by March 3, 2011 0 comments

Every business needs to have web presence today. In fact, you can’t expect to do great things if you don’t have a website. And when it comes to the web, the days of boring, static pages are long gone. To simply put, you need to choose the perfect Content Management System (CMS) for your web presence. This choice is important in the sense that the ultimate look and feel of your website relies almost entirely on the CMS you decide to employ.

Over 95% of the CMSes are Open Source, and that number says it all! WordPress, Joomla, Drupal —you name it! No matter what sort of business you are running, Open Source ensures that you are in safe hands.

So, how do we choose the best CMS? The good thing is that there are numerous free CMS options available. The first thing to consider is the type of website that you are planning to build. If it is an e-commerce site, your requirements will be different from that of someone running a forum. Once, you’ve decided on the type or genre of your website, you may get to the available CMS options, along with each other’s pros and cons.

Before you choose a CMS!

Flexibility: Simply put, a good CMS should allow you to effectively manage your website with the least possible efforts. A WYISWYG Editor is a must, along with a plethora of plugins. You should be able to customize your website the way you want, not the way your CMS wants. Nowadays, most CMSes come bundled with plugins and modules that allow you to do virtually anything that you may want. However, not all plugins are alike, and certain CMSes like WordPress and Joomla score over the rest in terms of plugins’ repository for the simple reason that their developers’ community is more active.

Adaptability: Anyone running a website for a business knows that it is crucial that time is spent setting up the website, not the CMS. If you are running a collaborative site with many contributors, ease of use of the CMS becomes all the more important. It is here that the adaptability features of the CMS come in handy. Needless to say, it will be a sure disadvantage if you end up ‘teaching’ your staff how to deal with the CMS. Most CMSes offer user friendly interfaces now, though many still lag behind.

Functionality: A good CMS offers way more than just creation of pages. It all comes down to the user to get the most out of it. For example, if you are running a blog with hundreds of posts and just two pages, WordPress, Textpattern and even Dotclear will serve your purpose, but Pixelpost won’t. In case of an enterprise website, Magento will be the obvious choice for e-commerce solutions and not Drupal, simply because Magento is custom-built for such tasks and thus offers better functionality.

Plugins, Addons & Extensions: Most CMSes employ plugins and extensions to manage data and present it. For instance, WordPress has a world-renowned plugin to combat spam named Akismet. On a similar tone, a newer plugin called Defensio offers the same feature set as Akismet.

Such plugins/extensions are usually installed using the user interface or by uploading the required files via FTP. Quite obviously, it is a wise choice if you ensure that the CMS you are going to bank upon is backed by the requisite plugins and extensions. This will save you time and efforts as most of the repetitive coding will be taken care of by plugins and addons.

Security: No one can underestimate the importance of securing one’s online presence. While most CMSes secure the management end (i.e. admin, control panel, etc.), not all of them may do the same with the directory and site folders. For instance, while running my photo blog, I noticed that Pixelpost had left my .htaccess file with public visibility and editable. In that case, you may need to manually mark your crucial files as ‘read-only’.

Majority of the CMS software though now offer extensions that take care of the security front for you, unless you opt for a really obsolete CMS with rare updates.

Update mechanism: The world of technology is ever changing, and you’d surely not want your enterprise to be stuck with floppy diskettes in the age of USB. Same goes with CMS software. While some offer fort-nightly updates (like WordPress), others take their sweet time in bringing out an update (say, Zikula).

What not to do when choosing a CMS?

Going Geek-friendly: This is one of the most important things that you need to bear in mind. In all probability, your website will have more than one contributors, and not all of them will share the same level of technical expertise.

The bigger, the better: ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ –replace ‘book’ with CMS. Bluntly put, just because a CMS has zillions of forum threads and promises to give you ‘gorgeous templates’, it doesn’t become the best choice for your enterprise. A wiser choice is to opt for a simpler solution and adhere to it, rather than work with a CMS that makes your coffee too.

Trying them all: A better choice will be to shortlist a few CMSes, check out the demos, and then finally settle with one. This will not only save time but also help you remain focused with no undue interference.

Installing ALL plugins under the sun: Let’s face it. The availability of so many extensions and addons is hard to resist. But you need to have a clear idea of the modules or plugins that you want. If it is spam that you are fighting, you should consider Akismet. If you’re on a budget, Defensio will be a good choice. Last, you can dump both and stick to the Captcha system.

With the Do’s and Dont’s out of the way, lets take a quick look at some of the major Open Source CMS options.

Some CMSes you just can’t ignore!

General Purpose

Zikula: Zikula is a Web Application Toolkit, which allows you to run impressive websites and build powerful online applications. It focuses on security and customizability. Though relatively newer, Zikula will definitely be a great bet for running your enterprise website owing to the fact that it gives you total control in your hands, not in someone else’s.

Pros: Secure, large scope for customization.

Cons: Not very user-friendly


Joomla: Joomla is by far one of the most popular and widely used Open Source CMS. You can use it to develop almost any genre of website, be it a portal or a blog, or even a full-fledged social arena.

Pros: Highly extendible by means of plugins, huge community support

Cons: WYSIWYG editor needs improvement


Geeklog: Initially developed as a blog engine, Geeklog has support for comments, trackbacks, multiple syndication formats, spam protection, and many other features. Needless to emphasise, it gives you all that you can desire to set up your business site.

Pros: Gives you total control over the website, in the absolute sense

Cons: May seem overwhelming for a beginner


Drupal: Drupal is another Open Source Content Management System for building dynamic web sites offering a broad range of features and services including user administration, publishing workflow, discussion capabilities, news aggregation, metadata functionalities using controlled vocabularies and XML publishing for content sharing purposes.

Pros: plugins, themes and everything you’ll ever need to build your website

Cons: Portability issues (difficult to migrate to other CMS if needed)


PHP-Nuke: PHP-Nuke is an automated news publishing and content management system based on PHP and MySQL. The system is fully controlled using a web-based user interface.

Pros: Ideal for news sites

Cons: Not the best choice for websites that don’t publish on an hourly basis

XOOPS: XOOPS is an acronym of eXtensible Object Oriented Portal System. It can serve as a web framework for use by small, medium and large enterprise sites.

Pros: No-nonsense approach

Cons: Still a long way to go before it evolves as a true CMS

Typo3: Typo3 is a CMS for enterprise purposes on the web and in intranets. Its USP is the extreme ease of use it lends to multi-user mgmt.

Pros: Flexible and extendable via modules

Cons: Bloated administrative UI

Concrete5: Concrete5 is perhaps one of the easiest CMSes to use when it comes to developing an enterprise website. It is also backed by a huge number of plugins and modules.

Pros: Ease of use

Cons: Poor community support


So, you’re probably planning to run a forum on your website? Though CMSes like Zikula and Concrete5 provide support for forums, it is nevertheless a wiser option to install a separate and dedicated CMS for the purpose, in a directory of its own (it is a good practice to install each CMS in its own directory).

phpBB: phpBB is the most widely used Open Source bulletin board system in the world. PhpBB has all the features you will need to setup a large bulletin board for a corporate website.

Pros: Ease of use, good support

Cons: Administrative interface needs improvisation

bbPRESS: bbPress is forum software from the creators of WordPress. bbPress concentrates on ease of use and speed. If you’re planning a forum for your enterprise site but are short of time (or too lazy to deal with the zillions of features provided by phpBB), bbPRESS may very well be the solution for you.

Pros: Customizability, easy to pick up

Cons: Not robust feature

So, the bottomline?

Content Management Systems have become an indispensable element of web development today (unless of course if you are designing absolutely static pages with no flavor). Choosing the perfect CMS isn’t the world’s easiest job.

Considering the features of a CMS is a good idea indeed, especially those related to security, updates, extendibility, customization, etc. However, even a general glance at the feature sets will show you that almost all of them offer identical set of features

What can be done in such a case? Well, to begin with, the list of ‘requirements’ should be different from that of ‘wishes’. Keeping a plain, simple yet emphatic list of requirements always means that you can back it up, to suit your business’ perspectives. At the same time, it is advisable to bear in mind the changing trends of technology.

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