Simple design is everywhere: on billboards, websites and in magazines. Every high-profile startup is sporting the bold colors, clean lines and minimal shading. They show off clean dashboards and ridiculously uncluttered user interfaces. But CMS software struggled with this trend. How can such a complex publishing system, with marketplaces and infinite add-ons, become simple?
CMS as a business tool satisfies many needs: it organizes company knowledge, tracks documents, helps author digital pages, supports landing pages, runs multimedia, aids website designers and often includes SEO and ecommerce tools. CMS can convert into a makeshift CRM or contract management system with patience. But as the CMS definition expands, weaving in and out of different software types, our understanding of the solution becomes tangled. We have no idea what CMS really is.
Simplified CMS became a sensation after Ghost, a Kickstarter campaign backed by 5,236 people, reached over $330,000 in funding last year — a shocking 800 percent of its pledged goal. The campaign was beyond successful, spawning a new era for content management and blogging. The new CMS broke into the world’s consciousness when Ghost founder, John O’Nolan, opened his Kickstarter campaign with, “Ghost is a platform dedicated to one thing: Publishing.”
O’Nolan knew that if we stripped away the add-ons and extensions, the core of any content management system was its publishing. In order to build a great CMS, we only needed the system to be a remarkable publishing tool. Everything else was secondary.
Ghost gave users room to breathe. Its authoring tool was one of the first to show a crisp, white screen expansive enough to let the author’s mind swim. Unlike WordPress, Drupal or even Microsoft Word, formatting options are invisible to the eye, leaving users with no choice but to focus on writing.
After Ghost, we’ve spotted emerging sites that embody a similar mentality. Twitter founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone developed and released Medium, a blog with an author interface similar to Ghost: stark white, with nothing but text and images.
Medium’s simplicity goes a step further than Ghost’s original concept. It strips away open source and our ability to design or add plugins. The only control we have on Medium is to publish content, curate content and comment on others’ content — a concept so simple that it can be scary to some. Yet it closed $25M of funding last January. Medium, like Ghost, is on to something.
When exploring a page powered by Medium, Ghost or even Quartz, the desktop design looks similar to a mobile app. When we switch from desktop to tablet or to phone, Ghost’s design and layout is identical, equally functional on all devices. Responsive design is a term that means one design works for all devices. It eliminates mobile applications and destroys exclusivity in functionality from one device to the next.
On Twitter and in the content management industry, we’ve been hearing the term “content is king” so frequently that it can be nauseating. Businesses everywhere have increased their spending and efforts toward quality original content. The systems that house that content are transforming to meet the need of complete and total content focus, which happens to be an asset when building responsive designs.
Content management and content marketing are not separate from each other, but evolving together. CMS’s definition is changing. Right now it can be the umbrella term that shades thousands of themes and features. It can also be the lean, responsive solution that cares exclusively for publishing. To understand just how CMS is evolving, follow our CMS Twitter handle for real-time updates on CMS news. You can also learn about today’s CMS key players in our exclusive top 10 reports.