugins, it’s sometimes hard to select the right plugin. We at NPTechProject share the plugins and themes, we mostly use, and we also test plugins outside the immediate use case, to find the gems and offer real solutions to our members. You can look at my Favorites on WordPress plugin repository, for inspiration.
WordPress training and skills are not wasted.
This aspect was very, very important for our decision. If a small organization is looking for technology competencies, WordPress is certainly a skill set quite often available even in the remote areas of the nation. And if that is not the case the vast amount of available documentation allows for self-study and fast results. The organization, as well as the staff member or volunteer, can be sure that the skills learned, will not be wasted time. The skills could be used in other organizations or for themselves. We all have learned, relearned and unlearned enough technology skills to know that some of you just learn for this particular job, and will never use it again. With WordPress even if the knowledge is not available within the organization, there is a large community of designers, developers and content managers that are available for hire without breaking the bank. During the hiring process, asking for WordPress skills in your future employees will soon be as common as asking for skills in Microsoft Word and Excel.
So, WordPress is a publishing platform that makes it easy for anyone to publish online, and proudly powers millions of websites. It comes in two flavors: the fully hosted WordPress.com, and the self-hosted version, whose software is available for free atWordPress.org.
We feel to use WordPress to its full potential and allow your website to be the best it can be; your organization would need a self-hosted WordPress installation. This is the stage when WordPress becomes the free kitten open-software. Some techie still would need to be around to manage the self-hosted installation on the server, take care of upgrades, of core WP, Themes, and Plugins, make small adjustments to layout files and other techie stuff. And that’s where we enter the picture. It is what we at NPTechProjects do well.
- We collaborate with our hosting partner and take care of the server portion of your self-hosted WordPress installation.
- We update WP versions after we test them for you.
- We also hold regular training sessions and provide a forum to discuss aspects of your website.
- We test plugins and write how-to’s for their usage
- We explore the WordPress space and let you know what’s relevant.
You produce the stories and information and the graphics; WordPress will let you posted it into the world. And we take away the technical hurdles or lead you through them as a member of our WP4Good Club
More resources on WordPress in the Nonprofit Community
- Working with WordPress (WordPress Codex)
- Beginner’s Guide to WordPress (WPBeginners.com)
- WordPress Guide for Nonprofits (NonprofitWP)
- More general information at First Site Guided
- Public Facebook Group: WordPress for Nonprofits
- NTEN Community of Practice: WordPress