Over the past few years, I’ve worked on a few sites using the Cascade Content Management System (CMS) by Hannon Hill and many sites using the WordPress CMS. Below, I am going to highlight some of the main differences between the two CMS platforms.
Cascade is owned by Hannon Hill. WordPress is open source. Cascade’s CMS is tailored to the education and government markets. WordPress is sort of a free for all, able to be used for 1 to 1 billion page websites. But ownership has one major drawback. Only features created within Hannon Hill can be utilized on the Cascade CMS. Compare this to tens of thousands of available plugins for WordPress created by developers around the world. These plugins make it possible to do just about anything on a website from adding a simple Facebook connection to creating a full-fledged social network or ecommerce platform.
This for me is the biggest single difference. Cascade costs a lot of money. WordPress is free. And the majority of available WordPress plugins are also free. When one option is free and the other costs money, the expensive one better be exponentially better.
Ease of Use
I’m not sure how they did this, but Cascade has made it near impossible for the average person to upload a new image within the CMS. WordPress allows you to actually drag an image from a folder directly into the media uploader and the respective page. It’s almost too easy. Cascade requires the person to zip the image, upload it, and then add it in a completely separate section from where the upload took place. When you are attempting to make things easy for an organization’s staff to use to create and update content, this is one example of horrendous usability. I had to prepare a 2-page document for Cascade users describing the method to upload an image.
If Cascade has a problem with their CMS, Cascade personnel need to fix it. If there is a problem with WordPress, you are almost guaranteed to find any developer in any city in the world who can help.
I provided the designs for the Cascade site. I assume Cascade also has some templates available. Either way, you pay a designer like me or you pay Hannon Hill a lot of money for that design. WordPress has quite a few templates that are available for free. They look terrible, but they can be altered to look somewhat decent. Premium WordPress themes that look great and offer the latest technology are in the $40.00 range. There are even templates out there made specifically for Universities. The choice of WordPress templates is in the tens of thousands.
In Cascade, if I want to make a change to the menu that is on every page, I must publish every page of the website for the change to take place. Or, if I update a news item, I must republish the home page of the website for the new news item to show up. This is not the case with WordPress. If I make one change to the menu, I only need to publish that change and it will automatically occur sitewide. WordPress saves a lot of time in this regard.
For one of the Cascade sites I worked on, I attempted to introduce a mobile version of the website. It would have required an additional Cascade presence for the mobile site. Again, more cost. With WordPress, many of the new available templates have what is called Responsive Design. With the plethora of screen sizes and devices out there, it’s impossible to create a design for each device. Instead, Responsive Design uses code that automatically resizes and even repositions to fit the exact screen size. And WordPress makes it possible that this information only needs to be added once within the CMS.
While Cascade is a nice solution for Universities, my opinion is that WordPress is the better choice because of the update options, scalability, and price. The WordPress CMS makes it easy to train end users, update the software, and create a website with almost any imaginable capability. I usually just need one session with my clients to teach the WordPress CMS. I need a lot more than that to teach Cascade.
The following University websites were completed using WordPress: