Hey Mark. I think that’s a wonderful question and am hoping @cory would hop in and share his insights too.
First I have to say…I have been building websites from scratch since I learnt how to build websites. And when I had a big website to make which had about 250 pages, I also opted to create it from scratch (Plain HTML and CSS - No CMS, no frameworks). But the dilemma I was in after finishing was that how would the client edit the site when they wanted to…Lucky for me I found out that Surreal CMS was available. And was so overjoyed to learn that Surreal just solved that specific problem…enabling the editing of static websites.
To answer your question,…People use other CMS like Wix, WordPress, Squarespace etc. because that’s what they know about. With those CMS you can pick a template quickly and have a website. Most people don’t know or don’t want to create a website from scratch. So it’s only a few of us developers who are in love with Surreal. Because Surreal on its own can’t offer anything to non-developers…they need a website…and the only way to get a website for them is to use ready made themes or templates offered by other CMSs.
Another thing is that even for people who don’t make websites themselves…they have only heard about maybe WordPress and Wix…they don’t know other platforms. So when a developer like me offer to build their website and use Surreal as an CMS…they’re a bit skeptical because they don’t know Surreal and maybe they want something familiar which is also used by friends and family.
You have asked a lot of great question and I would love to answer them all since at some point I also had same questions.
What other CMSs especially WordPress offers is that WP is so powerful…It can do so much. Whichever website you want e.g a simple website, an e-commerce website, a forum, a membership site…You can get it with just one WordPress Theme and maybe a few plugins. And that’s why WordPress is so popular…it’s because of its versatility. However, we all know with that versatility comes the complexity and that’s where WordPress can get super intimidating in case you wanna get custom functionality or just a few edits. Even creating a WordPress theme isn’t easy. Now compare that with making a simple website with just HTML and CSS.
Do most sites really need a database? A big NO! Most sites don’t need a database. Actually nowadays with third party tools like maybe snipcart (snipcart.com) you can have an e-commerce site without having a database (I mean your own database). But if you need an all in one e-commerce site…that’s where a database can come in… in products like Shopify or WordPress (WooCommerce) where they integrate everything in one.
A database can be special when you have a lot of data that need to be saved and maybe archived. But with some programming you can even have simple database in flat files or JSON format without really utilizing Database Systems like MYSQL, etc. That said, any big website that utilizes a lot of functionality such as saving user data, needs to have a database. Websites like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc. can’t exist without a database. If you need to save information…you need a database.
And as you might come to know even Surreal has a database…It can’t do all that it does without a database. Surreal doesn’t have templates, themes or plugins that people can use to enable more functionality. All Surreal does is to enable one to edit his website…and that’s where it does best. It has taken one main function of a CMS and just focus on that - the ability of editing content.
Anyway, that was long I would really love to hear what others and especially @cory has to say.
PS: Surreal CMS isn’t popular because Cory doesn’t want to make it popular…am very sure with some funding it can compete with major players in the game. And in itself it can be a big business! Cory what do you have to say about this.