Category: Opinion

Where is ClassicPress headed?

A river is an interesting study of progress in life and business. It starts with a trickle and gathers momentum, winding its way around obstacles. It forges ahead, sometimes moving quickly and at other times it appears to not be moving at all. However, even during those times when the surface water is still, you can be sure that the water is still moving toward the goal.

Such is the pattern we see as ClassicPress winds its way toward v1. Each community member contributes in their area of expertise, and daily we draw closer to launch. Sometimes that progress is clearly evident; other times it is hidden below the surface, but it’s all good progress.

More Than Just Pretty Words

The promise of longevity for ClassicPress has been a point of discussion from time to time on the forums. People want to be assured that people at ClassicPress really mean what they say, and that they’ll really do what they said they would do. As a business owner these assurances would be welcome not just for my own business, but for all the businesses I serve. Even so, without action, promises of longevity are nothing but words.

It has been said that business owners are risk averse, but I disagree. Entrepreneurialism is not for the faint-hearted and it takes a unique combination of talent, skill, luck and drive to succeed as a business owner. Business ownership teaches you plenty, but one of the most important lessons is that words are important, but following up those words with action is what really matters in the end.

Vision + Action = Longevity

In the last six months, we’ve established ClassicPress, built a firm organizational foundation, created and launched our BETA, and formed a thriving community. We continue to drive forward in the final preparations for our v1 launch. We started with words, and each day as we move past a variety of obstacles, we prove ourselves by following up our words with action.

So what comes next? And what about longevity?

ClassicPress is a community-led open source project, and the success or failure of ClassicPress is 100% dependent on that community. Our community determines the direction we take in v2 and beyond, and the choices made by the community will need to be followed up with action by the community, or ClassicPress cannot succeed.

Realistically, longevity potential can only be demonstrated over time by consistently delivering on commitments made. However, we can look at commitments fulfilled over a short period and project how things might continue, given the right circumstances. Ultimately, the greatest variable in all of this is the commitment of the community to continue donating their time, energy, and funds to the project.

Our Longevity Depends on You

Our active and enthusiastic steering committee has committed to making ClassicPress a reality. We have accomplished quite a bit over the last several months and we have a clear long-term vision for the future. However, the committee cannot do it alone. Like a river requires momentum and persistence to carve a path to the sea, ClassicPress needs the combined effort and enthusiasm of each individual contributor to lead us to our ultimate goal: to be the content management system of choice for professionals and businesses worldwide.

If you’d like to help us, jump in — the water is fine! You can learn more about all the ways you can contribute here.

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Why Choose ClassicPress for Your Business / Professional Website CMS?

CMS Rankings

As the newcomer business-grade CMS, ClassicPress has a lot to prove. WordPress is the dominant CMS, currently powering more than 30% of all websites (60% of websites built on a CMS); for some perspective, see the chart. As a fork of WordPress, ClassicPress plans to capitalize on what we believe is a misstep for business and professional users in WordPress’s decision to integrate the block editor into core (originally introduced as the Gutenberg plugin).

ClassicPress v1.0.0 will be the beginning of a Long-Term Support stable release series, including all changes from WordPress 4.9.9 as a starting point. We’ll continue to release security updates and bug fixes in future 1.x versions, as well as maintaining full backwards compatibility with the WordPress 4.9 branch. (Related thoughts on longevity near the end).

When deciding on a CMS, I believe businesses and professional organizations should look at the following factors: who owns the platform (open-source vs proprietary); flexibility and extensibility; developer availability; security; SEO support; ease of use; and prospects for longevity.

Open-source vs. Proprietary

Open-source CMS solutions (ie, WordPress, ClassicPress, Joomla, Drupal) offer a great deal of freedom to do what you wish with the software on whatever hosting platform best suits your needs, while proprietary solutions generally allow only their own ready-made solutions on their own hosting platforms. While proprietary solutions (ie, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly) can be a good choice for certain kinds of business websites (eg, brochure-ware), their limitations make them a poor choice for most. It’s no accident that open-source platforms dominate the business CMS market.

Flexibility and Extensibility

Historically, flexibility and the ability to extend its capabilities have been major advantages for open source platforms like WordPress and ClassicPress. Any good developer can use them to produce websites that meet virtually any business need, in no small part because these sites are usually hosted independently, and the software can modified to suit. Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly platforms are not open-source, which means their platforms cannot be modified if you need something they don’t offer.

What currently gives WordPress the extensibility edge over other open-source platforms is a large number of third-party plugins that can provide features without having a highly-skilled developer on board.

Notably, at least until WordPress drops support for Classic Editor (end of 2021?), most plugins that work with WordPress will also work with ClassicPress. Enthusiasm for ClassicPress is growing among developers and we are optimistic that a robust plugin ecosystem will evolve.

Developer Availability

Developer availability is something businesses and professional organizations must consider. The more competent developers available, the more likely they can found and hired, and the more affordable their services. Because the block editor is React.js-based, it’s a departure from previous WordPress technology, and relatively few WordPress developers are competent to work with it yet.

The ClassicPress developer pool is actually much larger, because all competent WordPress developers are also competent ClassicPress developers by default (this also bodes well for ClassicPress plugin and theme development).

Security

Security of any system is only as strong as its weakest link. None of the platforms are ‘bad’ at security out of the box. However, while open-source platforms’ major strength is flexibility, this strength is also a potential weakness, as modifications made utilizing poor security practices can create a bad situation.

Likewise, poorly developed plugins can increase security risks or create conflicts with existing site features. To select, configure, and customize plugins while keeping security risks low, the judgement and experience of competent and savvy developers is highly recommended.

ClassicPress shares the same core code as WordPress and has committed to a “security first” approach to development. What this means to our users is that they will enjoy the same level of security available to them as a WordPress user, but as we develop past v1, our security team will actively seek ways to improve and make CP a “best choice” for business websites.

SEO Support

Much like security, SEO for a website is only as strong as the people managing it. It’s important to realize that underpinning any SEO effort, there must be a well-thought-out program of content production. Any SEO support applied to a site that produces no content is useless. That said, WordPress (and ClassicPress) benefit from several good SEO plugins that, in the hands of content producers who know what they’re doing, can boost SEO significantly.

Ease of Use

It’s worth remembering the original purpose of Content Management Systems: enabling website owners to quickly and easily add and update content on their websites. Historically, WordPress has held an advantage in this area (it’s a major factor in why Drupal fell behind WordPress). In the last few years, however, some of the proprietary platforms have implemented drag-and-drop interfaces that cater to low-end users, and WordPress decided it needed to do something to ‘keep up.’ The Gutenberg plugin (integrated into core as the block editor with the 5.0 release) was the result of those efforts, promising a fun and flexible (layout/design) editing experience. Although it may improve in time, at launch the block editor is buggy and difficult to work with.

But in business or professional settings, the goal in managing content is neither to have fun nor to have a lot of layout/design options. The goal is to add or update content quickly and easily so a business owner or employee can move on to the other 99 things on their daily to-do list. The block editor is significantly more difficult to use for simple edits, and having the flexibility to design pages is not only a time-suck, but presents a risk to branding and consistency. A system of professionally designed templates and custom fields (with an easy-to-use text editor) is much better able to help businesses meet their content management goals while maintaining consistency in branding.

ClassicPress not only retains the classic editor, but has committed to making improvements after v1.0.0 that will better serve CMS users in business and professional organizations. From a business CMS perspective, it really doesn’t matter if the block editor becomes less buggy: it’s the wrong tool for the job.

Prospects for Longevity

WordPress has an impressive track record, but it started even smaller than ClassicPress — with two developers — in 2003. Intended as a way for its founder to share photos with friends and family, it almost unwittingly became the dominant CMS by developing features that allowed developers to customize it (ie, custom post types, custom fields) and by encouraging and enabling an ecosystem of third-party plugins and themes. ClassicPress intends to build on what we believe WordPress did right, making improvements that make it an even better CMS.

Those of us involved with ClassicPress are deeply committed. We know how much work is in front of us, but we also know we’re up to the challenge. With every ClassicPress site launched, with every new volunteer, with every third-party plugin or theme that commits to continued support, ClassicPress moves toward its goal to become the CMS of choice for business and professional organizations.

Want to help out? Head over to our Slack workspace classicpress.net/join-slack/, and/or our forums at forums.classicpress.net.

WordPress Gutenberg  –  the $500 MILLION cost to business

There’s an elephant in the room. He’s big, he’s trumpeting, he’s staring right at you and he’s waving a gigantic sign.

He’s clearly trying to tell us something, yet most people in the room are completely oblivious to his presence. What does the sign say?

“Gutenberg is going to cost businesses over 500 MILLION DOLLARS”.

Now what on earth is the elephant talking about? Let’s put things into perspective. I run around 50 websites that are powered by WordPress. The majority of these websites have at least one person on the customer’s end that keeps it updated.

Over the years I’ve spent time with these clients to ensure they are comfortable with the WordPress editing experience. On average, the support / training time spent with each client is estimated to be one business day.

Let’s assume I make the switch from the current WordPress editing process to the Gutenberg way. At the very minimum I’m going to have to spend another business day with each customer retraining them. How did I get to this figure? At the very minimum, we will:

  • send out communications about the upcoming changes
  • make phone calls to arrange training sessions
  • perform the training session itself (which may or may not be at their offices — we won’t be including travel costs in the 500 million dollar estimate)
  • be on hand to answer follow up support questions
  • fix things that customers break

Our lower-end day rate is £450 (~$580). If we do a simple calculation, we’re looking at 50 x $580 = $29,000 in non-billable hours. I say non-billable because there’s no way we would be able to charge the end customer for forcing a new editing experience on them.

At this point I can hear the people in the room scream “You lunatic, just use the Classic Editor plugin”.

To those people I say: this is just kicking the can down the road. Gutenberg is going to be expanding to the rest of the WordPress back-end and front-end over the coming months and years. At some point the Classic Editor plugin is no longer going to be a solution.

As Morten Rand-Hendriksen so eloquently framed it: “Classic Editor is a bit like using a band-aid to plug a hole in a balloon as you are inflating it. It may work right now, but as the balloon continues to grow, the band-aid not only won’t do its job, it will actively harm the balloon itself. Gutenberg as an editor replacement is just the first step for the WordPress Next project. The next step for Gutenberg is to migrate to the Customizer, at which point blocks move out of the editor and into other interfaces and displayed spaces in WordPress. Which means the Classic Editor can’t do its job and another patch plugin needs to be introduced. It does not require a lot of imagination to see how this solution is not scaleable.”

WordPress powers 31.7% of websites that use a content management system. According to some estimates, this translates to around 27 million websites. Now, I’m going to be conservative here and assume that only 1% of these websites were created and managed by agencies similar to us. This leaves us with an estimated 270,000 websites worldwide that will need their users retrained.

Let’s also be conservative with the average day rate an agency charges, putting it at $250. Our simple arithmetic tells us that 270,000 x 250 = $67,500,000 in lost revenue. A cool $67.5 million? Not too bad I suppose for such a revolutionary change. Now let’s presume that in the next few years there is going to be just one more fundamental change to the WordPress editing experience — it’s fair to say this will happen with the WordPress Next project. As a result, this training cycle will need to happen a second time.

Our running total is $135,000,000. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Let’s now spare a moment for the people that have made WordPress the powerhouse it is today — those wonderful plugin and theme developers. These are the folks who are going to have to make sure that not only is their plugin or theme compatible with each iteration of Gutenberg, they’re going to need to make sure that their work is compatible with those who are using the Classic Editor as well as those running older versions of WordPress.

As of writing, there are 56,203 plugins in the WordPress plugin directory. Let’s make some more assumptions and say that of these only 40% will need to be updated to be compatible with Gutenberg. Let’s also assume that over the next 2 years they’re going to need to spend a very conservative 5 days of their time making sure their plugin/theme is bug free for those in the previous scenarios.

Let’s further assume that their day rate is $150. Our trusty calculator tells us this is a cost of 67,443 developer days with a total cost of $10,116,540. Peanuts I hear you cry!

Running total: $145,116,540

But hold on a minute, we’re missing a key demographic — EVERYBODY ELSE!

There are millions of WordPress powered websites that are managed in-house by marketing teams, communications teams and the “managing director’s son who knows how to build a website because they’re always on Instagram”. These people are going to be the biggest victims of the changes that Gutenberg will bring.

They will have to teach themselves how to use Gutenberg. They will have to spend time grappling with upcoming changes. Changes that will confuse them, scare them, and most importantly — take them away from other work which the business needs them to do. Opportunity cost anyone?

Let’s make some more assumptions (I bet you’re all loving this game by now!). Over the next 2 years each business running a self-managed WordPress website is going to need to spend at least 2 days learning how to use this new method of publishing content.

Let’s assume that the average employee who works on the website earns $25,000/year. Without including all the additional costs involved with employing a person (pensions, bonuses, hr etc), we can make the assumption that these 2 days will cost a business, on average, around $192. Let’s now assume that there are 2 million businesses worldwide in this position.

Fantastic! Another $384,000,000 has been added.

Our running total is now $529 million dollars in lost revenue due to Gutenberg

Now do you see why the elephant is so agitated? Why has nobody stopped to think about the cost of Gutenberg to the global community. Let’s take a step away from what Gutenberg actually does and look at how it will impact the world from a financial perspective.

Yes, my numbers might be way off (in either direction) but the fact still remains: Gutenberg is a major shift and it is going to cost businesses a LOT of money.

ClassicPress: a fork of Wordpress without Gutenberg

I love WordPress — it made my life better.

I’ve been building websites for the past 18 years and my first experience of WordPress was of sheer delight. Over the years I’ve built hundreds of websites using WordPress and I have nothing but admiration for the people who contributed their time, energy and passion to such a wonderful open source project.

However, the winds of change are here and as the saying goes, ‘all good things come to an end’. I fear that we’re on the cusp of a disaster that will forever fragment the WordPress community and start the slow decline of WordPress as the content management system of choice.

What is the disaster I fear? In a word: Gutenberg.

Gutenberg is a drag and drop page builder with the admirable goal of making it easier for non-technical users of Wordpress to quickly create engaging pages. In principal this is a fantastic idea, and it is an idea that has been successfully deployed in a wide variety of hugely popular plugins.

My concern is that Gutenberg is not ready for prime time. It’s full of bugs, the user interface is inefficient, requiring endless mouse clicks and it doesn’t play nicely with the majority of themes already on the market. The team at WordPress have decided to force Gutenberg into v5 of WordPress despite massive push back by the WordPress community.

I’m in the “push back” camp. After my feedback on Gutenberg fell on deaf ears I realised that WordPress is no longer a community led project — major decisions are being made by an elite few.

Sadly, I decided it was time to move to a fork that doesn’t have Gutenberg as part of the core code. A quick search revealed nobody had taken the initiative so I decided to stop complaining and take action.

Enter ClassicPress

It was at this point that ClassicPress project was born — a maintained fork of WordPress 4.9.8 without Gutenberg, focused on community led development.

I’m fully aware that ClassicPress could cause the fracture in the community that I previously mentioned and it is my hope that this petition will stop ClassicPress from being needed, at least for the time being.

At this juncture I want to make clear that the the team behind the Gutenberg project is dedicated and are working hard to deliver their vision. They are keeping their heads up and forging forward despite the negative feedback, and for that they should be commended — I appreciate that this must be a very difficult situation for them. The petition and ClassicPress is in no way aiming to discredit their contribution to WordPress.

Having said that, if the petition fails I believe myself and hundreds of thousands of other long-time WordPress advocates will have no choice but to switch to ClassicPress to stop their old sites from breaking (and to keep their work flows in place for future sites). If this is the outcome, my goals for the ClassicPress project are simple:

  • Maintain compatibility with the WordPress ecosystem by keeping ClassicPress up to date with security patches, bug fixes and non-Gutenberg features from WordPress core.
  • To let the community lead the decisions of the direction ClassicPress takes.

I hope this article will raise awareness of ClassicPress so that we can at least have an open dialogue with the WordPress team. Matt — will you listen? Your most vocal advocates are becoming your most vocal critics.