The Next WordPress
It’s 2017 and WordPress alone makes up 27% of the Web. Which is crazy. However when you consider web development still remains quite complicated and difficult to learn, it makes sense that a content-management-system (CMS) friendly to non-technical users, like WordPress, would have mass adoption.
Add in WordPress’s large ecosystem of 3rd party plugins and themes, which make it easy for professional developers to build WordPress sites quickly, and you have the ingredients for mass adoption. Despite a growing list of companies that offer similar solutions for non-technical users such as SquareSpace, Wix, Shopify, and Ghost, WordPress remains the go-to choice if you want something “custom.”
Some sites do benefit from being server-based like WordPress, but in many cases it is overkill for a website’s needs. Consider a standard marketing-style website or blog with static content that is periodically updated. This doesn’t need to be server-based in and of itself. And with the growing ecosystem of third-party services to handle traditionally server-based functions such as forms, payments, and logins, it doesn’t have to be. Only the CMS itself needs a server so that users can go in and make edits. What if the site itself could be static which is often more secure, faster, and cheaper to maintain?
Static Site Generators
Static Site Generators are a hybrid approach to web development that allow for powerful, server-based local development but deployment of only static files. No server in production means that sites can be hosted for pennies a month on services like Amazon S3.
Static site generators have exploded in use recently among developers who use them to host personal and company websites. But what has prevented non-technical users from adopting static site generators is a reliable CMS. Several startups including CloudCannon and Forestry, now provide cloud-based CMS’s around Jekyll, the most popular static site generator.
But what if there existed a static site generator and CMS that was file based and didn’t need a server at all?
Lektor is file-based by default, so updating content does not require a cloud server at all but merely access to the root file itself, which can be stored on a service like Dropbox or Google Drive. A developer can use a local server to generate dynamic content and a full-featured site, but the CMS, which is currently a simple Mac app, simply updates the original file.
While still very early stage in its development, in my opinion this is a game changing approach that has yet to be fully appreciated.
What will it take for static site generators in general and especially a truly static CMS like Lektor to cross over into the mainstream to challenge WordPress? The real challenge, I believe, is that while non-technical clients are the ultimate users of a CMS like WordPress, the ultimate customers of a new offering are developers, either at an agency or internally. And for these customers, the status quo, WordPress, works well. There are many existing plugins and themes to choose from. It’s an industry standard. And its security and performance issues provide a rich, continued source of fees long after initial work is completed.
Even if an alternative like Lektor emerged with robust plugins and themes overnight, developers and agencies are going to resist losing the lucrative ongoing consulting piece of WordPress development.