Content Management Systems (CMS)

If you’ve been around the web block a few times and know a thing or two about putting up a web site, you’ve probably heard something about Content Management Systems (CMS). They can be real time-savers, and the basic premise is this: you forgo all the hand coding that you’ve been doing to keep your site going and you plug into the “already-invented-wheel” to get rolling.

CMS’s usually require a database (often MySQL) and a server side scripting language (often PHP). It’s a powerful combo: you can create templates that control how the content looks then add all the content you want. The templates go beyond the style sheets, they incorporate the html used by the pages that reference the CSS, and they can also include things like Javascript for controlling menus or fixed footers. Usually the templates rely on a placeholder that indicates where the content should be added.

There are a LOT of CMS’s out there, and it seems like every corporate code-monkey gets pegged to code a new CMS for in-house work at some point or another. http://opensourcecms.com/ provides a nice way to try out different CMS’s to get a feel for what they’re like. The site is a bit awkwardly laid-out, but you can get a long list of CMS’s on the left by opening the “portal” items under the “CMS Demo Menu” section.

One long weekend, I tried out a number of these… my choice? MODx — it’s free and it made a lot of sense to me. Still in beta, not a huge user base, but easy to work with (IMHO). But don’t take my word for it… you should evaluate what you need to do with your CMS. If it’s a quick and dirty blog you need, WordPress is hard to beat.

One big contender that costs about $100 is Expression Engine — it comes highly rated from people I work with who are in the know.

Here’s a list of the ones that have gotten the most air-play in my line of work (coding):

  1. Drupal — often recommended for people building “static” type sites with lots of fixed pages. Has a pretty good user base, but again, I disliked the boxy layout approach and the whacko documentation
  2. Joomla — made by most of the same people who made Mambo. Boxy layouts and weird vocabulary.
  3. MODx — My personal favorite. Nice AJAX back-end and easy compartmentalization between front-end and back-end contributions. It’s really easy to take an existing static site and drop in CMS functionality using MODx. It’s also bloody simple to add your own custom PHP scripts. MODx is a leader when it comes to an SEO friendly site.
  4. WordPress — quick and dirty, great for blogs, huge user base… but no so good if you have specific needs and the template system isn’t the easiest and adding custom PHP scripts can be painful

Here’s an intro video I made about MODx:
YouTube Preview Image

2 thoughts on “Content Management Systems (CMS)

  1. Ah, now that I’ve worked with Expression Engine, I can say something intelligent about it. The mental model is of a blogging application hyped up on steroids. It is very flexible, but I didn’t find it particularly intuitive… there are lots of areas that required pseudo-code, and almost everything, yes, nearly everything in the app is thought of as a blog post.

    The strongest reason to use this application are that it is mature with a dedicated dev team supporting it — you can actually call someone if something breaks (for the licensed versions, anyway). But I found that using MODx involved far less cerebral hemorrhaging… MODx just made more sense and has a better interface.

  2. Very useful information. Thanks for this. You got a great blog .I will be interested in more similar topics.I’m very interested in CMS and all its related subjects.

Comments are closed.