Time for a Forward Thinking CMS

There is no shortage of content management systems (CMS) on the web: WordPress, MovableType, Kirby, Statamic, Drupal, Squarespace, Django, Expression Engine, and on and on. No shortage. Most of the current CMSs have begun to leverage Dropbox and respond to one of the loudest complaints about WordPress — its lack of caching — by making “static” or “baked” sites.

That’s all well and fine, but isn’t it time someone built a CMS that actually works for users? I like WordPress a lot, that’s what I use here, but it’s about as user friendly as Windows, which is certainly better than MS-DOS, but falls a long way short of OS X.

What I want is the iOS equivalent of a CMS: Massive power and expandability presented through a simplified, easy to understand interface.

Whenever I look at a CMS I usually see one of two use-cases: writing/blogging, or business websites. I find this absurd.

Any type of blog with an ad, or other monetization, is a business website. A business website with a blog, or any other written content, is a writing site. Both types of site need to sell goods — digital or otherwise — out of the box. Otherwise why bother?

So in my mind, the ideal CMS does all of this, out of the box:

  • Pages
  • Feedback forms
  • Liveblogging
  • Blogging (meaning a series of posts shown in chronological order, with an archive)
  • Link posts
  • Articles
  • Comments & moderation
  • Integration with a payment processor for credit cards
  • Ability to sell ad spots within the site’s theme, see the number of slots sold, for which date, and for how much.
  • Ability to create and sell memberships.
  • Ability for a paywall.
  • Allow the sale of digital goods, like software, and physical goods like books and t-shirts.
  • Able to handle hundreds of thousands of hits per day, out of the box, on the cheapest hosting available.
  • Require no knowledge of specialist software to install.
  • Installable in less than 15 minutes.
  • Be fully customizable: all the code.
  • Be customizable in a WYSIWYG editor like Squarespace.
  • Have a marketplace to buy themes and add-ons that have been vetted like Apple vets iOS apps.
  • Cost users money to use.
  • Include analytics out of the box that help users understand what is and isn’t actually working — this goes beyond numbers of visitors.

You may have noticed that I didn’t talk about the design or writing interfaces — those are not as important as how the system actually works. I can write in a text editor and copy and paste — I can’t easily setup half the stuff I listed above.

The Thinking

This idea isn’t fully formed. This list wouldn’t make a feature-complete CMS, however, the rationale for such a CMS is clear: give people the ability to monetize their site out of the box.

Give me an easy way to sell things via my site: It doesn’t matter whether that’s content accessed behind a paywall, or a t-shirt.

Almost every existing CMS only focuses on one aspect of running a site. Use Shopify if you want to sell things, and WordPress if you want to write. Use Squarespace if you want the easiest and prettiest solution to blogging. We don’t have a CMS that makes writing your business, and to reiterate my previous point, most of business is writing.

Such a CMS may be massively complex under the hood, but it needs to be easy to use, like iOS. A user should be able to link a credit card processor to their bank account without leaving the site and add in the SSL certificate they need without leaving the admin panel.

This should, and can, be easy to do — so where is it?

Originally posted for members on: February 6, 2013
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