It’s hard to believe another year has come and gone. In retrospect, I wouldn’t consider 2017 to be a redefining year in the world of content management or web development, but I do consider it a foundational year. Some of the smaller, incremental innovations we saw in the last 12 months will undoubtedly be the bedrock of future technological advancements.
Before I dig too far into my predictions for 2018, I just want to summarize what we here at NPG were working on all year.
This year was transformative us, as we honed our focus onto more complex custom/decoupled CMS solutions. We also began working on our newest decoupled CMS base platform. While it’s not a “product” per se, it is a foundation (and a head start) for our custom CMS customers. This new base will help them save time and money in their quest for a solution they truly can own.
In addition, we amplified our voice. You may have noticed that each week, we publish a new blog post dedicated to the CMS or web development industry. If you’ve ever talked to me in person or on the phone, you’ve probably heard that our service and our sales process is highly consultative. This year, we contributed over 55 blog posts, having never missed a week. And on top of that, we began broadcasting webinars of interest to the community, in addition to other video content. Inbound traffic to our website is up over 150% in comparison to 2016. Thanks to all who visit and stay a while!
For all of that content production, a thank-you also goes out to the team here at NPG New Jersey. Jess, who takes my weekly posts and transforms them into something human-readable, which is no easy task. Sebastien’s team, including Bernadette and Adriana, who provide all of the graphical support, including all those great videos they have been producing. And Kris and Avram for their technical support and content contributions. You can’t have knowledge transfer without thought leaders, and the team here has all helped make our informational content possible on a weekly basis.
Finally, a bit about what’s in store for NPG in 2018!
In early 2018, we’ll be moving to a new office space, where we’ll finally have better control over our HVAC! Our goal is to maintain a temperature in the office that OSHA would approve of. In addition, we are hoping to finalize our decoupled CMS platform, which we’re aiming to have working in multiple environments by the end of 2018.
We’re always advancing our service offerings and maintenance plans, of course, streamlining where possible to make your life as our clients easier. And we’ll be doubling down on content creation with more blogs, more webinars, and more downloadable e-books. In fact, we’ve already laid out the first 15 weeks of content our blog will feature!
Before we get to our predictions, I’d like to give thanks to you, the readers, for your support. I get a lot of feedback from our distribution list each week, and I love getting your questions, comments, and occasional criticism.
And finally, thanks to our clients, who challenge us to find new and exciting creative solutions to their needs. There aren’t many boring days here at NPG—and trust me, that is a good thing!
Now, onto our predictions for the CMS space in 2018.
Cloud/Headless CMSs Will Gain Market Share
From a technology point of view, the idea of cloud-based, headless solutions has existed for a few years now. But in 2017, we finally saw a bit more noise from the space. In addition, the offerings became much more mature.
It’s my feeling that 2018 will be a breakout year for these technologies in general.
By now, enterprises are comfortable with much of their infrastructure being “on the cloud.” They have invested such mass sums in CRM systems, marketing automation, analytics, and other products that the cloud is no longer a foreign concept.
In addition, many enterprises began dabbling in open-source platforms in the past few years. We’ve spoken about the limitations of those platforms countless times, and I’ll most definitely be railing about them more in the future (including later in this post). Given that many mid- to large-sized enterprises invested in these platforms in 2014 and 2015, I expect to see that as more users become disillusioned with the core technology, architecture, and lack of flexibility of these platforms, they will be looking for new solutions.
In addition, as I’ll speak about below, the slow death of proprietary, licensed CMS systems will make for an interesting dilemma for website operators and marketers.
So what’s next?
Enter headless CMS systems, which solve many of the problems of these older systems. Being cloud-based means no worries about scalability, updates, upgrades, and security. Finally, businesses can rest assured that they have a system they can grow with for years to come.
It’s only logical that 2018 will be a growth year for these platforms as the CMS cycle continues to rear its ugly head, forcing organizations to find new solutions that better address their needs.
The Rebirth of the Web Developer
As a developer, I might be biased. In recent years, the role of the developer in crafting web experiences has dwindled. Sure, it’s a good thing that you can do so much without a developer—to an extent, that’s why we have CMSs in the first place. They enable us to do things that, in the past, were not possible without technical knowledge.
But at the same time, relying too much on a simple CMS has ushered in this age of sameness that I keep droning on about. Haven’t you noticed how, for the most part, the Web all looks the same?
I feel that in 2018, the web developer will have a resurgence. Their skills will again be required, and this is partially because of the point I made above: headless systems will require the use of development resources to make the front-end experience work. And I guarantee you, it’ll be worth it.
Many people will be angry with this idea. “Why do I need developers when XYZ CMS made them redundant?” Well, the fact is that developers were never redundant. You were just utilizing the development skills of folks you never saw behind the scenes. Those platforms all require massive development time to operate quickly. In this new world of headless, you may need a developer’s support, but guess what? It’ll be someone you can work with directly, who will build out your website as YOU demand it. I think that trade-off is worth it.
Decreased Usage of Open-Source Platforms
I’m looking at you, WordPress.
To an extent, we can already see this trend in motion. BuiltWith’s statistics already show the usage of WordPress on the top 10,000 websites in the world has plateaued, if not already started to decrease.
To everyone that is a blind fan of WordPress, I hate to burst your bubble, but…the bubble is indeed bursting. It’s an inevitability. Nothing can grow at that pace forever, especially with that many technical flaws.
I believe 2018 will prove to be a year where the usage of WordPress and other open-source frameworks will continue to drop as more organizations seek out the latest technologies such as headless/decoupled architecture and the usage of front-end libraries such as React, Angular, and VueJS. Also, the growth of other distribution channels will further accelerate this trend.
Marginalization or Commoditization of Themers
I’m super excited about this prediction. First, let me define again what a “themer” is. These are mock web designers and developers who are adept at simply installing CMS packages, then installing pre-made themes with minor modifications. As such, they are not knowledgeable in terms of actual coding practices nor with UI/UX design principles.
The advent of CMS platforms brought these folks into the limelight. With their entry into the fray, it created pricing pressure on actual, skilled developers on the high end of the web design and development spectrum as low pricing methods started to trickle through the industry.
My prediction, however, is that these cheap resources will be marginalized as the newer technology brings the developer back into the forefront.
There will always be a place for themers in the economic matrix of website creation services, unfortunately. But the place for them will be relegated to the niche they should stay in: small, local businesses whose budgets rarely exceed $1,500 for a full website project, and mostly when utilizing off-the-shelf software.
I doubt that themers will find a home working with decoupled platforms simply because the license fees alone will put those options out of the budget range of the clients they target. And by definition, there aren’t going to be many themes built for those platforms.
Security Will Be Taken More Seriously
I’m still shocked at how many enterprises are choosing platforms that are released with so many security flaws. This isn’t a new feeling, of course—I’ve felt this way for the past five years as more and more organizations installed WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and similar platforms.
The most important thing a client should consider when procuring digital services or a new platform is risk. What are the risks of the platform itself, in addition to those of the vendor doing the implementation. For me, the inherent security risks that are present in these platforms is a disqualifying factor in and of itself. Unfortunately, these platforms invaded the enterprise space, much to the chagrin of many an in-house IT department.
I am hoping that in 2018, with the availability of more secure options, fewer enterprises consider these platforms—or at the least they’ll actually contemplate what their risk exposure looks like.
Stories of websites being hacked will be more commonplace in 2018. In fact, this has already begun, with the latest hacks involving installation of software to mine for cryptocurrencies—an attack style that is sure to grow in sophistication in the coming months.
Impending Doom of the Proprietary, Installed CMS
Stick with me on this one, because I know it’s a stretch, and perhaps I’m ahead of the game here. But I think it’s time everyone in the industry starts to ask themselves if there is much of a market for the proprietary, licensed CMS that is installed and managed by the client.
Now, I’m not saying the death of platforms such as AEM is imminent. But why not consider a future that doesn’t involve this particular type of infrastructure?
As I said in my first point, headless technology is starting to gain traction. In addition, the open-source platforms are getting quite good, even though they are flawed in their own ways. Bearing these two facts in mind, where does the market stand for the licensed, installable systems that are based on integrated or monolithic architecture? Is there enough of an opportunity to support all of the platforms on the market?
My hunch is that there isn’t as much demand. Surely, there will always be a need for a platform that is maintained by a private enterprise and used on XYZ infrastructure. For example, DNN’s products are good for organizations that require a Microsoft-based architecture. But is there enough need there to support 10 players in that space? Or even 5? Time will tell, but my suspicion is that there will be some consolidation in the space, in addition to some platforms just going away.
One other issue with these platforms is that they are simply difficult to build on top of. Yes, there are many negatives to open-source, off-the-shelf platforms, and I’m never shy about mentioning them. But one positive is that you are free to make changes and build out custom functionality on top of it without worrying about voiding warranties or license terms. This is going to create more and more pressure on these products as organizations seek the flexibility that their competitors are getting with other solutions such as headless CMSs.
So, again, I realize it’s a bit of a stretch, but I feel that 2018 will be harder on the companies selling large, bloated enterprise CMS platforms.