Jon Gold

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This post is 3 years old — please take it with a pinch of salt!

July 08, 2014 · 2 minute read

The Death of the CMS

…has been greatly exaggerated.

I’m going to try a new thing when I blog any comment I make on {Designer,Hacker}News over a sentence or two. We’ll see how it goes. Posterity and all that.

Tonight on DesignerNews

There was a post earlier today about whether or not people still build static sites for their clients. That discussion begs the question, if not static then what? There’s a wide range of ‘CMS’ options out there from database-driven solutions like WordPress and Drupal to static site generators like Jekyll and Middleman. WordPress and Drupal can be easy for clients to update once they are set up, but there is a ton of associated overhead. Jekyll and Middleman are dead simple, but require some knowledge of command line and markdown to redeploy after making changes. When dealing with clients building stuff like landing and marketing pages what is your preferred solution? What’s the perfect balance between usability for the client and ease of development?

A better CMS, I think. I really don’t know the answer, but I want to kill myself working with WordPress or Drupal - so whilst the client might enjoy the editing interface, they won’t be getting a website to edit because they won’t have a web designer by that point.

Jekyll is fantastic but obviously it’s not perfect for non-technical users. Things like Prose.io are cool but they still don’t tell the whole story - they’re great for editing text but CMS’s aren’t just about editing text - they’re about reviewing drafts and installing plugins and doing adminy stuff - letting people feel like they’re in control.

I don’t think Jekyll is great because it’s a static site generator - it’s great because it has a sane API, where the alternatives have mindnumbingly awful APIs. I’d keep an eye on Ghost and Buckets - I don’t think the CMS is dead, just that the incumbents are shitshows.

The caveat is the death of CMSs for small, personal sites for technical owners. Remember years ago when every designers’ portfolio site was a sprawling WordPress/Drupal/Joomla/PHP Nuke/Mambo/kill-me-now mess? Every post was a database entry in a MySQL database you had no idea how anything really worked and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD ALL YOU WANTED TO DO WAS LOOP OVER SOME IMAGES? Jekyll solves that; there’s no need for a CMS for that junk.


(He blogs, from Jekyll via Prose.io)


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Jon Gold

Jon Gold is a technologist, musician, and attention activist researching the long-term future of computation at Airbnb, focusing on the intersection of Artificial Intelligence & the creative process. Contact