Note: Because of some of the conversations going on between Movable Type and WordPress lovers, we asked someone who has used both extensively to give us his thoughts and weigh in on this conversation.
By Kevin D. Hendricks
It’s the ultimate blog/CMS software smack-down. The open source WordPress versus the new media giant Movable Type. I’ve been blogging since 1998 and after coding my pages by hand for five years I tried Movable Type in 2003 and loved it. But after five years I grew tired of difficulties with Movable Type and switched to WordPress.
So here’s a look at the pros and cons of each content management system based on my in-the-trenches experience.
Before we start, a few caveats:
- Everybody’s different. Your needs, your goals, your level of comfort, your budget are all different, so different folks choose different systems for different reasons. Learn what you can from my experience, but things might be different for you. That’s OK.
- It’s not always the software’s fault. Sometimes issues come up that are related to your hosting company or the way you installed something or the fact that you never upgraded. While it’s still a problem and still annoying, it’s not the software’s fault. Case in point: The primary reason I switched was because at least once a month spam bots would bring my site to its knees with their attempts to post comment spam. My host blamed it on Movable Type, though it was never an issue Movable Type could fix or others on Movable Type ran into. It ruined my experience, but I don’t blame the software.
- Go with what you like. You have to think through a lot when you’re considering a content management system. But you also have to use that system a lot. So go with something you enjoy, even if it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles (but make sure it has what you need, otherwise your enjoyment will plummet with each frustrating use).
All right, let’s get down to it:
Round 1: Cost
One of the primary considerations is always cost. And here WordPress wins, hands down. I mean, come on—it’s free. You can’t compete with that. Well, I guess Movable Type tries with their MT open source version. If you’re using Movable Type for personal use, it’s free. But for anything else—commercial, nonprofit, educational—you need to buy a license that ranges from $50-$1,000, depending on how many people will be using the software. That’s a hefty investment.
Round 2: Installation
Getting started is always the hardest part. WordPress brags about its super-easy “five minute installation,” and if you get everything right it will only take five minutes. But that assumes you can create a MySQL database and can find your database name, username and password. Getting hung up on those can stretch the installation time, but it’s still fairly straightforward. (There’s also a super quick and easy way to install it Using cPanel and the Fantastico script, which is offered by most web hosts.) Movable Type doesn’t make the same five minute claim, but it’s still a fairly easy process, if everything goes smoothly. The biggest potential hang-ups for installing either system are not entering the correct info and not meeting the system requirements. So read those directions.
In my experience it’s always been easier on WordPress, but it’s not a drastic advantage.
Winner: WordPress, barely
Round 3: Ease of Use – Daily Blogging
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Actually using the thing. And here there are two categories to consider: daily blogging and site maintenance. For daily blogging, I think it’s a draw. Both systems offer basically the same features, with a few pros and cons here and there. I think Movable Type is better designed and easier to use. But some of WordPress’s features work better (scheduling posts works great in WordPress though I could never get it to work in Movable Type—not to say it doesn’t work, but it never worked with my set up). WordPress offers a superior WYSIWYG editor, but it can also be a little flaky at times.
Round 4: Ease of Use – Site Maintenance
For site maintenance—and by this I mean anything that’s not blog posts, so sidebars, extra pages, the basic design of the site, etc.—I think Movable Type has some clear advantages. Finding and editing templates is easier. The module functionality makes it pretty straightforward to put a chunk of code on every page of your site and update it in only one spot. Plus using HTML instead of PHP was a huge plus for me (but that’s going to depend on what you know—and if you don’t know either, then there’s no difference).
But for all the customization advantages Movable Type has when it comes to site maintenance, I think WordPress does a better job with out of the box, basic customization. WordPress has a much better system of themes (swapping themes never worked well for me on Movable Type) and the sidebar widget is pretty incredible (if it works—some themes aren’t always widget ready, even if they say they are). The page functionality on WordPress is also great, if only because it’s simpler. You can do the same thing on Movable Type, but it’s not as easy. If you’re doing some basic customization I think WordPress is the way to go. But if you’re going to do more complicated stuff I think Movable Type is better suited for the task.
WordPress has a much better system of themes (swapping themes never worked well for me on Movable Type) and the sidebar widget is pretty incredible (if it works—some themes aren’t always widget ready, even if they say they are).
Round 5: Multiple Blogs
This isn’t an issue everyone will deal with, but it is a major difference between Movable Type and WordPress. With the default packages, a single installation of Movable Type can control multiple blogs. With WordPress you need a new installation of the software for every blog you want to control. Which means anything with multiple blogs is much easier on Movable Type, whether it’s simple upgrades or sharing information between blogs. There is a multiple user version of WordPress, but it’s a bit more complicated (you can kiss your five minute installation goodbye).
Winner: Movable Type
Round 6: Comment Filtering
If you’ve had any experience blogging then you know comments can be the greatest thing ever and the most frustrating thing ever. Getting feedback is awesome, but wasting your time dealing with comment spam is a nightmare. Out of the box WordPress comes with the Akisimet spam filter plug-in. It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, assuming you activate it. Movable Type has had a revolving door of similar plug-ins and functionalities. While I haven’t tried the latest and greatest version, I’ve yet to see one work perfectly. I did add a simple plug-in to my Movable Type that required commenters to type a word to prove they weren’t spammers which eliminated the problem, but it’s still an extra step.
Round 7: Support
What to do when something goes wrong is always a big question. In this case you get what you pay for. Movable Type has a robust, ticketed support system and as long as you still have a support contract you’ll get excellent help. Since WordPress is an open source project there’s no support staff to answer your questions at all hours, although there is a very active and searchable support forum. There is an enormous community willing to answer your questions, but it’s not quite the same.
Winner: Movable Type
Round 8: Plug-Ins
You can probably find a plug-in for either Movable Type or WordPress that will enable the system to do what you want to do. But it’s probably easier to find that plug-in for WordPress. It’s open source architecture is more attractive to plug-in programmers. But for either system you’re likely to find loads of out-dated, use-at-your-own-risk plug-ins.
Winner: WordPress, barely
Smackdown Winner: WordPress
In the end I think WordPress wins the smackdown, but it’s awfully close. Both systems offer a powerful set of features and will continue to be upgraded and (hopefully) improved. At some point you just need to pick one and run with it.
Now, what do you think?