The Birth of the Web
The first websites that most people remember were way back in the mid to late 90s, and they were pretty simple compared to what you see now. There wasn’t much interactivity, and designs were very rigid, built around a handful of fixed screen sizes that were found in workplaces and home offices around the world. At this time, most websites didn’t need a fancy CMS to make them user editable, at least not a client-friendly one. Most websites were only updated infrequently, and webmasters generally carried out whatever changes were necessary.
Different Types of Screen
Later in the 00s, the way people used the web changed dramatically. Instead of sitting down to do some ‘web browsing’, it became something that people did whenever and wherever they wanted. Internet functionality became built-in everywhere from game consoles and music players to televisions and watches. The potential number of screen sizes and resolutions that your visitors could be using increased exponentially. After a brief stint using WAP (remember ‘WAP phones’?) and then a trend for separate mobile URLs, the dust settled on ‘responsive’ web design and the new standard for targeted multiple screen sizes.
Content Management Systems
Tablet computers and smartphones gave people a permanent connection to the internet, and this led to a huge surge in demand for new information and interactivity, and it was no longer sufficient to update your website once a year with a couple of new photos. As a result, the demand for CMSs went through the roof. Clients no longer wanted to spend money on paying a developer to update their website every month, but instead wanted to make these changes in-house. Web developers starting building their own CMSs, giving day to day control to the client. However, custom-built CMSs require a lot of upkeep, and annual maintenance/licensing fees often outstripped the cost of the website after a few years.
Initially there was a lot of uncertainty in the market, and picking the right CMS was a very difficult decision. Most CMSs were still in their infancy, and bespoke CMSs seemed to be leading the way. 3rd party CMSs were often dismissed as inferior, cheap alternatives, though support was growing, particularly in the blogging world. As time progressed, open-source CMSs like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal started to become popular for their rapid, free security updates, and their ever expanding list of features. They outgrew their roots as ‘blogging platforms’, and became popular as general CMSs, suitable for an increasingly wide range of websites.
The Web Now and in the Future
Since then, open source CMSs have gone from strength to strength. They have developed at such a pace that they’ve leapt ahead of bespoke CMSs in most cases, with their cutting-edge features, massive community support and rapid security updates. And when it comes to choosing an open-source CMS, WordPress now stands as the most popular, best supported and most flexible CMS in the world. You only have to take a look at the rise and fall of software like MySpace and MSN Messenger to realise that no-one stays at the top forever, but for the foreseeable future at least, open source CMSs like WordPress are here to stay.