Content Management Systems 101.2

13 October 2008, by A. Cedilla

Part 2 of 2

The previous installment of this series defined what a content management system is and what it does. This post gives out ideas on how to pick the best content management system for you.

 

How do you pick the best CMS for you?
That depends on what you’re looking to accomplish with the particular website you intend to build. What is your strategy? Do you want to build a community, or a website that’s news-driven? Drupal can work wonders for that. If you’re thinking of a portal site, many people use Joomla for that purpose.

The best way to choose is to first decide what you want to accomplish with your website — whether it’s for business or for pleasure.

Do you want to establish a serious reader base with your content and then branch out to forums? Maybe you just want to connect with people who have the same interests and hobbies you do.

Or maybe you just want an online diary of sorts that you can share with friends and family to keep in touch. Define the purpose of your site.

 

There are loads of CM systems on line that are presented as freeware. However, below are two suggestions for different user groups:

Typo3: If you think yourself a professional and think that you can deal with some PHP coding, this robust and very flexible system is just for you.
Mambo: If you say “No, thanks. I don”t want to deal with PHP coding, I am doing this as a hobby”, then consider Mambo. It doesn’t require the user to change much and is already supported by many ready-to-install modules and templates.

Keeping this goal in mind, do your research using your favorite search engine. Learn about the different ways each web content management system may help you.

Take a look at the templates (graphic design lay out), and the extensions (add-on scripts). Keep reviewing them to see what sticks out in the long run. A template may catch your eye at the beginning, and then give you a headache later because it starts looking too busy and cluttered.

 

Have several choices to pick from then ask yourself: Does this fit with the overall theme you want for your site? Does it help bring you closer to your goals — easy navigation, good-looking lay-out, no clutter? Also as important, can I use this without it giving me a headache?

Now, based on your overall judgment, narrow down your choices, and pick one that’s right for you.

What’s great about this process is that it can even help you develop more ideas for your website. Once you start to learn about all the additional benefits that content management systems can provide, you may just be inspired to make a better plan than what you started out with.

Bear in mind that there are also many simple content management systems that are not primarily designed to run blogs. These systems will run a wide range of websites -including blogs – and although the core software is usually fairly simple, there may be add-ons and plug-ins, which can be used to extend the system’s capabilities. A good example of this kind of system is a package called ‘CMS Made Simple‘.

In part 1, we briefly mentioned portal systems. As well as managing content, these provide all kinds of additional functionality: things like front-end user registration, polls, forums, e-commerce, mailing lists, etc. They are very powerful pieces of software and provide almost limitless possibilities in site lay-out and control for the advanced webmaster. However, for beginners and intermediate users, the high level of technical know-how needed to run these systems can be off-putting. Examples of portal systems include Joomla, Mambo, Drupal and Postnuke.

You now have an overview of how content management systems work and some of the things to think about when researching which CMS to use. Please remember that there are dozens more open source content management systems than the few mentioned here. You might drown in all the details and data from you research, so ask around, see if your friends can make recommendations, and visit their sites to see if you”d like to use the CMS they”re using.

In summary:
Content Management Systems are almost like personal automated web page authors. You write your articles, surveys, and rating systems as if you are using a word processor or a visual editing program. Driven by the data you put in, the CMS stores all of these in a database and then translates them into HTML. CMS basically acts like a translator between you and the browsers by creating very user friendly graphical interfaces.

CMS generally have a front-end and a back-end. The front-end obviously refers to the face of the site– the one that each visitor sees. The back-end is the user-friendly graphical interface where you can edit your content or the template with the help of the many wizards that are supplied by these systems.

Let’s say you needed to write a code for a user-upload function in the site, or a survey system that would enable users to vote on your articles; you don’t even need to touch Dreamweaver, Frontpage, or any kind of HTML editor; there are already hundreds of modules that are written for different CMS’s. You just download the module to your server and install it.

In short, CMS helps makes our work much easier and our sites much more attractive. They are the “operating systems”, personal coders and free translators of the web.

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