Reader Input: Picking A CMS – Part 2

In The Series

On the quest for the perfect CMS (Picking a CMS Part 1), I’ve decided to switch focus a little bit.

New Standards

As you guys can see, I’ve had way too much on my hands to do a thorough job on the quest for the perfect Content Management System. But then something came to mind. Aren’t we all busy? No matter how wondering or beautiful a CMS is; it’s not use if all that beauty is buried so deep that people can’t find it. If you have to dig more than three (3) pages down on a Google Search page, then it’s not good enough.

Popularity – Just Like In High School

I know, I know, it isn’t fair, but that’s how life is. The popular guys got the girls, they made the football team, and they drive better cars. That’s just how life is. If a CMS is popular enough, it’s going to have certain things going for it.

It’s going to have more contributors. That means more eyes on the code (let’s hope that this will be a good thing). The more people that know about it means, the more people that write about it. Now I will admit, there’s a little “chicken vs. egg” thing going on there. Maybe it gets popular because people write about it. But for our purposes it doesn’t matter. The fact is, there will be more formal and informal documentation.

I’ll be the first to admit that popular doesn’t always mean better. Take WordPress for instance. Although I’ve never looked, I’ve been assured that the code is quite mangled. But notice what I said, I’ve never looked, and neither will your clients. No matter how elegant your code is and how fast it runs; none of that matters if your product doesn’t get out there do serve it’s purpose. With all it’s flaws, I’ve seen WordPress run some of the largest blogs out there, so they must be doing something right. No one returns a BMW because they don’t like the layout of the engine.

So what does populartiy mean? Sorry to all the new kids on the block. You might be cool, but I just can’t take that risk.

Plugins, Modules and Addons.

I don’t care what you say, no matter how cool a CMS is, it will never everything that you want it to do. That’s why we need tons of plugins, modules, addons or whatever you want to call them. Let’s face it, clients always know what they want, until they don’t and you have to radically change your plans.

Also, plugins are an excellent way for other people to contribute to the community without having to hack the core or something.

New Playbook – 20 Minute Dry Run

With all of this said, I have a new plan of attack. I’m going to right some of these CMSs off the list right off the bat. Again, I’m sorry to the new comers. It isn’t fair, but that’s just the way it is. New platforms run the risk of being underdeveloped and not very well documented or supported. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take on a client’s site.

To get things on one baseline, I’m actually using a previous site as a common ground for testing. It encompasses some common functionality that I feel all CMSs should be able to handle: Images, Blogs, etc.

Where Are We So Far?

I’ve been told that Frog CMS is an excellent choice of a CMS. However, based on my new rules it’s not an option. It’s been in verion 0.9.5 since April 2009. And recently the author (yes, I think there’s only one) posted a Still Alive post. So, no offense, but this one’s not for me.

ModX seems to have a huge list of Extras on it’s page, so it’s still on my list. I’m assuming this shows an active community. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

What Have I Tried?

Those who ignore the past are destined to repeat it.

Leave The Past In The Past

These words are what keep me away from Joomla. I left Joomla at version 1.5 over three (3) years ago. Although people always swear this is true, the version numbers don’t show enough significant change from the mess I remember. So, I’m not touching this thing with a ten foot pole.

Testing The Drupal Waters

I did bite the bullet and installed Drupal. I mean, if it’s good enough for the President of the United States, I should at least give it a try, don’t you think? There are some things that I like so far:

  • Admin Templates/Themes  - The backend is extremely flexible. You can change the look, and even the menus that are listed.  With a few modules, you can fine tune the permissions and give clients access to only what you want them to have. So, the argument of “too complicated for clients” can be countered.
  • Template Caching – I’m not sure how it works, but I love it. Certain things in the template are cached. One of which being the CSS and JS files. You can even combine and minify these. I just love that.
  • Multisites – You can set up a nice little web farm that all runs on the same Drupal core code. They can even share custom modules. I’m guessing it’s something like WordPress MU, but I’ve never tried this myself.

Onward and Upward

The quest continues with Silverstripe and ModX. Stay tuned.

Comments

  1. I’m enjoying the multi-site situation with Drupal as well – my own site, my wife’s site, my Dad’s site and a site I set up for a local mini-con are all running on the same code, just with different databases. The trickiest thing is just remember to run update.php on all four when something’s been updated.

  2. I’ve been watching this series of posts with great interest. To date, this is the only time you seem to have mentioned WordPress and by the looks of it, you’ve never tried it.

    Personally, I use it (with the Pods CMS plugin) pretty much exclusively. I have used it for some reasonably high-profile sites too.

    It’s upgradability is now by far the best I’ve ever seen in any CMS. After a quick (precautionary) DB/filesystem backup, I simply click on a link in the admin and volla! System upgraded.

    As for the modules, WordPress has thousands. I’m yet to find a problem that hasn’t been solved by an existing plugin.

    Also, hooking into the core plugin system is very easy. I’ve played around with it and I’m very impressed with it’s simplicity.

    I’ve heard complaints about low security and code mess too. I’ve never come across either. Due to the easy upgradability, any security holes that could be found are so easily patched it’s not funny.

    It’s seriously worth the investigation IMO.

    Cheers

    • Actually, I have tried WordPress. Nothing more than designing around a theme. At the end of the day, that’s all I think I need to do.

      If I have to code my own modules/plugins then I think I either need another tool that has that built in or a custom solution (CakePHP anyone?).

      The problem I have with a lot of WordPress plugins is their user management. Often my “editors” don’t have access to plugin functionality. And there’s no way (that I’ve found) to enable permissions to just ONE plugin.

      But WordPress is marvelous tool, but with a limited range

      • Indeed, it does have a limited range – but that’s where I find the beauty lies. Most of my clients have one, maybe two maintainers. Drupal and Joomla are just too heavy-weight for their needs.

        What I like a bout WP, is it starts off simple and you build on it. You add in the features you like.

        Obviuosly, not perfect for every situation (what is though ;) but perfect for many sites.

        Oh, and don’t look at flutter. It’s bad news with barely any updates. Pods CMS plugin is fantastic.

        Cheers

        • I have a couple problems with WordPress, can you help?

          WYSIWYG widgets
          Widgets that “editors” can modify

          I need a way to get a client to replace a “block” of text somewhere on the page.

  3. Personally, I hardly ever use widgets, well at least in their most raw form.

    I tend to setup pages that sit in the sidebar. See item 6 on this page for a basic way of doing it: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/07/02/power-tips-for-wordpress-template-developers/

    However, using Pods CMS plugin, you can setup reusable content blocks that can be placed anywhere. Pods has a pretty reasonable ACL capability too – not as powerful as drupal but better than nothing :)

    Send me an email and I’ll give you a hand if you’d like.

    Cheers