Movable Type vs WordPress

I have used Movable Type installed on my own webhost for 5 years or so. After several false starts on WordPress I decided to make the switch. Maybe.
For several years I really liked Movable Type. I could manage the design of my web site using html and css. Movable Type took my html and css as templates to produce the final product with all of my blog entries incorporated automagically. Movable Type even permitted text files to be linked so that one could avoid the Movable Type editor altogether. The system was relatively clean and straight forward to use.
Then came Movable Type 4.2. Six Apart made some fairly radical changes to the template structure which broke existing templates during upgrade. The new template structure fragments the html into blocks – header, body, footer, sidebar, etc. It might be possible to work with the new structure in order to implement the old. I have not yet taken the time to sort it all out. 4.2 came just as I was about to head out on a military deployment to Iraq. I didn’t have time to figure it all out then. By the time I returned, I’d lost interest.
I’ve been watching WordPress for several years. Twice I made attempts to move my blog to WordPress and then changed my mind. After I returned from deployment, I started looking into what I wanted to do about my blog. For several years I’ve been watching all kinds of cool widgets and themes coming out for WordPress. The bit the really got my attention was the iPhone WordPress client. I figured Six Apart would surely make one as well. Not so far. That finally motivated me to move my blog over to WordPress and see what it is really like.
Movable Type is definitely an industrial strength weblog content manager. From a single install of MT it is relatively painless and instantaneous to set up multiple blogs with multiple users of varying access privileges. That part did indeed work very well. Up until 4.2, managing the look and feel of the various web sites on which the multiple blogs existed was also fairly simple. There was one html template for each view (main index, archive index, comment input, etc.) associated with the blog. Movable Type included some advanced features that made it really simple to reuse common elements across multiple templates. The style of the entire weblog could be managed from a single style sheet. Multiple style sheets could also be used from within the constructs of CSS. 4.2 made some radical changes to the template structure which complicated the construction and management of the html significantly, at least in my opinion. I’m sure that the folks at Six Apart are convinced that the new architecture is a vast improvement.
What then of WordPress. Facebook integration is available through a widget. Digg integration into one’s blog is available via a widget. Mobile device specific layouts that are triggered automatically are available through a widget. Flickr integration in a manner more meaningful and elegant than the gawd awful Flickr badges is available in the form of a widget. Having watched with envy as my buddies running WordPress blogs kept getting all the cool gadgets and toys I decided it was time to get it a try.
Wordpress sets up more quickly and easily than Movable Type. The SQL setup is pretty much the same for both but installation of the WordPress software is easier. Customizing WordPress is both easier and significantly harder. Simpler because so many things can be customized simply by installing a widget. If the customization you want is available in a widget, adding that customization to your weblog can be done in minutes. Likewise if the customization you want is available as a theme. Most things that can be handled in modifying a style sheet are also fairly easy provided that you have a working knowledge of CSS.
Anything that does not fit into the categories mentioned above falls into the significantly harder class. Customizing the header of you blog, which is a fairly simple html and css task in Movable Type, is more complicated in WordPress. It requires mucking around with the WordPress php code. When I’m wearing my web designer hat, I’d really prefer to only have to work with html and css. JavaScript, php, perl and all the other languages of the web are great but it should not be necessary to fiddle with php in order to insert or change a graphic in the page layout. That’s crazy. But that is what is required to peak, tweak and/or modify in any significant and meaningful way the page layout of a WordPress weblog.
I know that there are a lot of business and corporate blogs that run on WordPress. However, in my mind, WordPress is excellent weblog software for non-technical to moderately technical non-professionals who want to run their own blog. I honestly believe that most of these people would be a lot happier on Squarespace or similar. But, if you really want to install and maintain your own blog software, WordPress is a decent choice.
For web world professionals who maintain blog sites for clients I think there are better solutions available. Movable Type is an industrial strength blog engine. Once you get your head around the template architecture that they use the page layout that Movable Type can support is limited more by the skill of the designer than Movable Type.
I’m not yet ready to go back to Movable Type. I like some of the things I’ve been able to do with WordPress but I do not like the hurdles involved in customizing a WordPress layout. So, I’m exploring other weblog management systems looking for something lightweight, easily incorporated into an html CSS web site. MODx maybe. Any suggestions?

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