A content management system, or CMS can be a valuable addition to a website. Simply put, a CMS is extremely useful in allowing non-technical business owners and administrators to update the content on their website. If the wrong CMS is implemented however, this can lead to problems down the road. Such problems can be that the CMS is difficult to use and unintuitive, certain requirements are not met, or will not be able to extended on to the platform in the future.
In this article, we will have a brief look at some of the more popular solutions and suggest reasons why these would be good to use or avoid. Our criteria for looking at these will be with the small business owner in mind. Budget, ease of use, further extension and platform support will be some of the important points to consider.
The Joomla! CMS has had three incarnations; version 1.0, 1.5 and the newly released 1.6. All three platforms are still supported, although 1.0 is no longer recommended and many have been urged to migrate to newer platforms. Each version is quite different and should technically be classed as versions 1,2 and 3.
The Joomla! CMS is open source, which means that it is completely free to download. Developing a website on the Joomla! platform will then be a case of designing a “skin” or “template” that reflects the requirements and branding of your company to overlay on top of the platform. Administration and development time required to achieve a good looking and well functioning website is where your budget will be spent.
As a whole, work has been performed on the admin side of things to make the user experience of updating and adding new content easier with Joomla 1.6. It is still fairly confusing and unintuitive to use and will require quite a lot of training to be able to achieve amends to articles or inserting new areas of content through a menu system. This is still an incredibly popular platform however and many fans, once used to the workflow, really enjoy using Joomla.
Joomla also has a few different extensions that drastically alter the workflow and admin management that can also be implemented, such as the K2 system.
Joomla has a myriad of extensions and this makes it an extremely flexible solution to be able to extend it into a lightweight e-commerce system, image gallery, newspaper or business directory amongst others. This swiss army aspect, should come with a word of warning however, as some of the third party extensions are not necessarily well coded, supported or secure and are used at the website owners own risk.
Paid third party solutions are also available and these can provide a more robust solution.
These platform extensions can also be anything from extremely easy to admin, to incredibly unintuitive.
Due to the popularity of Joomla and the open source nature of its code base there is a huge fan base that can provide technical answers through forums. Joomla is also updated on a regular occurrence, with security patches and bug fixes. As Joomla is a well known platform there is also lots of training material available.
Joomla is a useful CMS platform that can be developed into a few different directions, there are still a few issues with ease of use as an administrator, ease of updating and integrity of third party extensions however, but is fairly easy to develop a website and design a professional looking template to sit on top of the platform.
Wordpress began life as a blogging platform and has gradually evolved in to an extremely flexible and easy to use CMS. The addition of easy drag and drop menu hierarchy and clear delineation with categories and posts has come up trumps in many peoples perspectives. WordPress also has a clear upgrade path, with earlier versions being incorporated into the version 3.0. and no longer available for official download.
WordPress is also open source and is available for download through the official website. Development time and budget will be spent creating a web design and implementing it in to the wordpress platform.
The learning curve of the administration is far easier to use than some of the other options available and has also gained traction in popularity due to it’s ease of use. Less training will be needed to orientate someone with this platform. Another feature of WordPress is that updates are also prompted and performed through the admin panel.
Like Joomla there is a vast extension library that can take WordPress in many directions and deviate from a simple CMS; e-commerce, galleries, business directories and auction websites can all be built on the back of WordPress to varying degrees of success and dependent on the integrity of the third party extension. The extension library is less official in some respects but can be accessed directly through the administration and also installed. Paid extensions are also available.
As arguably WordPress is the most used CMS on the internet it has a vast community network that offer support and advice through forums. There is a strong developer community that ensures constant updates, improvements and ideas for the future.
Our favourite open source CMS of choice, easy to develop for, deploy and train clients in. WordPress has the added advantage of being search engine friendly out of the box and will not damage your websites potential ranking that other CMS’s can do unless well managed.
Drupal has come a long way with version 6 and is a solid contender for a CMS. It is known as the developers CMS as it requires slightly more development time, yet is easily extendable due to the semantic nature of the core code. Many arguments have been banded around the internet with comparisons between Joomla vs Drupal leaving many fans on each side stating plausible cases over the other or getting stuck in for a bit more of an emotional response!
Drupal is also a free CMS and so development time will be taken on creating branded templates and web design requirements on the platform. Drupal is a bit more raw out of the box than the other CMS’s and so slightly more development budget is required to have a functioning website.
Drupal 6 has created an easy to use admin interface which interacts with the website nicely. It is also fairly easy to navigate around the admin panel. However, Drupal is a little sparse out of the box and so modules will have to be included such as a WYSIWYG editor amongst others. The true power of drupal is the ability to properly control user access and create custom roles.
Drupal 6+ has a lot less extensions than the above CMS’s but what is there is well supported or coded. The Drupal community considers themselves code developers and will have best practice in mind. Drupal as a platform can also be taken off in any direction and the bare-bones out of the box installation almost hints at just that. Drupal encourages adding on modules after installation, so each Drupal site is often different.
There is also a burgeoning development community that supports and updates Drupal’s core CMS and modules, due to Drupals popularity there is an abundance of literature and online tutorials available.
For bigger, more powerful sites that require good scalability Drupal is a good solid code base that is developed with coders in mind. Although out of the box there is not too much, modules are easy to integrate and custom development can fit in nicely with the core code API.
The three CMS’s above were chosen primarily due to their popularity and as an example of an Open Source CMS platform that a small business user would be comfortable in using. There are a multitude of less popular CMS’s out there that are also incredibly flexible, open source(free) and easy to use and it would take a while to list them all! This article was more intended to summarise the definition of a content management system and help provide a small business with some criteria to approach their choice with.