Even experts want simpler web software


About a week ago, my Twitter stream was overtaken by just one topic.

I follow people who work with many different types of web software. That day, they all had one thing in common. They were all tweeting about Ghost, a new blogging platform that was raising money on Kickstarter.

Ghost has no live demo and it’s heavily based on two fairly obscure tools: Node.js and markdown.

However, it flew past it’s Kickstarter goal inside one day and has now raised over £100,000.

Why is the idea of Ghost so popular with so many different people? Because it promised a renewed focus on simplicity. The truth is that in 2013 even web experts want simpler software.


Many sites have no menus

How simple are many websites in 2013? Very, very simple.

Until now we’ve often thought of menus of being the foundation stone of a website. That’s no longer true.

Via WordPress.com we get some fascinating statistics.

  • 76% of sites have no menus at all
  • 18% have 1 menu
  • 6% have 2 more more menus

Thanks to Joey Kudish and lessbloat for putting these statistics together.

Many sites have no sidebars

Not only navigation, but also design is becoming simpler.

How can you tell if a website was designed in the last 3 years? It has no sidebars.

That’s a little bit of an over-simplification, but it’s not too far from the truth.

Some of the leading design sites, such as AListApart.com not only have no sidebars on their articles, they don’t have room for much of their logo:


The new WordPress theme called Twenty Thirteen lacks sidebars by default. It was explicity designed to work best with a single column layout. WordPress powers about 22% of all new websites and standard will be sidebar-free. You can see the demo here: http://twentythirteendemo.wordpress.com.


What are people actually using?

Below is a screenshot from Google Trends. The red line is Tumblr and the blue line is WordPress:


I don’t think it’s any coincidence at all that WordPress wants to become more like Tumblr. The WordPress team listen to their users. They know what people want.

Brad Frost has a great presentation that I’ve embedded below.

He presents daily figures some of the largest platforms on the web. The simpler something is, the more it gets used:

  • 500,000 WordPress posts
  • 40 million Tumblr posts
  • 500 million Tweets
  • 4 billion Facebook shares

Closing thoughts

I don’t know if Ghost will succeed in becoming a popular platform, but I know that Ghost has already succeded in one area. It has revealed that there is a huge pent-up demand for simpler web software from the experts, not just the end-users.

We can expect simpler interfaces in future versions of Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. And if a challenge emerges to thee dominance of those three major platforms, it will probably come from simpler alternatives.

I’ll close with some great quotes on this topic:

  • Pascal Finette: “Pretty much every software product I use has significantly less features than their earlier competitors.”
  • Chris Dixon: “the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy”.”


  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.

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11 years ago

The reason people want simpler web sites is that the learning curve is so long. How long does it take, honestly speaking, to become competent in Joomla? A year? Two years? Not only do they want simpler web site building tools but they want them to be more fool proof and easier to correct.

11 years ago

I tend to think those WordPress statistics are skewed in Frost’s presentation (~500,000 posts/day). I couldn’t track down the exact source of the numbers, but I imagine these numbers come directly from [url=http://WordPress.com]WordPress.com[/url] hosted blogs and don’t include all self-hosted WordPress installs (which are the majority AFAIK)

11 years ago

I wish Joomla become lighter and use much less server resources in the future.

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