347 – Who needs a Content Management System (CMS) anyway?

“Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 347: Who needs a Content Management System (CMS) anyway?” with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

These podcast show notes are best read in conjunction with the podcast audio.

WP Builds is brought to you by...



GoDaddy Pro

It’s the 18th episode of our “Thinking the Unthinkable” series and our topic is “Who needs a Content Management System (CMS) anyway?”

I asked myself this question recently and it turned my entire web design business model upside down!


Talking points 

Post Gutenberg, is WordPress a CMS or a page builder?

It’s semantics, but perhaps there is a rough distinction:

CMS for changing content (mostly HTML) and page builder doing the same, but also focusing on styling and layout (mostly CSS).

Gutenberg, billed initially as a new CMS editor, was quickly seen as an inspiring page builder. Matt already pointed to Wix as a main competitor.

I do wonder if the messaging was all messed up here. I know that it’s got ‘page builder’ characteristics, but the most useful stuff that I’ve seen with G is the ‘app’ (for want of a better word that embed themselves in blocks. This, for me, is the promise, not so much the layout tool.


Want to get your product or service on our 'viewed quite a lot' Black Friday Page? Fill out the form...

Historically as a blogging platform WordPress was not considered a proper CMS, like Drupal, until about version 3 when it got custom taxonomies. It did not start with Custom Post Types and fields and a front page.

The two types of index page (blog index and front page) are still confusing today.

I also wonder how many ‘regular’ businesses need a CMS? I’m guessing that in your (David’s) estimation, it’s close to 0%? Most companies that I dealt with, I made them use a CMS because it was easy for me. In almost no cases was the data created in one place reused in another! So CPTs and fields were a conceit for me, with little utility for them.

All that said, there are clearly huge swathes of the internet that do need to manipulate data and WordPress is a great choice for them.


I used a page builder because WordPress as a CMS was too hard for clients, but I was solving one problem with another. Beaver Builder followed other builders and became more about style than content… and clients thought they could do my job.

In early 2014, when I was tempted to break with WordPress, a time when many more devs were focussed upon page builders.


I suspect that had you discovered Drupal, you’d have loved it. Perhaps there are page builders over there now, perhaps not, but the way that it allowed for many of the things that WordPress needs plugins for might have tempted you. I guess that you can do most things in WordPress for free, but you needed to code, whereas Drupal offered a (ugly, I’ll admit) UI for all-the-things – for FREE!


Why did we start using a CMS?

I started to get into  the dynamic web. Things I could not do without a plugin, from people skilled in a dynamic coding language (PHP).  

A blog for fun, then a makeshift intranet for work (to help me communicate with staff) then an online shop for my wife.


From 2013 static page builders must have been the biggest area of growth in WordPress:

Elementor – 13 million users, Visual Composer / WPBakery – over 5M, Divi – over 4M, Beaver Builder – over 1 million, and we have Brick, Oxygen, Breakdance and many others. Must be over 24 million, before we even get to the Gutenberg add-ons.

I was building things with HTML, CSS and PHP and include files for headers / footers etc. I was reading around creating a CMS, and searches for info about that lead me to the ‘already created’ ones. I was working with a guy on a project and he was using Drupal, so I watched him and I was hooked. I loved that I did not need to think about things like permissions, roles, fields, templates – it was all done for me! Yay!

I tried out loads of them: Expression Engine, Drupal, Joomla, Concrete 5, Moodle, Magento and more. I only came to WordPress because .net magazine kept banging on about it, and it was nice to look at. Honestly, the nice to look at thing, really was a thing. Oh, and Drupal is a pig after point releases.


Why do we still use CMS?

Because clients wanted it (or thought they did). Client work came to me – I did not  intend to do client  web design.

Someone needed help with their WordPress site, and that led a friend to swap her HTML sites for WordPress to (mostly) manage the content for them. Effectively she was my client.


Other reasons clients may want one:

  • High development costs
  • Independence (or the illusion of it)
  • Multiple content producers (including multilingual). These are due to be tackled in WordPress, but it looks like it’ll take a while
  • Plugins, themes, the feeling that you can DIY it

What happens if we stop using a CMS?

Most may lose clients, as the ‘making pretty pictures’ model of the web still holds strong (which is wrong and backwards looking!).

The medium is only 30 years old. Moving pictures at this point had not gone colour.

So far, almost all my clients don’t need a CMS. Essentially their sites are static.

This is because I stopped looking to WordPress (on behalf of clients at least) for the dynamic stuff that first attracted me. I did not want to be the middleman taking responsibility for what was beyond my control.

Clients are either not using the CMS, or are getting over confident. It has been easy to convert those who had a CMS to sending me the content to publish. A dependency on me, but as there are no frameworks so any frontend developer could take over.

I had to ‘skill up’, and still need a way to organise code. WordPress still has some advantages over a Static Site Generator (like Astro, Hugo. Jekyll etc).


Final thoughts

WordPress for me has become a Code Management System for ‘component based design’.  For simple content like blog articles, it’s still used as a CMS.

Component based design via CSS seems the future now!

Grid, sub-grid, container queries, @layer, :has() and hopefully the proposed “reading order” makes it possible to put components into any Grid based page.

In the browser interoperability chat (see earlier episode), I could almost imagine the design system of the future. Now, I see people like Rachel Andrew and Stephanie Eckles are way ahead of me in that (of course!).

JS frameworks to manipulate the DOM could quickly become redundant. The anti JS sentiment is growing.

(This could be my bubble – yesterday YouTube showed me a video of Douglas Crockford, the inventor of JSON and a JS advocate for 20 years, talking about why it’s time to move off JS.)


The WP Builds podcast is brought to you this week by…


Omnisend is the top-rated email and SMS marketing platform for WordPress. More than a hundred thousand merchants use Omnisend every day to grow their audience and sales. Ready to start building campaigns that really sell? Find out more at www.omnisend.com

GoDaddy Pro

The home of Managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain, SSL, and 24/7 support. Bundle that with the Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% off new purchases! Find out more at go.me/wpbuilds.

The WP Builds Deals Page

It’s like Black Friday, but everyday of the year! Search and Filter WordPress Deals! Check out the deals now

Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

Read Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Hello there and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. You've reached episode number 347, entitled who needs a content management system anyway? It was published on Thursday, the 26th of October, 2023. My name's Nathan Wrigley. And I'll be joined in a few moments by my good friend, David Waumsley to have that chat. But before then a few bits of housekeeping.

You may be aware that black Friday is coming up, and WordPress as always has loads of deals in the black Friday space. We have a page it's at the easy to remember URL, WP Builds.com forward slash black, once more WP Builds.com forward slash black. Whether you're on the lookout for deals, you can search and filter over on that page. But you also might be a person, a vendor, a person with a website that's selling a promotional product, maybe you're into hosting, or blocks, or themes, or something like that. Well, you can list your plugin theme, block, whatever it may be. Find the, add a deal button on that page and send us your deal and we'll get it onto the site. Once more WP Builds.com forward slash black.

Another couple of things that we're doing, I'm doing some new series. I've got a webinar series with Leo Losoviz from Gato GraphQL, which is a plugin of extraordinary capabilities. We're doing those on a Wednesday. And if you go to the WP Builds homepage and scroll down a little bit, you'll see some little sections, it's in the coming up area, it's got a black background and you'll see some little cards there. One is describing that and there's some calendar links, we're going to be on episode two, where Leo unpacks what the Gato GraphQL plugin can do.

But also next to that, you'll see that I've started a new show called, speed it up, with Sabrina Zeidan, and she's going to be taking a look at your WordPress websites and trying to figure out what can be done to make them a little bit quicker. Over on this URL, WP Builds.com forward slash speed, you'll be able to submit to your site so that Sabrina can cast her expert eye over those websites, and figure out ways to make them a little bit quicker, as we all know, this is a really good idea.

The only other thing to mention that if you fancy making a comment about anything that you hear on our podcast, we'd really appreciate it if you go to the page. Search for the title search for the number of the episode. And leave us a comment there. Really is appreciated when you leave the comments on the actual websites.

The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain, SSL, and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to a lot more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by heading to go.me forward slash WP Builds. That's go.me forward slash WP Builds. And we thank GoDaddy Pro for their continuing ongoing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay. So what have we got for you today? Well, it's David Waumsley and I having a chat about content management systems. Do we need them anyway? Are they the best way to put a website together. Are they a bit overkill? Is WordPress, even the best one. Have you got a history of creating complicated websites only to find that your clients never touch it, and could have had a static site all the time? Well we explore all of this in the podcast today? I hope that you enjoy it.

[00:04:02] David Waumsley: Hello. It's the 18th episode in our Thinking the Unthinkable series. And our topic today is who needs a content management system or CMS anyway? And recently I've asked myself this question and it's turned my entire web design business model upside down, which we'll get into as we go along here.

But Nathan, perhaps we should just talk about what WordPress is. Post Gutenberg is WordPress a CMS or is it a page builder now?

[00:04:31] Nathan Wrigley: I think it's always been a CMS since custom fields came along. I think prior to that, it was basically as we always say, it was a blogging platform. So it was that, and then custom fields came in and, all the permissions that, that all that has. And whilst it was very much a coding environment, you had to know the templating system and make that all work.

I think at that point it became a traditional CMS, a content management system, able to wrangle things and put different things in different pages. And now more recently. Off the back of the success of page builders, think of things like BeaverBuilder, Divi, Elementor, and a whole host of others. They've introduced Gutenberg.

So I think it's basically trying to be both at the same time. Which who knows how that's going to work out in the long term. So yeah, I think it's both, really.

[00:05:28] David Waumsley: Yeah. Did you have a sense you w you would be working with Drupal, back when WordPress became a proper CMS, if you like version three, I think did that because of that's when the custom taxonomies came in and they had that front page thing where you you know, By default showing or or it was the only option, I think, initially without doing some, adding a plugin or something you had the post showing, because it was a blogging platform, did you have a sense of that going on or changes

[00:06:00] Nathan Wrigley: No, I literally had no experience of WordPress until I started using it. More or less exclusively, I was using, Oh, honestly, the journey here is, we share show notes and I've written down a few and there's probably a whole load more, but a few came to mind. So there was Drupal, there was Joomla, I used Expression Engine, which was actually if memory serves you to pay for that.

It was a commercial license. I tried out Concrete 5, which had a really interesting UI in that you would actually edit elements within the page. So it was almost page builder y. I did Moodle and everything else. And really it came off the back of me. Trying to build a CMS of my own and realizing that ultimately my heart wasn't in learning PHP to the ninja level that I think was required.

I was continually frustrated. I had a family, so my attention was diverted. I couldn't concentrate and really dedicate time to learning. And I was juggling projects at the same time. I've got to say though, when I came to WordPress. From Drupal, because of all the ones that I've just mentioned, Drupal was the one that stuck and I used that over and over again.

I found WordPress to be feature poor, and really the only reason that I started exploring it was because everybody kept banging on about it. I used to subscribe to a physical magazine which dropped through my door every month, it was called NET. I've no idea, do you know, is that still going?

[00:07:36] David Waumsley: I don't know. Yeah.

[00:07:37] Nathan Wrigley: It was a physical magazine though, which is kinda weird that you get a magazine about the internet written on paper.

It dropped through my door and every month there would be something. Increasingly, there would be more and more articles about WordPress. So somewhere in the background, the team that created that magazine had decided basically that WordPress was the thing. And they kept talking about how easy it was and all of this kind of stuff.

And I logged into the WordPress and. For the first time, and the first thing that hit me was, okay, it's beautiful. That's one thing. It was really nice to look at and largely it hasn't actually changed in the last 10 years. I think more or less what it looks like now on the admin side is what I was looking at the day I logged in.

Maybe it's time for a bit of a change there. But I found it to be feature poor because things like custom post types, there was no UI for that. You had to download a plugin or do it yourself. You had to know the code. And so my journey got to WordPress. And at that point I thought, okay, I'm going to stick with it because of a whole bunch of reasons that I didn't want to go back to Drupal.

Cause you just had to rebuild everything every few years. Cause they don't honor backwards compatibility. So I stuck with it and then found a bunch of plugins, which replicated the functionality that Drupal had got. So I use things like ACF and tool set to do the custom fields and the custom permissions, different roles and what have you.

And then that was it. I haven't looked back. I have really haven't gone anywhere else to see what the current state of play is, which contrasts so heavily with your journey because you're always really curious. I'm much more of a kind of stick in the trenches. I'm using this now. Whereas your journey at the moment, at least, anyway, you've really taken a long, hard look as to whether or not WordPress is a useful tool or a bit of an impediment.

[00:09:31] David Waumsley: Yeah. And things have changed, but it's interesting because I haven't really connected all the dots with your start until you just talked about it now. And mine is slightly different because I guess. I couldn't understand things like Drupal because I couldn't get my head around what taxonomies were and custom fields.

I I wasn't that level of manipulating bits of content. So what, why WordPress came in? Because it was the first inclination I could get into sort of dynamic web firstly, with just a bit of a blog, just to experiment. It's easy because it wasn't too many on that one, which was

[00:10:14] Nathan Wrigley: David, I lost you there. I lost you for about five seconds. You had just said... Let me just write this down, hold on. Six minutes twenty... You had just talked about the taxonomies. You didn't understand the taxonomies that Drupal bought. So you could take it from there if you like. Let me just clap and then I'll know what's going on.

Hold on. Good.

[00:10:39] David Waumsley: I think my net's playing up. Hello?

[00:10:43] Nathan Wrigley: okay. What do you think? Is it...

[00:10:45] David Waumsley: Oh, I don't know, shall I? If I refresh, will it

[00:10:50] Nathan Wrigley: No, it should be fine. I think this system is persistent. So yeah, go for it.

[00:10:54] David Waumsley: Okay, I'll do that then. Same thing going

[00:11:23] Nathan Wrigley: Back in the room. He's back in the room.

[00:11:25] David Waumsley: And you're clearer, but I do have this sign saying, My internet connection appears distant or delayed.

[00:11:31] Nathan Wrigley: Oh, what? In clean feed.

Oh, interesting. I don't get any kind of metric about that. You'd have thought given that I'm the person running the call, you'd have thought that it would have been good to show me that, but they don't.

[00:11:43] David Waumsley: No, just me. Yeah. Anyway, you're clearer now. Sorry. So I'll carry on from,

[00:11:49] Nathan Wrigley: So yeah, you, I just talked about Drupal and blah, blah, blah. And you just said you never used it because you couldn't get your head round all the taxonomies and stuff.

So we can take it from there. Or can we?

[00:12:02] David Waumsley: I forgot what I was saying after that oh yeah. So right. Okay. Yeah. So what's quite interesting and I haven't really connected the dots with you in your journey for Drupal and how different it was for me, because it was. I just started with it just because I wanted to get into the dynamic web and it was a simple way in because it didn't have all of these extra things.

And that's what got me in. And then I realized, Oh, you could want to do e commerce and talking about how we got into this. I, I. Really what kept me with WordPress was the fact that e commerce for a business for my wife. And then also what I actually needed was a way of being able to communicate with staff online.

And I was able to quickly turn this into a sort of private blogging, which worked as a sort of private intranet for. For my work and that got me in all that dynamic stuff, but it's interesting going back to that first thing, whether it's a page builder, because although that's, be muted now there was a point where I thought the custom fields were going to have was going to disappear from WordPress and go into blocks only.

I thought that was going to be deprecated

[00:13:17] Nathan Wrigley: yeah. Yeah, yeah.


Yeah, that definitely would have stopped being the featureful CMS that I think it is now. Yeah. It's interesting, when you were saying that, I, there was a certain point, and I don't know where it was, but it must have been the moment I started using... Drupal properly because it's the one I settled on where I think I must have been selling websites to clients with all these features.

So for example, in Drupal, you would build the blog. The blog wasn't a thing. It was just, you had to create a custom post type called blog. And then you would create an RSS feed for that blog that, that wasn't automatic. That was another thing that WordPress did to do an RSS feed. You had to actually create that yourself.

And there was a simple ish way of doing it. But but I started to sell the features like, okay, you've got stuff. Let's create a. Staff custom post type. Let's create a locations custom post type for each of your offices, and then we'll start to connect the data and create relationships. So we know that these staff members work at these offices, but we also know that they're in these sub departments.

And so I started selling that. And it was really easy to do because the people that I was selling it to loved it, that there be, okay you enter the details of your people here and you enter the details of your offices. And once you click publish, it will automatically put it in the right place.

And you could tell there was this like, Oh, aha moment. And it really sold itself. And I think at that point, there weren't many people offering those kinds of solutions because these CMSs were still quite new. So it sold itself whether or not it had any utility or did them any good.

I don't know. But it was shiny and they they bought it.

[00:15:17] David Waumsley: Yeah. WordPress effectively taught me, because it was turning into a content management system, it taught me what a content management system needs to do or it is, so it's a learning thing. And I guess it was just that. Easy way in for me, before I was ready to understand these concepts.

And, I was going from straight pages really with HTML and CSS and got into that, but so yeah, it's a slightly different route because you already, before you came to WordPress, you knew what you needed and you knew we're looking through that where I wasn't, I really hadn't gone that

[00:15:54] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it was interesting. So I bought quite a few Drupal books and I even subscribed. There was a really great online course that you could buy that the product was called Build a Module. And I forget the name of the guy who ran it, but it was this guy. I think he might've been Canadian, but he was really laid back and he was a really nice person and he'd created like courses to do.

Everything in Drupal and you paid this one annual fee of a hundred dollars or something like that and you got to see all of his course content and he went through it all and he explained it so well like here's the point of a CMS this is what you can do with it you can create different custom fields custom post types link it up display it on the front end how you like and so That helping hand was brilliant.

I honestly don't know how far I would have gone with Drupal were it not for that individual. Because I probably spent a week just consuming the content and creating the dummy sites that he mentioned. But it really drilled into my head. Okay, if you're going to use a content management system, okay, you've got all the logins and permissions and all that.

But here's the point of it. Consuming bespoke data and then putting it out on the other side. And I was able to build with that fairly complicated things like whole, there was this one website that I did for a local fitness firm and we had like whenever somebody signed up we, they had to pay to sign up and then they'd become part of his platform and then he could input data, they could input data and it would show on this front end for them, what they'd done that week and how their fitness was going.

It was getting. to be much more complicated probably than I could achieve in WordPress still to this day. And so it sold itself and as soon as it lodged with me what the point was, I just started telling that to my clients and all the other clients and like I say, whether or not they needed it.

And I think you've come full circle, really. You've realized that most of your clients now, they're not really beguiled by that. They're more persuaded by the arguments of less is more. We don't need all that. You just need pages.

[00:18:05] David Waumsley: Yeah it's gone full circle for me because it's, but it's with a different outlook on it. It starts with me wanting to get into the dynamic web and PHP is the only thing that will allow that. I'm, I start because I'm curious because the word is getting out about WordPress.

So I check it out, do a blog, then I see all these other things that I can do, as I say, the internet and the e commerce and that gets me in, but I didn't intend to do the client work. So I didn't have that. Expectations until somebody came with a WordPress site that needed rebuilding. And I had the skills then to be able to rebuild that, which led on to me working with somebody else who essentially became my client.

So they needed the CMS because they were previously working with HTML and CSS and couldn't update the content for their existing clients who needed a rebuild. So I worked with her to do that. And the CMS. Most cases was for her rather than the client at the end, because she was doing the, they just, rang her and said, can you change this on the site?

And she wanted an easy way of doing it. So if it was something like a new page, the idea of having to go cross your navigation on every single page WordPress,

[00:19:24] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I remember that, yeah.

[00:19:26] David Waumsley: Yeah, exactly. That's the big problem with working directly with just HTML and CSS and no no system. So yeah, so she was into that and that was it. It's, but it's only now that I've come to say how many of my existing clients, as they're not taking it to my colleague actually need it.

And could they just take it to me who will just do it with. CSS,

[00:19:51] Nathan Wrigley: I remember in the day with PHP include files, building, so this was before CMSs, trying to come up with ways so that I didn't have to, so the menu is the perfect example, the main navigation. You have a PHP include file which is put into a template and the menu lives in there so that every time a page is rendered it calls the PHP file, which is the menu.

So you would only have to amend that in one place and that would then appear on the whole site and so on. How are you getting over that problem? If you're intending to not use WordPress and you're not using some sort of server side technology, or are you going to be using WordPress to do things like that, but building the sort of templates, if you like, by yourself.

[00:20:40] David Waumsley: yeah there's so much to unpick here. It's always, I wanted to decrease my dependency, my client's dependency on WordPress and extra plugins, but it. It still is essential for me as a static site generator to be able to organize my code. So I've turned WordPress into, gone back to its basic, simple routes using short codes and custom fields to be able to take snippets of HTML and CSS, which I'm doing by hand.

And put it where I want. So even though I'm not using the menu system as such in WordPress to build these static sites, I am, I have got a little section where I keep all my menu stuff. So when I put that there, it gets sent, it's one link where I change. It's the same. I'm just doing it manually.


[00:21:31] Nathan Wrigley: So

[00:21:31] David Waumsley: there

[00:21:32] Nathan Wrigley: in a sense, it's a PHP include file. You've got this, you've got this block of HTML in a, presumably a I don't know, navigation file and you go in and if you need to create another menu item, you add another LI or whatever it may be and save it and then it gets propagated across wherever that is needed.

[00:21:55] David Waumsley: Exactly. That's it. I've got a short code going into where my header is on my theme, and in that I've got the H T M L, I just go and change that and it's gonna go to all, my WordPress web, WordPress header is across all of those pages. And, and actually, I only found this out recently that I was looking at static site generators as an alternative because WordPress seemed unnecessary, but actually that I'd see an issue with all of those, because in what I think is the future, which is component based design, where you create your kind of sections of your code and put it to where you want on your pages or your site.

With that, if you go through any of those static site generators and there's tons of them out there, Astro was the one that I, particularly there's Jackal, there's Leventy, Hugo, all of these. But I think all of them, if you do this component, so if I want a little menu component that I'm going to change in one place for all of the site, I think all of them stick in their own arbitrary HTML into it, they stick in their own selectors, which I don't want where what I'm doing with WordPress slimmed down doesn't do that.

It just gets the clean code out there. So

[00:23:11] Nathan Wrigley: So is that the reason you're not using WordPress's menu infrastructure? Because you, it's injecting things that you don't necessarily need. You've decided to opt for your own file dragged in by a shortcode because you just want that HTML to be the leanest, meanest possible.

[00:23:28] David Waumsley: exactly that. Yeah. And it's just flexible.

[00:23:31] Nathan Wrigley: what is, sorry, what is WordPress by default?

Let's say you do a vanilla install of WordPress and it, rather than use your own shortcode for the menu, what nonsense, in your estimation is WordPress bringing in to, let's say, the menu? What nonsense is it surrounding itself by?


[00:23:51] David Waumsley: Oh, that's a very good question. And I don't think I've thought about it. It does add in a bunch of selectors

That I don't necessarily want and don't need. I'm sure there's more that I would have to wrestle with. It was quite a decision to do that when I was slimming things down.

Cause I thought the menu makes it so much easier. But of course, it. It has to know when it's there's lots of ways I do menus differently. Now, in fact, for mega menu, I'm using HTML dialogue, which is just only recently supported.

[00:24:23] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:24:24] David Waumsley: a mega menu via WordPress, it's, it is some quite a lot to wrestle with.

[00:24:29] Nathan Wrigley: So it's, in your sense, it's an enterprise to just strip it down to the leanest it can possibly be and superfluous, I don't know, classes of CSS that get rendered because it's the first or the last or whatever it may be is that's the point. You just want to be in total control of that. Got it.

[00:24:49] David Waumsley: Yeah. And WordPress is great for moving that kind of stuff around just because of that. Custom fields and and shortcodes just gives you everything that you need, really to be able to do stuff and being a familiar thing. So it makes a very good static site generator with, one less issue that you might have if you were using one of those.

Known ones. So WordPress is still very much at the center of everything I do every day still, but it is quite interesting how I've moved away from the Gutenberg change. And I think that is one of the, I think I still see it in debates. I occasionally look in on certain groups on WordPress and I saw there was a wonderful in one of the groups conversation going on.

And it, it must be close to 500 comments or something it got on the Spacer GIF in Guttenberg. And it really highlighted the, how everybody saw what WordPress was. For some, for the person who started the debate, it was the fact that there's no room for this in, you don't need spaces.

If you know what you're doing, if you're a professional, there's no reason that shouldn't be in there. It's not suiting professionals. And there's a whole bunch

[00:26:09] Nathan Wrigley: I can see where this conversation went. Yeah.

Yeah. Yeah.

[00:26:12] David Waumsley: The, a whole bunch of other people going are you just not getting WordPress? It is publishing for everybody.

It's got to be through, your mom and dad can understand it, and they won't understand patterns and margins. So if they need that, they need it. If you don't use it. And it just thought, yeah, it really gets to the fundamentals of, when I came in, it always felt like it was a developer platform. Which it wasn't really, was it? It was always a platform allowing people to publish was one of its key, I think, principles from the beginning as a blogging platform. So my misunderstanding of it, I've seen the sort of, it was a. A simple unit, if you like to develop on top of, and developers did that to present day where people say, now, and I think it is more of a page, but or seen as that where they think of course you need a space, a gift.

Don't you? Cause mom and dad, aren't going to know how part and margins and paddings and which one you should use in the, which circumstance they just need to stick a space in. If they're going to create their own page.

[00:27:17] Nathan Wrigley: it's interesting. You can imagine that the people that created that block, the spacer block, they must have known, actually, this is utterly superfluous, if you know what you're doing, if you understand that this could be padding, margin, whatever, bottom on some other thing. But but the fact that it's there does help people who haven't the faintest idea how to do that.

So it's utilitarian. Completely brilliant for those people that don't know otherwise. Completely annoying for those people who do know otherwise, because it's just added a load of markup that's not needed. But yeah, who's the intended audience? And I guess you know that you don't need it...

Don't use it. That's what I guess be guess me the thing, but yeah, the complaint would be it shouldn't be in core. It's just bloat in core, but yeah, it's hard that one.

[00:28:16] David Waumsley: I think when Gutenberg came out, it was like, it was billed initially as a new editor for, I guess people can consider it as a new editor for the CMS, but I think in reality, most people quickly adopted the idea that it was the start of a page builder era. And I think, right back to, I think even.

2014, I think Matt was seeing Wix as a competitor for WordPress. And obviously, when you look at the millions of people that have brought page builders that have brought people to WordPress. Elementor's 13 million, there's Visual Composer with over 5 million, Divi over 4 million, Beaver Builder over a million, got to be about 24 million people before we even get onto like things like.

Gutenberg add ons. So I think clearly the perception of WordPress now has to be predominantly as a platform for page building.

[00:29:18] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. It's interesting because we're in a bit of a bubble, aren't we? We go to these WordPress events, we're in these WordPress groups and it's just dominated by. People who probably use it on a very frequent basis, they are, they might be expert coders, they might be plugin developers, but they're keen on WordPress in some way.

Whereas I imagine the vast majority of people who are using WordPress have. Not the faintest interest in any of that. They just want to log in, type some content, chuck in an image and press go. Publish. They've got no interest in all of the wider concerns and if it's not perfect, who cares? It's just, it's my website.

If I wanted it to be perfect, I'd hire an expert. And that's a difficult sea sort of balance, isn't it? At what point do you say Screw the developers or screw the end users. I honestly, that's such a difficult tight rope to walk across. I think knowing what to put in, what shouldn't be put in.

And so it's all very well getting on your high horse about things, but I guess you do have to think at least about the. Let's even put some numbers on it. Let's guess it's 70 percent of the WordPress user base. Haven't the faintest idea that HTML is even a thing or certainly not CSS or JavaScript or any of that, it's just a SaaS app as far as they're concerned, they log in, do their stuff and what have you.

So all of that needs to be borne in mind.

[00:30:52] David Waumsley: yeah it's certainly my my view of the CMS. Why I need what you said, obviously going back to Drupal days, did you were showing clients, how they could, put your team stuff in here and your page stuff here and et cetera. Is that because that was led by the client, do you think, or is it led?

It's interesting.

[00:31:14] Nathan Wrigley: no the way that I mentioned it was so I would build a mock up and then I, for example, show that if you put in a client member here and you save it, you only have to do that once and then it'll appear. Oh, and then if you've got the taxonomy as they're working in the, I don't know, the conveyancing department, then if you go to the conveyancing page, look, they appear over there.

Did you have to do that? No, you just had to click a button to say they're a conveyancer and it sold itself because they considered that to be, a more fully featured website for no extra effort. Now they truly probably didn't need it because they could have just had a team page with all of their team members on and each person has a little, I don't know, a little subheading underneath their name which says conveyancing.

That's really all they needed, but it was beguiling, it was the beginning of the internet. The more things it could do the better and everybody was falling over themselves to have more complicated websites. It felt like now I probably wouldn't do any of that. I'd probably just go, look, just have a about us page for your whole team.

Put them on there. Nobody's really interested that person is a conveyance. They're not really, we just need to know that they exist. And yeah, I, I. Probably quite unnecessarily, because I was technically into it.

[00:32:42] David Waumsley: I think, the big division for me, with the CMS and the page builder is the fact that the CMS when you started with it, essentially all you were providing to the client was the ability to change what essentially was. Their HTML content, their text that went in there and be able to add in an image or something like that.

And maybe it needed to show up in different places. I think what switch with the page builder mentality is that no longer is somebody going in to just do that. It's that plus styling and layout. And for me, that was a wonderful thing, actually, when my first client needed to do some of that, which is essentially the person who was dealing with her clients.

But then after a while, what was wonderful thing when I jumped onto the page builders and thought this was just fabulous that it could do this, I've realized that I've swapped one problem with another, really, I've just now I've got. A bunch of people who think, yeah, they can do my job, they could just start it themselves, yeah, and I think that is the distinguishing thing, whether people want to. Because in, in what you're describing as a content management is something that I still need today. I still need to be able to update in one place. And because it's, put in a field somewhere and going to output in various different locations, I still need that today.

And I don't think that's ever going to go away, but what has changed is what the client needs me.

[00:34:13] Nathan Wrigley: What if a

[00:34:14] David Waumsley: you know,

[00:34:15] Nathan Wrigley: client comes to you now and has distinctive requirements that you think, okay that's CMS territory. In other words, I don't know, maybe they want to be able to display it, or maybe there's some sort of conditional logic that displays things in certain scenarios. Do you just now is your modus operandi going to be, I am not the person for you.

[00:34:38] David Waumsley: yeah, that's, that I've decided that, there's no reason why I couldn't do with what I'm doing now, the simplified WordPress still give them that option to, and in fact, it's still a possibility because even though I say I've stripped it out, WordPress is still working as a content management system when it comes to simple HTML with the old editor outputting blogs.

I'm not going to put that in my own separate HTML folder when there's WordPress content. Perfectly do that kind of content management itself. I could make that available to clients, but I've decided not to just to see. Basically I've asked them what they want. And given that a lot of them have had a WordPress site, it's been quite interesting to find out that it's, they think they want that.

And they want to carry on. So they want you to build a new one so they can go and input that stuff. But when actually we get down to it, they've. They've seen downsides of having to manage that themselves because they have stuff up or other people have stuff up their site with it. That is, if there's the option, which I never offered before, it's you just sent your updates to me.

And actually this is all going to be basic code. You're not dependent on me. I'm not using any frameworks or any specialisms. So if I get run over, you can use somebody else. And most of them have said, Oh yeah, we'll do that.

[00:36:02] Nathan Wrigley: In the same way that if I look back on it, I was upselling CMSs in a way that probably people didn't need. Are you doing the opposite? Are you downselling CMSs? Are you basically trying to convince people that they don't need all this stuff? And and is that working? Are you typically, if somebody comes to you and they are CMS ready do you successfully turn them into, you don't need a CMS?

[00:36:27] David Waumsley: well, That's what's been happening. We've only got a few clients really to judge this by. I'm sure there's plenty of work I now won't do because, but there is a, there is an easy upsell for them. Then that's the cost of hosting with this. If they have to have a CMS running on the server, they have to have a server so they can't get the low cost of serverless hosting.

Oh without going through.

[00:36:49] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah,


[00:36:50] David Waumsley: really complex route of headless with WordPress. So that's a big selling point, but I think, largely because of the change anyway, to this more agile ongoing approach anyway, makes sense. It's I'm just going to be that person to help them with what they can do with their websites.

Ongoing, as they want to change and for some, they like that, they somebody said to me recently about that. I quite like this new setup that we've got, because I'm always wanting to experiment with things we can do on the site. Then I have to get somebody else in to rebuild that thing.

And then I have to manage what they've rebuilt for me, but I might change my mind on it with this ongoing thing, it suits how they keep changing their mind on there.

[00:37:30] Nathan Wrigley: yeah,

[00:37:32] David Waumsley: And yeah so yeah, I've come to the conclusion that I wanted a CMS to allow me to get into dynamic for my purposes.

And then it became something which became a client requirement. Cause I thought they, they wanted to manage their own stuff, which, there's good reasons for that still. Do you think, I think why would you still need a, why would the client need a content management system now if they're not page building?

[00:37:59] Nathan Wrigley: yeah, I totally get the point. Obviously there's going to be clients that completely do need a content management system because they have data and that data needs to be combined with other data and it's constantly changing. So it needs to be pulling stuff out of a database. I totally get it, but also.

I think the majority of the people that I worked for just simply didn't need it. It was just, like I said, a conceit of mine, really. They just wanted six pages and a contact form that worked in some way, shape or form. They were just offering a local service and that's all that they really wanted. I don't know.

I guess I'm more wedded to WordPress than you are for obvious reasons. I do a bunch of. content in the WordPress space. I have a more favorable opinion of it as a requirement for me. If I'm building a website now, the default is going to be WordPress. I'm not really giving it much thought beyond that.

It's just, I'm familiar with it. There's muscle memory there. I'm happy to use it. I'd still be happy to recommend it. But I can see why in your newfound love of the HTML spec and the new exciting things that are happening with CSS and all of the opportunities that brings, I can see why you're falling out of love with all of the bits and pieces that you were once in love with.

[00:39:22] David Waumsley: Yeah I still need it on a daily basis. I think there was for some, and I think it was sold this way. I upsell, my colleague did at the time because of the things that a lot of people look to a CMS for is because it might, if they can put in their own HTML content, let's keep it to that with the CMS, they can reduce their, what are often high.

Development costs, if they have to go to their developer all the time and check that they're still in business just to change an address or something,

[00:39:54] Nathan Wrigley: that was always one of the big sellers, actually. That was definitely one of the things that I mentioned, and, in fact, explicitly mentioned it in my advertising for, work was, you don't need me if you don't need me. Do you remember that time when literally the most meager of changes...

Meant that you had to do it, you had to log in, you had to, and it could have taken you 20 minutes to do something as simple as change a telephone number because you had to find the right template for the header and all of that kind of stuff. And but now with the C M S I, I made the point that really, if you just need to do modest changes, I'll show you how to do that.

And you're off to the races. And they love that because they get some ownership. They get to feel that they're part of the journey. They get to feel that they're creating and inputting things. And so I still think, honestly, I still think if I was pitching websites, I still think that would be something that I'd be mentioning.

[00:40:54] David Waumsley: I think, if you can stick as it stands, if you're just using WordPress itself that, because that's an independent, reducing the cost is not that the idea that you can give somebody their site and it's theirs. And they have some independence of you as a developer is a real selling point.

And I think if you are largely sticking to WordPress as it is probably the maintenance cost of that isn't much. So it still has a good selling point. But once you get into additional third party plugins and. Page builders, there's quite a lot to maintain with all the updates that come with that and changes that they might make commercially for a client to deal with.

So there's a sort of presently and the setup that I gave most people depended on quite a number of commercial products, which all changed all the time. There wasn't, there was only the illusion of independence.

[00:41:46] Nathan Wrigley: Yes. yes. Yeah, that's it. That is a really good point. There is this sort of bloated nature. If you can't figure out how to do it yourself, just get a plug in, which does it for you without any thought for the consequences in terms of how that affects page load time. But we're in a new era, aren't we?

Where if you want to win the SEO race, things like that now matter. So the bloat that you're adding with a CMS suddenly starts to be important. However, having said all that, the the WordPress performance team do seem to be doing great work. They've just recently announced that we're recording this in July, 2023.

They're they're announcing that they've shaved off about 19, I think it was either 17 or 19 percent of a core block theme. So they're working on that. So I don't know, maybe as time goes on, those reasons will dissipate a little bit.

[00:42:38] David Waumsley: it's that back end stuff or front

[00:42:40] Nathan Wrigley: Front end.

[00:42:43] David Waumsley: Oh, interesting.

[00:42:44] Nathan Wrigley: that was, I guess that was a default block based theme.

I think it was more like 11 percent off a classic theme, but I don't know which theme they were using. I'm presuming they were using the the default theme. And yeah, this latest release of WordPress is going to shave about 19 percent off the, that 19 percent measures, but it's all going in the right direction anyway.

[00:43:12] David Waumsley: yeah. The interesting thing is part of me is making out that WordPress has turned into a page builder post Gutenberg, but there is also part of that project with where I'm going to contradict this because also built into it in the next stages, the collaboration stage and the multilingual stage, you could say that they are very much the foundations of using this CMS and the.

There will be those websites, obviously multi author websites with lots and lots of content being posted regularly where, multiple people need to work on. I can't serve those people at all. WordPress Live might be able to do that very well in the future.

[00:43:53] Nathan Wrigley: It'd be interesting to see how your journey goes, because I know that your business just in the time that we've been doing this podcast, your business has gone through quite a few. And you change as you need to be interesting to see in a few years time where that's got you, whether it's given you the freedom and the, I don't know the correct in inverted commas, I'm doing air quotes, the correct way of doing a website or whether you'll realize, actually, do you know what, that was a lot more work.

I've got to end up on the phone quite a bit more to actually change the client websites, which it turned out they needed changing more. So yeah, back to the CMS. Let's see.

[00:44:32] David Waumsley: Yeah it's interesting. I just think actually it's an interesting, what WordPress allowed me to do has become one of its problems as well, because it allows you to effectively be everything to every client in a way through its plugins. And it's been a slimming down of, okay, I'm just going to learn the one skill, which will be the HTML and the CSS stuff.

That will be my fundamental skill. And it's quite a good time at the moment because, there is so much with CSS that means that you don't need to do so many hacks and you don't need to rely on so many plugins to achieve the same thing. So

[00:45:08] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it's going to be interesting. The stuff that's coming around down the pike with CSS really is going to make you question whether you need a page builder, I think, because you're going to be able to do these complicated layouts fairly straightforwardly. Clearly, you're not going to get that.

What is what you get, although You wait, somebody will come along with some clever tool that allow you to build on the web and then just export the HTML and chuck it where you need it. I bet that's coming. And those complicated layouts will be possible with the CSS that you're now learning.

[00:45:44] David Waumsley: Yeah, I think so. When we had that chat before, we're going back on an old chat now, but when we was talking about interoperability and browsers and will that change page builders is a threat to it, I was grasping to see a future of how you might build pages and actually what I'm. Wasn't aware of people were obviously ahead of me on this one and the dynamic component based nature of the web.

And that's because of pretty much everything that's been changed now, isn't it, the kind of clumsy way that we would. Build our pages and use media queries based on the width and set them to various devices. Now, pretty much everything is coming into place where you can design these elements. If you've got a form element, you can set it up with container queries.

So it reacts dependent. It doesn't matter where it

[00:46:36] Nathan Wrigley: right.

[00:46:37] David Waumsley: Add layer and stuff like that. So you can separate it from anything else on the page and basically dump these components within. Pages. And I think what's been very interesting is I still think it will threaten the existing page builders because there's a new concept about how you might just generally go about building pages,

[00:46:56] Nathan Wrigley: the page builders might just become a conduit for dumping the CSS spec onto a page as opposed to some proprietary way to do it with bespoke HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It's just, okay, if you want a form that is conditional, here's how you do it.

[00:47:12] David Waumsley: yeah, dynamic is dynamic. You can now build sort of HTML and CSS dynamic things, which will slot into any grid based page effectively. And and I think, that's going to. Fundamentally change about the approach about how we will build up our library of units that we will use on pages. And which still is not quite possible yet because all the CSS spec isn't there in place, but it's just there and committed to, so it's coming shortly, so I think there will be some massive changes, so it's, so even if you're still very much committed to WordPress and what you're using, I think, it's a fascinating time to get into.

What's going on with CSS and how greatly that's been changing over the last couple of years.

[00:48:01] Nathan Wrigley: Well, We will drag you back in four years from now to,

[00:48:04] David Waumsley: yeah, yeah

[00:48:04] Nathan Wrigley: See how that's going. It's funny, isn't it? The promise is always easier. The promise of everything, whether it's the CMS, the internet, any platform, is it's always going to get easier. My experience is it usually gets more complicated. So we'll have to see how that all goes.

Are we done? Have

[00:48:25] David Waumsley: yeah, we are done. Yeah. There was only one thing I would just wanted to say on that one is just the fact that it is, it's basically the language of the web we're talking about here and not a product, which is based on the language of the web. So I think it's worth watching it.

[00:48:39] Nathan Wrigley: Getting back to the roots.

[00:48:41] David Waumsley: yeah, CSS working groups and what they're doing and why they're doing it is really interesting.

[00:48:45] Nathan Wrigley: lovely. Okay we'll be back in a couple of weeks, and who knows what the subject will be. We've got some listed at the bottom, but we're not quite sure. Oh no, we are! We've decided, haven't we, that we've put those in the right order ?

[00:48:57] David Waumsley: We, we have, but the next one's such a challenge to do, I think. Oh yeah we'll do this one. Yeah, we'll do it. Next one is,

[00:49:03] Nathan Wrigley: Is 20 years too long in tech? I think we know what we're talking about

[00:49:06] David Waumsley: that's 140 years in webbed

[00:49:10] Nathan Wrigley: Is that right? It's like dog or cat age. Okay, 100, 140, that's excellent. Okay, that'll be with us in two weeks time. Lovely chat, I'll speak to you soon. Let

[00:49:20] David Waumsley: Thank you. Bye.

[00:49:22] Nathan Wrigley: Well, I hope that you enjoyed that. Always a pleasure chatting to David Waumsley about these things. What are your thoughts? Do we need CMS? Has WordPress become too complicated? Are there better options out there? Should we just ditch CMS is altogether for the majority of our clients. If you've got any thoughts on that head over to WP Builds.com. Search for episode number 3 4 7, and leave us a comment there.

The WP Bell's podcast is brought to you today. By GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of a managed WordPress hosting that includes domain, SSL, and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by heading to go.me forward slash WP Builds. And sincere thanks to GoDaddy Pro for their ongoing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay, just a few quick reminders. The first one is to say head over to WP Builds.com. Look for the section on the homepage called coming up and you'll see the details, plus calendar links for the shows that we're doing with Leo. About Gato GraphQL, but also the speed at Apptio with Sabrina. They're happening on Wednesdays and Thursdays. And hopefully you'll be able to join us for those.

Do remember as well that we do our Monday show this week in WordPress. That's 2:00 PM UK time. All of the shows that I've just mentioned can be found at the time they go live, at WP Builds.com forward slash live. And don't forget, Black Friday, WP Builds.com forward slash black. Bookmark that page for all of your WordPress Black Friday deals.

Okay, that's it. I hope that you enjoyed it. We'll be back next week. I'm going to fade in some cheesy music and say, Bye-bye for now.

Support WP Builds

We put out this content as often as we can, and we hope that you like! If you do and feel like keeping the WP Builds podcast going then...

Donate to WP Builds

Thank you!

Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

Articles: 884

Please leave a comment...

Filter Deals

Filter Deals


  • Plugin (23)
  • WordPress (13)
  • Lifetime Deal (5)
  • eCommerce (4)
  • SaaS (4)
  • Admin (3)
  • Hosting (2)
  • Other (2)
  • Security (2)
  • Theme (2)
  • Blocks (1)
  • Design (1)
  • Training (1)

% discounted

% discounted

Filter Deals

Filter Deals


  • WordPress (39)
  • Plugin (33)
  • Admin (30)
  • Content (18)
  • Design (11)
  • Blocks (6)
  • Maintenance (6)
  • Security (5)
  • Hosting (4)
  • Theme (3)
  • WooCommerce (3)
  • SaaS app (2)
  • Lifetime Deal (1)
  • Not WordPress (1)
  • Training (1)

% discounted

% discounted



WP Builds WordPress Podcast



WP Builds WordPress Podcast