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WordPress vs Wagtail

Publishers Are Choosing WordPress Over Wagtail — Here’s Why

Digital publishers who are looking for self-hosted content management systems have dozens of options to choose from, but WordPress has become the de facto choice for anyone who is serious about online publishing. Why is that, and what makes the WordPress (WP) platform a better fit for publishers than Wagtail?

In this article, we will take a look at both self-hosted content management systems. We will discuss what WordPress and Wagtail are, what makes each platform unique, and why so many publishers are opting for WordPress over Wagtail.

What Is WordPress?

On WordPress’ own website, the company describes itself as open source software that publishers can use to create beautiful websites, blogs, and apps. Sixty million people have chosen to use WP, and the company’s self-hosted content management system now powers 32% of the web. That figure encompasses everything from small hobby blogs to some of the largest digital news websites in the world.

The basic functionality of WP is extended thanks to the 45,000+ plugins that developers have created to meet the needs of publishers. Plugins can be used to add online stores, galleries, mailing lists, forums, and thousands of other specialized features to any WP website.

WP is also home to a community of hundreds of thousands of developers, content creators, and website owners. These professionals gather at monthly meet ups in more than 400 cities.

WordPress software is not the same as WordPress.com. WP software, which is what we are discussing in this article, is a self-hosted content management system. WordPress.com is a hosted WP environment that is run on a modified version of WP and owned by Automattic.

WordPress

How WordPress Works

Publishers can use WordPress software to create any type of website. Personal blogs, business websites, professional portfolios, government websites, digital magazines, news websites, online communities, and even networks of websites can all be created with WP.

Nearly everyone has heard about WordPress’ five-minute installation at this point. It’s a big selling feature, and that’s for good reason. TheWP platform is setup to put users at ease, with a navigation system that is incredibly intuitive.

Although WP comes bundled with two default themes, the majority of publishers use WordPress’ theme directory when they setup their websites. WordPress’ theme directory has thousands of themes to choose from, each giving websites a different flare. The company has also made it easy for publishers to upload their own themes in order to give their websites complete makeovers.

Using WordPress’ straightforward publishing tools, content creators can generate pages and posts in minutes. Individual pages and posts are then formatted, media is inserted, and the content goes live on the website. Well-designed publishing tools allow writers to create drafts, schedule publication, and look at post revisions through their content management system. WordPress websites are optimized for search engines right out of the box. SEO plugins are also available. (We’ll dig deeper into plugins a little later in this article.)

Complete flexibility means publishers who use WP have the option to keep their content private or make it public. Passwords can be setup to keep posts and pages secure. Individual user accounts can also be created to give administrators, editors, authors, and contributors unique levels of access.

Upgraded functionalities, like complex galleries, social networking, forums, social media widgets, spam protection, forms, and calendars, are all managed through plugins. These plugins are made available through WordPress’ plugin directory.

What Is Wagtail?

Wagtail is an open source content management system that was started in 2014 by the digital agency Torchbox. Wagtail was built on the Django framework. Wagtail is written in the Python programming language and maintained by a small team of contributors. The platform was originally built for the Royal College of Art.

Wagtail integrates into publishers’ existing CRM and marketing automation platforms, as well as a handful of ticketing, payment fulfillment, and event management systems. New versions of Wagtail come out every two months, with a mixture of upgraded features and improvements.

Wagtail

How Wagtail Works

Websites built on Wagtail’s content management system are organized into sequences of blocks, which developers use to rearrange different types of content. That process can seem too advanced to publishers who are just launching their websites or learning about how to build websites for the first time. Most publishers will find that Wagtail requires a level of user sophistication that they are not prepared for.

Because Wagtail was made with sophisticated developers in mind, the platform is not always intuitive. It does, however, work with some of the third-party tools that developers regularly use. Anything a developer can do in Python—including machine learning, image manipulation, and PDF generation—can be done in Wagtail.

Those publishers who feel comfortable digging around under the hood can use Wagtail’s A/B testing feature to optimize their clients’ websites. This is something that’s usually reserved for closed-source enterprise content management systems. Wagtail also offers a built-in API and a templating system.

WordPress vs. Wagtail

Given that WordPress and Wagtail offer a number of similar features, there is a question of which self-hosted content management system is better for digital publishers.

The truth is, almost anything that can be done on Wagtail can also be done on WP. The only difference is that WordPress makes it easier and cheaper. Newcomers appreciate WP because the software itself is incredibly simple. This simplicity allows them to get started quickly, with minimal setup and hassles. And to top it off, WordPress has a much lower total cost of ownership.

The day-to-day publishing experience onWP is far beyond what Wagtail can provide. Thanks in large part to WordPress’ incredible community of hundreds of thousands of developers, publishers have thousands of plugins and themes to choose from. These plugins and themes can transform their websites into anything under the sun.

WordPress has far greater adoption for a reason. Nearly 5,000 companies on StackShare use WP, compared to just 6 that use Wagtail.WP is used by global powerhouses like eBay, Mozilla, TechCrunch, and 37Signals.

Among publishing industry veterans, WP has become the de facto choice because of its product feature set, as well as its reliability and its community of hundreds of thousands of developers and content creators. The availability of reliable WordPress developers is so far beyond the number of reliable python developers, that it doesn’t make sense for publishers to lock themselves in to a system that will be harder and more expensive to manage.

With so few developers on board, it can take Wagtail a long time to release new updates. The company itself says it releases new versions once every two months.

WordPress vs Wagtail Stack

 

Why Do Publishers Prefer WordPress over Wagtail?

WordPress has greater adoption and it is far more utilized for a reason. The platform is dead simple to use, and it can be customized as much as publishers want. Most novice publishers feel that they have nothing to lose by starting out on the WP platform. The platform itself is completely free. A number of the plugins that make websites more customized are free, as well.

In comparing WordPress to Wagtail, it’s clear that these platforms have very different end users in mind. Wagtail’s focus is much more on sophisticated developers, and publishers without extensive technology backgrounds can find the platform difficult to use. WP is straightforward enough that anyone should be able to use the content management system, not just web professionals. Non-tech colleagues—such as writers, editors, and other company administrators—should be able to update website content and add blog posts on their own when they are using WordPress.

Publishers, in particular, tend to be very concerned with search engine optimization. With WordPress, publishers can create readable permalinks to individual pages and blog posts. They can also install themes designed to meet the latest best practices for SEO.

Publishers who use WordPress are able to do everything they can with Wagtail — and much more. Thousands of plugins and themes fill the gaps for WordPress users. Because Wagtail’s developer community is much smaller, those options and capabilities are just not available.

These are specific things that WordPress does particularly well, leading many publishers to choose WordPress over other content management systems.

• Completely customizable
• Websites are simple to manage
• Thousands of plugins and themes
• Packed with features for every user
• Rapid website development
• Generates code in full compliance with standards set by the W3C
• Large developer community

When Is WordPress the Best Fit?

The vast majority of publishers will find that WP provides them with more options for customization and a greater level of flexibility. WP is built to help people get their websites up and their content out to the public. That means websites with a substantial blog component, with basic information architecture, work particularly well with the WordPress platform.

Picking from WordPress’ extensive plugin directory, publishers can add any number of features to their websites. They can even fine-tune their search engine optimization without relying on outside experts for support.

When Is Wagtail the Best Fit?

Unfortunately, Wagtail is almost never a better fit for publishers than WordPress. Wagtail generally requires long timelines, something developers and publishers rarely have, and it lacks the simplicity in design of WordPress. Overly-complicated features can make Wagtail challenging for publishers to use, as well.

The Wagtail platform is very young, which means it hasn’t been tested nearly as extensively as WP. Youth can give some software developers an edge, but not in this case. Developers can’t afford to leave their website performance up to chance, and using a platform that hasn’t been around for many years is a risk that developers should not be willing to take.

Finally, Wagtail’s developer community is still much smaller than WordPress’. The developer community that WP has cultivated over the years as impressive in its size and depth. Publishers should think long and hard about whether they are willing to take the risk of using a platform that so few developers are willing to be a part of.

Conclusion

Publishers will find that WordPress offers more of the features they are looking for, without the complexities that they are hoping to avoid.

Although there was once a perception that WP was designed for publishers looking for quick and simple setups, this is no longer the case. WordPress’ plugins make it ideal for larger projects, as well as smaller projects. WordPress’ large developer community helps to keep the platform fresh, and underlying worries about security and slow load times are minimized.

increase subscription revenue

When Is It Time For a Website Redesign?

Nothing lasts forever. Even the freshest website design will eventually get stale, which is why a digital publisher can expect to undertake a website redesign project at least once every three to seven years.

Why such a large range? For starters, publishers who cut corners on the design of their websites will usually need to update their sites sooner than publishers who build from the ground up with the help of established industry professionals. Pure luck also plays a role. A publisher who launches a newly designed website right as a new technology enters the market will need to make adjustments to keep his or her website current. (Working with a developer who specializes in design for digital media organizations can mitigate some of that risk.)

When they’re done right, website redesign projects yield significant results in terms of growth of readership and engagement. After overhauling its website, TIME saw traffic go up 100%. As smaller publishers experience business success and growth, website redesigns are often necessary to build on positive momentum and keep brand messaging consistent.

Here are the most common reasons why your news website may need an overhaul.

Your website isn’t mobile responsive.

Forty-five percent of U.S adults got their news on mobile devices in 2017, up from 36% just a year earlier. A website that wasn’t designed with mobile users in mind will be sluggish, and some pieces of content—like images and videos—may not open at all.

While it’s probably not necessary for smaller publishers to launch their own branded mobile apps, news websites should be optimized for mobile. At the very least, unnecessary coding should be removed and images should be re-uploaded in the proper sizes. For the best mobile experience, and to ensure your website conforms to Google’s mobile indexing changes, a full website redesign is likely in order.

Your SEO is lacking.

Search is the No. 1 way visitors reach independent news websites, so publishers should do everything possible to make sure their sites rank highly in keywords related to the topics or industries they cover. Unfortunately, developers who don’t work with independent digital publishers on a regular basis are often unaware of best practices that are unique to the publishing industry.

Long tail keywords will help with ranking on the first page of search results, as will title tags. (Title tags are used to describe the contents of a page to search engines.) Sitemap tools should also be used to control how Google reads your website. Many of the latest advanced SEO strategies weren’t around five years ago, and websites that are older than that should be redesigned with the latest standards in place.

Your website needs a more modern look.

A cosmetic facelift can freshen up a staid website. Website redesigns have major impacts on digital publications, even when the content remains the same. Sometimes publishers will take on website redesign projects as a way to re-launch their brands, and other times these projects are done as a way to keep up with the Joneses.

Website design trends are always changing, but the latest styles among news outlets seem to favor ample white space with a true mobile-first approach. A number of publishers, including Fortune magazine, have also adopted infinite scroll functionality as a way to let readers scroll directly from one article to the next.

Think about what your brand stands for, and then take a step back and ask yourself whether your current website design is in alignment. An outdated website can undercut a publisher’s messaging and ultimately hinder the publication’s growth. Working with an expert who has experience putting together websites for independent news publishers is often the easiest way to turn your design ideas into reality.

You’re using an archaic publishing platform.

If your website is built on an old content management system, it’s time for something new. Older content management systems can be difficult to update and they usually offer poor usability for writers and editors.

While there is still some debate over whether to go with an open-source or closed-source CMS, an industry-wide trend towards open-source solutions has fewer publishers relying on systems like Rivista and GTxcel. Publishers should consider making the transition to an open-source solution like WordPress at the same time they redesign the front ends of their websites.

If your CMS is difficult to use, or if you’re concerned that an outdated design might be sending the wrong message to readers, we’d be happy to chat. At Web Publisher PRO, we have helped hundreds of independent publishers build thriving businesses keeping in mind the latest trends in website design.

Launching a News Website

5 Steps to Launching a News Website

It all starts with a great idea. That’s the first step in launching a news website. But turning a great idea for a website into a viable business can get tricky.

Launching a news website doesn’t have to be expensive, and would-be entrepreneurs don’t necessarily need to be technically savvy to pull it off. As publishing tools have gotten easier to use, the number of independent news websites has grown. In the past two years alone, there’s been a 50% increase in publishers joining the Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, an organization that serves hyperlocal news operations.

What would-be publishers need in order to turn their ideas for niche publications into sustainable businesses is a strategic plan that encompasses editorial, business, and marketing.

5 steps to launching a news website

Step 1: Create a business plan

Launching a news website isn’t much different from launching a print newspaper or any other type of business. Everything begins with a business plan.

Come up with a mission for your publication—for example, “to educate members of the community about local politics”—and jot down some ideas about the topics you plan to cover. Once you’ve nailed down the editorial side of the operation, you’ll be better prepared to think objectively about how to generate revenue.

Use your business plan to outline your revenue strategies, which might include things like selling advertising, charging for subscriptions, or producing sponsored content. Looking at how much revenue you expect to generate can also help determine whether you’ll be hiring any writers or editors. A budget may also be necessary as a way to allocate resources.

Step 2: Select a platform

The most popular platform for local news websites is WordPress. In fact, more than one-quarter of the web—from bloggers to international media outlets—uses WordPress. Among independent publishers, specifically, WordPress has become popular because it’s low cost and easy-to-use. However, the specifics of your business plan will dictate which publishing platform is right for you.

When selecting a publishing platform, stick to those that offer flexibility and scalability. The last thing you want is to have to switch platforms right as your publication takes off. The best publishing platforms offer customizable designs, responsive sites, high security, and they’re SEO friendly.

Step 3: Choose the best plugins

Plugins will help expand the functionality of your WordPress website. Adding a plugin to a WordPress website is a way to gain access to a new feature without paying a developer to create that feature from scratch. For example, a publisher might use the Events Calendar by Modern Tribe plugin to add a fully responsive community calendar, or he might use the WooCommerce plugin to start selling physical and digital goods. Another popular plugin among online publishers is the Google Analytics plugin.

Check out this list of the top WordPress plugins for publishers for a more comprehensive look at how plugins can be used to improve the functionality of a local news site.

Step 4: Write valuable content

Once you’ve got a business plan in place and a website setup, it’s time to get going. Start putting together editorial content that aligns with your mission. Write articles, take photographs, and put together infographics or videos that will get readers excited about your publication.

Use the first few weeks as a testing period to determine whether you’re capable of putting together the content you envisioned on your own, or if you’ll need to hire outside writers and editors for help. Experienced writers will be able to write headlines with SEO in mind and put together content that impacts readers in a way that will drive traffic and boost readership.

Step 5: Start looking for advertisers

Advertisers will usually need to see a product before they agree to start advertising on your website, so hold off on looking for advertisers until you’ve started churning out editorial content at a regular pace. The specifics of your business plan will dictate where advertising revenue comes from. A few publishers will keep their websites as a personal hobby, and they can skip this step altogether. The vast majority of digital publishers will need to select an ad server before they can start accepting advertising. Many independent news publishers work with an ad serving solution like Broadstreet, while smaller bloggers tend to begin with Google AdSense before they branch out into more profitable avenues.

If you’d like to see examples of how others have gone about launching publications from scratch, check out publishers like Bklyner, Brentwood Home Page, and Baristanet. These publishers have all gone through the necessary steps to build thriving online businesses.

If you need help with any of the steps listed above, feel free to get in contact for a free video website evaluation.

Best CMS Platforms

Choosing the Best CMS: Open-Source vs. Closed Source

Open-source vs. closed. For independent publishers looking to build or revamp their websites, there might be no greater question.

Choosing the right content management system (CMS) is one of the first decisions a publisher makes, and within the broad category of CMS platforms are both open-source and closed solutions.

A content management system is the backbone of a website, supporting the publishing and editing of all digital content. For publishers, choosing the best CMS is extremely important because nearly every member of the organization will interact with the software on a daily basis. Behind every blog and digital newspaper, there’s a CMS doing the heavy lifting. But some CMS platforms do more of the heavy lifting than others.

The first step to finding the best CMS is to look at whether the platform is open-source or closed. While WordPress is the most well-known and popular of the open-source solutions, there are a number of lesser-known platforms, such as Drupal and Joomla, that are also used by online newspapers, magazines, and blogs to publish content on the web. With a large community of users, open-source CMS platforms like WordPress are often considered to be the easiest and most straightforward option for independent publishers.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are closed CMS platforms. Solutions such as Rivista, Haven Nexus, and Metro Publisher all fall into this category. Closed CMS platforms are like prefab homes, in that they’re designed to be used by organizations in a specific industry with little to do in the way of customization. While the initial costs with a closed CMS are sometimes lower, many proprietary systems come with expensive monthly or yearly premiums, and exporting data can be tricky.

Here are four additional questions to consider when choosing the best CMS for your publication:

What is the interface like?

Reporters, editors, and other members of your publication’s team will be interacting with the CMS on a daily basis, so it’s important to choose a solution with an interface that’s easy to use. Content needs and brand guidelines play a major role in determining how well a particular CMS will work for a publication. Although there is something to be said for personal preference, open-source solutions like WordPress usually win out when it comes to the interface and usability.

Can I customize the system?

Publishers who want a unique look or custom features on their websites will often be better off with an open-source CMS platform, since closed systems can limit the options available. Using plugins and extensions, publishers can customize their WordPress websites for a fraction of the price that they could expect to pay with a closed system.

Even publishers who feel comfortable with an out-of-the-box template website with a closed CMS should consider any changes or upgrades they may want to make as their publications grow in the future. Publishers who choose open-source platforms can make modifications at any time, with or without the help of a developer, depending on their level of expertise. While customizations on an open-source platform may cost extra, this is usually a one-time cost—versus an ongoing expense. Still, publishers should take pricing into consideration when selecting the best CMS.

How frequently is the system updated?

A closed CMS may not be updated as frequently as an open-source system. Publishers who opt for an open-source solution like WordPress benefit from the community, with a team that’s dedicated to enhancing features based on the latest advancements in technology and web security.

While there are some CMS vendors that do an adequate job of rolling out software updates at regular intervals, the vast majority of these providers have systems that are largely considered outdated. If you are thinking of going with a closed CMS, request a change log from the vendor to see how frequently upgrades are being made before making a final decision.

Will I be handcuffed to a system?

What happens when it’s time to migrate from one CMS to another? Exporting data from a closed system to an open-system or even one closed system to another can be challenging and very expensive. Open-source solutions, such as WordPress make it easier to be “platform independent,” meaning that you can expect a smoother transition moving data from one platform to another if you decide to make a change in the future.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to finding the best CMS platform, most independent publishers with local news websites will find that open-source platforms, such as WordPress, offer the most flexibility with better pricing than what’s available through closed solutions.