Why I Built MDWeb

My Terrible Past

For the past 20 years I've been building websites. For the past 15 years I've been doing it professionally. In that time when a client needed a quick, cheap extensible and easy to maintain site I would reach for the most popular content management system (CMS) of the day. I've used dozens of them: Blogger, Django-cms, Drupal, Joomla, Mambo, Moodle, Movable Type, Plone, PHP-Nuke, Sitecore, Umbraco, Wordpress and others I can't remember. I've also built my own CMSs in Python and PHP. These past 20 years has been terrible¹.

After all that time I learned that the more features a tool has the more feature you use, even if you don't need them. Even when you need a feature, you probably don't need the feature. Website owners suffers from an acute case of ADHD. Technology changes at an incredible pace and what was difficult to do 6 months ago you can do easily now, there's probably a plugin for it.

To keep up with all the other sites out there you find yourself adding a parallax effect on your home page, you redesign all your rounded buttons to be square - flat material design compliant, you try and subsequently replace every jQuery carousel, eventually building your own, you add no less than 38 share icons under every worthless piece of content.

The problem with every1 CMS is that they enable this compulsive behavior. Wordpress and Drupal have plugins for everything you could possibly need and they make it very easy (and insecure) to install directly from their admin interface. Why not add all 38 share buttons under every worthless piece of content when it's so easy?

What proud, new website owners invariably fail to realize until far too late is that all these features which are so easy to install and setup require a huge investment of time and effort to maintain, and they're not in reality easy to setup. Sure you can click a button in Wordpress to install the Über Carousel but tweaking your design to fit it above the fold on your landing page will take 40 hours of work. Then in 6 months when you want text overlaid on the carousel you have to hack it or replace it followed by another 40 hours of design/layout work.

[1] Not all CMSs are as bad as I describe. I've used Pico, Kirby and a couple others that almost get it right.

What is it You're Trying to Do?

This is the question that is forgotten. Almost always the answer is display content. Everything else is just pixie dust. I'm not saying content shouldn't look good, only that a carousel is completely unnecessary to accomplish your goal of displaying content.

Once you remove all the inessential trappings of modern websites you should be left with

  • A site that looks good
  • A site that clearly communicates your message

With just these two guidelines a CMS becomes much less complicated. Setup and maintenance becomes trivial. In fact you no longer need a CMS, you're left with something that's Not a CMS a NaCMS.

MDWeb Guidelines

MDWeb is built upon these two guidelines. It is painstakingly designed to be as minimalistic as possible while taking less than 5 minutes to setup and less than a minute to add content.