September 16

Update: It’s been 2 years since i wrote this post and a few things have changed. WP has made their software much easier to update and has streamlined some workflow issues. While I stand by my stated preference for MODX on most projects, I now can (and do) recommend WordPress for some smaller sites with basic templating needs, or blog-centric sites. I will do a full write-up/update as soon as I can.

That said, MODX Revo has also made great strides. I’m suspicious of change (known for it) and loathe to change if I have something that works. I love MODX Evo and for most of our small businesses clients, it is more than adequate and we prefer it.

However there has been a plot afoot to force me to use Revo and I will admit, it’s just BOSS. I have some UI features I’d like to change. But I can’t rave enough about how flexible and powerful it is. I will write more about the differences between MODX Revo and Evo soon. The main point is that Revo smokes pretty much anything I have seen in terms of flexibility, scalability, and raw power. If your priority is non-scary UI with ease of updating by nontechnical users choose Evo. If you need a more Enterprise scale system, choose Revo. You can use Revo for smaller projects but the front-end editor still isn’t there and for many smaller sites, it is overkill.

- July 19,2012


I’m fighting an urge to parody Carlin’s famous football/baseball soliloquy. I need to admit that right now and get it out of my system.

Okay. Difference between MODx and WordPress.

Let me start out by saying that even though we encourage MODx adoption to anyone who sits in front of us for more than 3 seconds, it isn’t best for everyone and we know that.

WordPress was built to be a blogging engine. It’s a really good blogging engine. It has a massive community, lots of one-click-to-install features, it can be extended into a fully functioning brochure website and a fully functioning website with richer features if you spend some time with it and know what you’re doing. It is great for search engine optimization. A basic blog can be assembled literally in minutes. This blog you’re reading now is actually published with WordPress. We like WordPress and use WordPress and help other people customize WordPress. I’m even a speaker at WordCamp Louisville. For some people, WordPress is the best solution. It’s very user-friendly. If you have strict parameters on your site and are specific in what your site needs to do, it is a good choice.

WordPress is like a really awesome minivan. It has lots to make you comfortable. It’s roomy. It handles well.

MODx is like a James Bond Car, fully tricked out by Q.

Some people will roll their eyes at me for saying that, but they only will do so if they don’t understand the magic that is the Template Variable (TV), or as we like to call it in our fully customized admin, “Other Stuff” And also if they don’t understand the new MODx release, Revolution.

MODx blogs. It is search engine friendly. You can create user groups, web users and manager users, with different roles, easily. You can allow/restrain them from logging in at certain hours on certain days of the week. You can control every element of every screen they see, down to the help tool tips… in minutes. Need the user interface tweaked for clarity and usability? no problem. You can manage all your files, back up your database, flawlessly integrate ajax without conflicts and hours of headaches, fully integrate and admin full flash sites, deal with xml, xhtml, pdfs, docs, every media form you can imagine, and still understand it all and explain it to a three year old in about ten minutes. MODx can handle e-commerce. It makes sense to designers and developers alike and allows them to work on projects at the same time, easily. A lot of of this due to one tiny little thing that MODx has, and no one else has. Template Variables.

Here is how it works. I design a web page. I then decide what I want you to be able to edit. Say, a photo. I’ll name that photo [*myPhoto*] and whenever MODx sees that little doohickey in the code, it will make a form on my admin for me to choose a photo, and then replace that doohickey (technical terms only, please) for me with whatever photo I’ve chosen when it serves up the pages. Did I mention the built-in image editor? Yes, you can crop without opening Photoshop. Right there. You can also write on the image, and do a host of other image editing functions… right there, no plugins needed.

I can put these little pieces of code wherever I want. And they can be different types of things, things that make coding much much easier. Faster. Less Expensive. So you pay me the same rate and get lots more bang for your buck, because editing and changing and upgrading and improving is easier. That means your website is what we call “scalable.” Really, really scalable.

It also means you get all the search-engine-optimized advantages of a blog …but it doesn’t need to look like one at all. the templating structure is open and completely customizable without hacking the core code. This is a big deal. But what is a bigger deal is that the way this works will mean your code validates and loads quickly, both of which are hugely important for SEO. Someone who went out and bought a template which may or may not validate and then loaded 50 third-party plugins, all of which have not been tested to see if they conflict or work together, cannot say that. Those plugins that don’t have valid code can actually hurt your SEO performance, which means it will hurt your potential sales. Not to mention the time you will pay the developer for implementation and testing to resolve issues. Then just TRY the “one click” upgrade of the core and the plugins… and watch all of your customizations disappear. That is usually due to the fact that you have to hack things to get them to work together or do what you want. Or look the way you want.

Found an interesting comment from developer Jeff Eaton, written in Dec of ’09:

“WordPress’s stellar UX is stellar in large part because it focuses on streamlining the blogging experience. It’s possible to do a lot more with WP, but it means building new UX conventions, administrative tools, and UI assets for the newly expanded set of tasks. The broader that task set becomes, the more work it takes. That’s not a slam on WP at all, rather an acknowledgment that projects seeking to ‘make things as simple as wordpress’ had better think hard about what ‘things’ their users really want and need.”

WordPress is trying to up their game. They have introduced a feature called ShortCodes that to me looks a bit like Template Variables. However in actual implementation, there is still a large amount of issues in using them. Ryan Thrash told me a story this week about an ad firm that used MODx, and then tried to re-do their website in WP 3.0.1. They started and immediately had to develop custom widgets and plugins to accomplish what they’d planned. Two weeks into development, they realized that if they kept with the WP platform, they would not make deadline. They started over with MODx and were able to roll out the site in 18 hours.

Again, Jeff Eaton says:

“I participated in an interesting exercise at last year’s (2008) SXSW – a ‘CMS showdown’ where Joomla!, Drupal, and WordPress teams were given a design and a spec by an actual client and asked to implement what they could in a timebox. The results were interesting — The WP team delivered all the same functionality (access control, multi-user blogging, message boards, photo galleries, even calendars, membership groups) that the J! and Drupal teams did. However, the client evaluating the results found the resulting WordPress site’s administrative interface to be the most confusing and baffling for their team.”

I find that really interesting because I know that training my clients who use both systems, the MODx users have a much easier time with calendars, albums, slideshows, event registration, complex pieces of site administration, than the WP clients do. That’s because the UI (User Interface) of WordPress was meant to do blogging well. These other functions have been added. MODx was built with the intent of doing it all. MODx also requires much much less maintenance, which translates into a lower cost.

We prefer to spend our time working on your site copy, design, a/b testing to up your conversion rate and strategy. We want to help you develop great content. We don’t want to spend all our time troubleshooting and coding. So if you are an individual or have an existing website and want to blog and the core content of your site is a blog and you don’t want much else? or it isn’t possible to port you to MODx because of legacy systems? We will suggest WordPress. For the blog. We’ll usually add it on to an existing site or install a fresh WP blog for a new user who is an individual with limited need for scalability. That means their site will not need to grow much beyond its original intent and purpose.

For everyone else, we suggest MODx.

MODx handles blogging well by the way. It does that too.

Please understand, this is in no way a slight against WordPress or WordPress users, it is merely a statement of what we do and why we do it. Our thinking on the subject is, “right tool for the right job.”

I hope that helps.