Time To Move On From The “Is WordPress A CMS” Debate

WordPress Is A CMS Featured Image
photo credit: Cesar Maiacc

In the realm of WordPress, there is a particular debate that has been going on for years on whether WordPress is a CMS or not. CMSCritic has a great article by Kaya Ismail, that explains why WordPress is a CMS (Whether You Like it or Not). It’s one of the most refreshing perspectives I’ve read on the subject. The definition of a Content Management System is a web application designed to make it easy for non-technical users to add, edit and manage a website. WordPress fits that definition rather well and in many respects, excels at it. The problem as Ismail explains, is that the acronym has become muddied over the years.

The issue arises when the stripped down, true meaning of “CMS” is blown up with unnecessary jargon. In reality, those definitions hold very little weight, other than when they describe added marketing or administrative extras. The fact of the matter is, WordPress fits the definition of a CMS perfectly.

WordPress has grown up to be far more than just a blogging tool. It’s used to power apps, run large content heavy websites, and e-commerce. The reputation that it’s just a blogging tool and not a CMS is false.

If you’re curious on how to use WordPress as a CMS, read this guide published by Ozh Richards that contains a simple four step process. It’s a process nearly all WordPress users go through everyday.

It isn’t particularly amazing in any niche other than blogging, and it sacrifices being a powerhouse when it comes to things like digital asset management for the sake of simplicity. Yet at the same time, WordPress is a content management system, and a good one at that.

So, maybe it’s time everybody got over it.

Ismail sums it up rather well. I think it’s time to kick this debate to the curb.


23 responses to “Time To Move On From The “Is WordPress A CMS” Debate”

    • I agree with Scott B that the new debate is if WP can be suitable as an App/SaaS platform. The CMS debate was over long ago, especially after custom post types became available. I think one of the biggest things hurting WP as an app platform is bloat among other things.

    • To me the only distinction that needs to be made is that WordPress is *an* application platform, not “the” application platform for every kind of application. In other words, there are some cases where WP fits well. think that’s the only distinction that needs to be made.

      Using WP as a backend is really attractive for certain things, allowing you to write all the UI/view layers with your own (say, clientside) frameworks. The nice thing is you can self host the backend, i.e. put it on your own choice of hosting or on your own hardware. You don’t get the same liberties with hosted backend services.

    • Yeah, I agree. When I read the article that sparked this post, I was almost taken a back that it was still going on. Those inside of the WordPress community decided a long time ago the darn thing was a CMS. It’s those who don’t use it and outside of the sphere that are having the debate still.

  1. Thanks for the mention Jeff!

    I’ve had a few people respond to this article wondering whether the debate actually still exists. Unfortunately, in some circles, the view that WP isn’t a CMS is still alive and kicking.

    Here is an article from Janus Boye discussing how some dont view WP as a CMS:


    And another article claiming WP isn’t a CMS:


    A search through the #CMSExpo hashtag also confirms the debate is still around:


        • I recently came across what’s perhaps a good way to think about what makes an app different from the normal website/webpage use cases. If it’s mostly links and text, that’s probably just a webdocument, i.e. not an app.

          Anything other experience that offers more interactivity can be considered an app (why not?). I think a blog with a comments section in itself can be considered a web app in the broadests sense of the word. WordPress is already an app platform because you can run a social network, forum, ecommerce site with a plugin, it’s almost turn key.

          When it comes to platform, I don’t see why you wouldn’t call apps for mobile devices native mobile apps, or mobile web apps. Alongside those you have desktop apps, regular web apps and tv apps. Would be cool to see more desktop apps that interface with WP.


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