For anyone who doesn’t already know, CMS (Content Management System) programs are the newest craze among aspiring, young web professionals. They are open source software programs that allow web developers, web designers, web masters or one who aspires to be any one of these, access to database and community building web site software for free!
They typically come with predefined Mysql databases, PHP code, log in abilities, and more at your finger tips and fully customizable. Anyone beginning their CMS journey will likely try out 10-20 different CMS open source software programs before deciding on one that works for them and what they want to do.
What type of website are you looking to create? What is required of your CMS program?
CMS Programs can create Community websites like Myspace, Bookmarking sites like Digg.com, Portal Sites for businesses, E-Commerce sites with shopping carts, Blogs like Blogger!, Forums sites, Image Gallery Communities like flickr, and basically any other website requiring dynamic PHP and Mysql databases.
The great thing about this free software is that you don’t need to be a web programmer to use it. It’s built with full wysiwyg interface in it’s backend capabilities. The downfall is that it’s difficult to decide which one you are going to use, and a lot of times the CMS programs won’t have a lot of documentation available…since, it is free.
While it may be difficult to choose a CMS Program that works for you, it is much easier to know when the CMS Program will not be useful for the site that you want to build. First step, is to plan out the list of functions and abilities that you will need for your website. This includes: Image Gallery, Forum, Bookmark ability, user publishing, user profile additions, etc. Once you know what you want your CMS Open Source Software program to do, you can start to narrow down your options.
Here are some things to look for in the CMS programs you’re experimenting with and researching:
1. Is the backend of this CMS Program intuitive enough for me? Can I easily navigate through the configuring process, or is it so time consuming and confusing, that this CMS Software Program might not be worth my time?
If you have spent hours just trying to figure out how to change a menu item on the frontend of your site, it’s time to just let it go. It’s not going to work out. It’s not you, it’s them! That type of thing should be easy for any CMS software program, even if you are a newbie. Programs like wordpress and PHPbb are made for individuals with little to no experience and they are always a good backup…depending upon what you want to do with your website.
2. The Original CMS Template is completely Horrible and not what I’m looking for.
The template that comes with your CMS program will most likely not be exactly what you’re looking for. But, if it fuddled up from top to bottom, doesn’t work correctly all the time, have incompetent columns and navigation elements, then the CMS software itself is likely to leave something to be desire as well.
3. Navigation is a mess
If the navigation within the backend or frontend of your CMS software is unintuitive, confusing, overly redundant, then it’s time to say buhbye! The navigation should be automatically set up to display in a way where you could simply change the names and it would be ready to go! This is the magic of open source CMS software. This was what I experienced with Drupal. While it is a great CMS software program, and does offer some amazing features, the navigation on the page was completely ridiculous and redundant. There were about 35 links on the page, and some of them were just repeated in a sublink of another one. If that sounds confusing, think about how confusing it was to use! This is free software folks, so we do still appreciate all the CMS software programs out there, but when you know there is something better waiting…Why settle for less?
4. You have to configure new modules, components, plugins, etc. using backend code
Don’t be fooled, there are CMS software programs out there that allow add ons (modules, plugins, components) with a simple download, unzip and upload straight to the website. Joomla allows you to do this and so does MODX…Among others that I do not have personal experience with. Both of these are portal CMS Programs are portals by nature, very popular and allow you to configure new add ons very very easily.
5. The CMS Programs comes with WAY too many add ons, capabilities and components
If you are using a CMS program that by default, comes with far too many add ons and capabilities, there is probably a simpler, cleaner and easier option for you and what you’re trying to accomplish with your dynamic website. For example, if you simple want a blog for personal use, and nothing more, drupal, joomla, PHP-Nuke are going to be confusing and difficult to shave down into a blog for yourself. An option like wordpress is much easier and built to do just that. In other words, look for a CMS program that offers the features that you’re looking for. You can almost always add on more components, but turning off features only adds to the confusion.
6. There is not enough documentation
Open Source CMS Programs are well…Open source. Meaning that they’re free. With that said, sometimes they don’t necessarily offer the proper documentation that is needed to configure the programs. Make sure the CMS software program you choose has enough documentation, guides and information to help you while configuring your website.
Here’s a handy list of the most popular CMS programs available, and what they’re typically used for:
CMS Made Simple
For Image Galleries:
For a Wiki: