From Blogging Platform to Enterprise-Level Content Management Solution 

When MercuryWorks’s clients need content management for their web solutions, one of the decisions we guide them through is choosing the right web content management (WCM) system for their needs. The WCM industry is quickly evolving to meet the ways that companies deliver content digitally. In 2020, Gartner even retired its WCM Magic Quadrant reporting, citing that the market is fully mature and that more clients are demanding the dynamic, personalized content across devices and channels offered by digital experience platforms (DXPs).

Does this mean that websites and traditional content management are dead? Not even close. While end-to-end digital experiences may be the “new hotness,” many B2B and B2C enterprise solutions still need traditional content management. While sometimes a full-featured, heavy duty, end-to-end licensed WCM platform such as Adobe, Sitecore or Acquia is necessary, other times it is not. In fact, sometimes the scale, scope and weight of these types of WCM solutions can become a hindrance in the success of the web solution. Some web solutions can be highly effective with a relatively basic, lightweight platform.

In those cases, we often recommend WordPress as a web content management solution.

WordPress began as a blogging platform in 2002, but a lot has changed in the nearly 20 years since its creation. Today, it powers 34% of all websites in the world (including 14.7% of the world’s top websites such as The Walt Disney Company, TechCrunch, and BBC America).

WordPress has grown up and grown into a stable, secure WCM for many content delivery needs. Moreover, WordPress can be used as an effective headless CMS platform integrated into web applications.  We often hear clients’ initial concerns about WordPress as an enterprise-grade solution—and in many cases, what used to be problematic about WordPress just isn’t the case anymore. Here’s what’s changed.

Better Hosting Environments

WordPress is (and always has been) an open-source platform, which offers many benefits but has also made it historically vulnerable to security breaches. These problems were compounded by traditional hosting environments, where up to thousands of websites were hosted on a single server—relying on the host’s default firewalls and malware scans and making all websites on that server susceptible if one website’s security was breached.

Modern hosting environments, however, are built with WordPress in mind. Managed WordPress hosting is a service offering all its own, with companies like WP Engine and Pantheon redefining the technologies upon which WordPress sites should be built. In addition to hosting your website on a private or semi-private server, managed WordPress hosting provides threat detection and alerts, automatic patches and minor updates, and security best practices such as SSL certificates, disaster recovery, plug-in approval and recommendation, and multi-factor authentication to protect your site. Managed hosting environments can also offer functionality to improve speed and performance, such as different development/staging/production environments, versioning, caching, CDNs, and highly scalable architecture to handle surges in traffic. Building WordPress sites on more stable environments significantly reduces their vulnerability and allows teams to enjoy the lightweight, open source benefits of WordPress without assuming unnecessary risk.

A More Robust Platform

WordPress offers an easy-to-use WYSIWYG editing interface, allowing non-technical editors to upload and publish content without engineering support. While it may not offer all the bells and whistles (or the expense) of a full-scale DXP, the platform is quite mature and full-featured, especially for an open-source WCM platform.

By updating features and adding more robust tooling over time, WordPress has hardened into a more mature product suitable for enterprise-level content management. More out-of-the-box functionality equates to fewer plugins and greater stability; one recent example is the WordPress Gutenberg block editor first introduced in 2018, which in some cases has eliminated the need for separate “page-building” plugins. Just in the past year, WordPress has also added accessibility and performance improvements such as color contrast settings and lazy loading, along with data privacy enhancements to allow companies to maintain regulatory compliance. With an average of two to three updates each year, WordPress has demonstrated a reliable maintenance and support schedule and is responsive to the evolving needs of its users.

A Mature Open-Source Ecosystem

Not only has the platform itself and its hosting environments matured over time, but so has the WordPress ecosystem. There are more than 50,000 WordPress plugins currently on the market—and while their quality may vary, the number of stable plugins with good support has never been higher. WordPress’s continued dominance in the WCM market and its mature codebase and feature set has fostered an industry of highly trained professionals and development partners, along with more mature processes and best practices.

Headless CMS for App Integration

In cases where a traditional WCM may not work well or be too restrictive in nature, WordPress can be used as a “headless CMS.”  For example, when doing mobile-oriented development, you can easily use API calls in a headless CMS to deliver content to a Progressive Web App or React Native platform. Similarly, you can make use of JavaScript frameworks in your apps and rely on headless CMS architecture for pushing content to various platforms. In terms of using WordPress as a headless CMS, it already has REST API built in, which means we have the API part sorted. Furthermore, we can make use of the familiar WordPress back end to manage the content.

Choosing a WordPress Development Partner

Companies in need of content management no longer have to choose between WordPress’s ease of use and the stability, support, functionality, and performance of other solutions. At MercuryWorks, we leverage the best of WordPress—from superior hosting environments to multisite installs to sophisticated front-end frameworks—to create lightning-fast, flexible, and secure websites for enterprise.

WordPress isn’t always the best option solution but is often a very good fit.  Want to find out if WordPress is well suited for your web content management needs? Reach out to us today.

Monolithic WordPress

WordPress is a large monolithic content management system (CMS). It allows users to create and manage pages, posts, images, videos and more digital content that is displayed on the web based on a constructed theme or layout. Allowing for someone with little to no development knowledge to create simple web sites with a few clicks. If you are a developer, WordPress is powerful because it gives you access to an admin environment to manage all sorts of content, but the front-end experience can be lacking and often times bloated. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a solution that allowed for a developer to utilize this already well maintained and developed admin interface but gave the freedom of creating a complex front-end experience that many web applications have today? This is where a “Headless CMS” approach comes into play.

Headless WordPress

Headless WordPress is something that is now offered out of the box with WordPress. It allows for developers to utilize WordPress admin interfaces and content management without having to rely on their bloated front-end design. You can hook into WordPress’s RESTful API endpoints from any application to develop rich web applications with ease. This allows users to leverage newer and popular web frameworks like React , Angular, Vue, Ruby, and more. No longer does a developer have to be crutched by the requirements of PHP, CSS, and JavaScript when working with WordPress.

Headless still gives the user all the same power they had before with a traditional WordPress approach. You can still manage content, upload images, videos and more, but now you can access that information at anytime from anywhere.

Benefits of Headless

There are many benefits outside of developing in your preferred language when making the leap to headless. First off you no longer have to worry about security vulnerabilities that inherently exist with a traditional WordPress setup. You can throw your WordPress installation on a private server that the end user doesn’t access and hit the API from a completely separate whitelisted server that hosts your web application. This cuts down on many of the usual vulnerabilities including, brute force attacks, file inclusion exploits, SQL injections, cross-site scripting and malware.

Along with the increased security that a headless solution provides, you also gain a ton of scalability. With newer projects like React you can manage smaller front-end builds, static site generation and overall a lighter design infrastructure than the bloated front-end that exists with WordPress. For a rich user experience, we often lean on site generators like Elementor to create our WordPress front-end. However, over time these tools have become so massively large and resource heavy they cause large performance issues on load. We have observed desktop and mobile performance scores on Google’s lighthouse scoring system decrease recently as these plugins update.

Finally, one of the large selling points of headless is developer experience. It’s easier to create and manage a continuous pipeline and git flow when working with a traditional web application. This allows you to keep the front-end managed easily and at most you merge databases between a testing and production environment for WordPress using something like WP Engine.

Why not go Headless?

There are certain times where headless may not be the answer. The most obvious reason we would not choose headless as a solution is if the end goal is to hand the project off to a non-technical user who plans to add content and change layouts over time. This is where WordPress shines on its own as that is its intended use. If you are weary of managing twice the resources, headless is not the right solution.  Going headless means double everything servers, resources and more. You must split a web server out and a hosted instance of WordPress – that can be daunting and sometimes more complex than is needed. Headless also means the potential for more maintenance. WordPress has a diverse library of plugins that often help with basic web site features that are necessary for a functioning visible site. However, when decoupled you lose a lot of popular plugin support.  While some popular plugins have shifted support over to headless on top of their normal function this is a slow shift but does look promising for the future of Headless WordPress as a widely useful tool.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the decision for going headless is up to the developer and the needs of the project.  If you want the ability to scale without performance restrictions but need the ability to manage content in an already created and standard way – Headless WordPress is a great option.