in which we discuss Content Management Systems

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by shecky, Mar 23, 2007.

  1. shecky Guest

    shecky

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
    Location:
    Obviously you're not a golfer.
    #1
    i am going to be redesigning my website in the next few months and i am starting to consider going to a content management system to administer it. the site is primarily a design portfolio site, but i also want to be able to provide clients with a private section with a login to upload/download files; and possibly have some kind of a commented blog as well; but i would say the site is 90% portfolio images with some text. i am thinking about going to a CMS for the extensibility, and (once it is setup) ease of management and administration. my current site is all done in CSS (which is mostly copy + paste from a few sites i designed but did not program) and while it is "adequate" it is falling short in ways i think a CMS could help with.

    the problem here is that i am a designer, not a programmer. i understand the language of the web, and HTML is not greek to me, i can find my way around the code reasonably well, but i am not a guru. having said that, developing my current site did make me really like how CSS works so i think i would like to keep it that way. i will not be using Flash (with the possible exception of embedded video objects) or anything fancy. The other problem is that i have never actually used a CMS in any depth, but i do (i think) understand how it works in terms of content and style (see below):

    my basic understanding of a CMS vs. Old Skool HTML/CSS is that in Old Skool you make a page, put your content in via inline images and text, etc... and to alter the content, you have to go back into the HTML page and put new images and text; to change the style of you go to the style sheet and change the CSS.

    with a CMS you make a page the same way with HTML/CSS but instead of putting in inline images and text, you put in an "object" that pulls the text and image out of a mySQL database. so now to alter the content you just go to your CMS admin panel and change it, to change the style you still can go into the CSS and alter the style sheet. to create new pages you just tell the CMS to create a new page based on a number of HTML/CSS templates you have made that have the "objects" in them, etc..

    right?

    so having said that, my CMS needs are pretty simple:

    -free/cheap
    -mySQL/PHP
    -works with HTML/CSS the way i think it does, or works differently but in a way i can understand easily
    -relatively simple learning curve AND/OR a very easy to understand manual/guide/tutorial to get up and running
    -allow for a 100% custom and original design on my part. i am not even remotely interested in templates.
    -some other stuff i should be asking but do not actually know

    i host with ASO and they have in their fantastico:

    Drupal
    Geeklog
    Joomla
    Mambo open source
    phpWCMS
    phpWebsite
    Siteframe
    TYPO3

    so, what should i be looking for? what should i read? what should i figure out? i am aware of Opensourcecms.com but there is information overload there so i do not even know where to start.
     
  2. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    toronto
    #2
    i'll throw in a vote for joomla.

    CMS's don't work quite the way your described, at least not joomla. it operates with content items, which are organized into categories, which are further organized into sections. these content items are displayed in the "main" area of each page. everything else on the page is placed there by a module. a module is an interface into any of: static content, dynamic content from the db, or some kind of control.

    there are extensions which provide the functionality you want, such as galleries and document repository. registration and login work out of the box, but i'd recommend an extension called Community Builder to replace it.

    the community at joomla.org is knowledgable and helpful, but be mindful of security. be sure to read and keep an eye on the security forum. also, make sure fantastico installs the latest GA version: 1.0.12. If it's earlier, install it yourself (no fantastico). joomla itself has no known security flaws, but some of the extensions do. there's a list kept on the forums there of which extensions have known vulnerabilities.

    and, yes, you can make your own CSS-based templates for it.

    i found joomla to be very good at getting a site up and going quickly. i've also done a site in mambo and like joomla better.
     
  3. shecky thread starter Guest

    shecky

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
    Location:
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    #3
    i see...

    i guess what i am asking is more about the workflow for designing a CMS site. for a static site it would be something like:

    -design the site architecture
    -design the site look + feel
    -create any graphics needed for look + feel
    -create the pages structure based on a few main templates
    -style the pages with css + add static graphic elements
    -add the content in each page
    -tweak and refine the pages
    -bugtest
    -launch

    whereas it sounds like a workflow with a CMS is more like:

    -design the site architecture
    -design the site look + feel
    -create any graphics needed for look + feel
    -create the pages structure based on a few main templates
    -style the templates with css + add static graphics
    -add the modules/blocks/code objects to the main templates
    -generate the site using the templates with basic empty pages from the CMS interface
    -add content to each page via the CMS
    -tweak and refine the templates
    -bugtest
    -launch

    i just want to make sure i understand how it all works from a theoretical standpoint before i get into it.
     
  4. ChrisWB macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2004
    Location:
    Chicago
    #4
    I like and use Drupal for two of my own websites. I tried Mambo and Joomla, but disliked the user interface. Whichever you choose, do not install them via Fantastico as the Fantastico versions contain security vulnerabilities. Installing them manually takes only a tiny bit more effort, but you'll have the advantage of customizing everything and knowing it will work for the long term.
     
  5. phantasmagoria macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2006
    Location:
    UK
    #5
    I'd echo the recommendation for Drupal. It's particularly powerful for building sites with a community/collaborative/blogging focus which would seem to fit your requirements. I'm building an Intranet for a client at the moment and opted for this over Joomla, which I've used in the past.

    I'd particularly recommend it for someone with your design skills. Drupal is very nicely built with better templates IMHO, which are easier to theme for someone with good CSS skills. I found with Joomla that there was more style than I preferred still embedded in tags within the templates rather than separated into the stylesheets.

    If Drupal doesn't suit you then I'd have little reservation recommending Joomla either, as it's a very powerful and extensible solution too.
     
  6. ChicoWeb macrumors 65816

    ChicoWeb

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    Location:
    California
    #6
    I love it when everyone says they need a "simple" website or a "simple" CMS. :D
     
  7. shecky thread starter Guest

    shecky

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  8. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    toronto
    #8
    well, there are many different kinds of content *to* manage. and then there are interfaces for creating content, different ways to access and display it, and it must all be stored and access protected.

    plus many CMS's are extendable, not only through display templating but API's, so in additional to managing content, many offer programming frameworks.

    then you get into all the web standards or niceties that need support, like RSS, SSL, SEF URLs, ajax, integration w/ other packages like forums, etc etc etc.

    not simple in the slightest. for full-featured CMS's like drupal and joomla, there is a lot of complexity.

    oh -- then there's the backend to manage it all!
     
  9. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    toronto
    #9
    fwiw...

    i just did a php line count of my joomla install, and it's 456,538 L.O.C.

    this doesn't include anything like CSS, html, the database, image directories, etc...
     
  10. shecky thread starter Guest

    shecky

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
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    #10
    to expand on the idea, as opposed to wanting something simple, i am interested in something that is not complicated. note that complexity (extendable, interconnected, multi layered elements driving many different kinds of content) is inherent in a system like a CMS, however it need not be complicated (confusing and hard to understand and implement) tho they often seem to end up that way. it is not true that something that is complex cannot also be simple; tho it may be rare to find that in terms of a CMS.

    it is entirely possible to have a simple website; i don't really understand the point of that comment or how it adds to the conversation.
     
  11. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #11
    i already stated that i found joomla easy to use. i also gave drupal a try, and it was also easy to use.

    but for the site i built, and what that site needed, i found joomla to suit my needs better.

    you're spending way too much time talking/thinking about it, when you really should just be installing the packages and playing with them. you'll know soon enough if they suit you.
     
  12. shecky thread starter Guest

    shecky

    Joined:
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    #12
    i don't think 4 posts on one thread is "way too much time" thinking about it, since i have only been considering it for all of 2 days :) besides, i need to spend a lot of time designing before i decide what way to go anyway. i am trying to figure out how it all works on a theoretical level so i don't waste my time messing around with a bunch of different options that don't even work they way i think they do and/or don't do what i need in a way that makes sense for me. i just keep trying to find the "n00b guide to CMS's and how to start building a site with one" but i keep coming up short.
     
  13. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
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    Location:
    toronto
    #13
    for joomla specifically, look for amy's guides. but for CMS's in general, i really think the process is:

    1. install it
    2. see what the page looks like
    3. turn off the things you don't want
    4. get up to speed on how to manage content for that particular CMS
    5. for the things you want that aren't there, either
    a. turn them on, or if they're not installed
    b. install a 3rd party sol'n and try it out
    6. find a template and tweak it, or make your own from scratch
    7. add content
    8. tweak tweak tweak
     
  14. RedTomato macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #14
    I am also very interested in CMS systems (if that is indeed what I need)

    Our theatre website is coming up for redesign. I'm no coder but I'll be the one responsible for maintaining and updating it with news and info about present and past productions.

    I won't be the person implementing it, we will give that to an outside company, but I will be the one maintaining the site, so what I say goes.

    To add or update news on the front page, I have to dive into the code in DreamWeaver and tweak the layout or rearrange it completely based on how many words each news item has (!)

    What should be a 10 minute drag and drop can take many hours.

    Adding new items to the site menu is also a pain.

    Is a CMS what I actually need or am I overlooking a simpler option? Any recommendations for simple stuff?
     
  15. shecky thread starter Guest

    shecky

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
    Location:
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    #15

    ahhhhhhhhhhh i see - you are saying backend first (implementation/code/technical stuff), THEN the frontend (look+feel). i never would have considered that. ill have to give it a go.
     
  16. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
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    Location:
    toronto
    #16
    coincidentally, my joomla site is also for a theater. i've set it up so any company member can submit an article for the frontpage, but i approve it (and usually edit it) before it's published.

    adding menu items is easy, so long as the thing to which they lead already exists.

    joomla article layout is flexible: when you write an article, there is both an intro and a main body. the main body is displayed only when the whole article is requested. on all other pages, you see only the title and the (short, if you'd like) intro. then for those summary pages, you can specify layout with different attributes, such as:
    1. how many will display full width
    2. for the rest, in how many columns they'll display
    3. how many to display per page
    4. for how many to show the intro, before just simply <li> listing the titles

    additionally, i've created custom module positions called Upcoming Shows and Now Playing, which will display on the front page if i've got them enabled (meaning, i've got content of those categories to display).

    you can see the site here.
     
  17. dustininsf macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2004
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    #17
    have you thought about something a little less complicated than one of the 'full-blown' CMS? From what I can tell, both Drupal and Joomla are great and are particularly advantageous if you're building a site with user/community functionality. From your description of what you'd like to do with your site and your abilities and interests, you may want to investigate using a "blog" engine like TextPattern or WordPress.

    Both should allow you to have a mixture of static pages and dynamic pages... and both have large communities that have developed tutorials, templates, plug-ins and forums with folks eager to offer advice (not that the big CMS systems like drupal and joomla don't have these things, of course!)

    I'm partial to TextPattern myself... and from what I hear, it's less demanding on your webserver than WordPress tends to be... but of course much of that is dependant upon your actual site and how well it's put together. Since TextPattern is the underdog, I've included a bit more information on it... you should have no problem finding info on WordPress!


    TextPattern "A free, flexible, elegant, easy-to-use content management system for all kinds of websites, even weblogs."

    http://www.textpattern.com/
    http://textpattern.org/ (plugins & more)
    http://textgarden.org/ (templates, styles, etc.)
    http://txpmag.com/ (textpattern magazine - good articles, templates, etc. & lots of example sites built with textpattern)

    WordPress "is a state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. What a mouthful. WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time."

    http://wordpress.org/
    http://wordpress.org/extend/
     
  18. ChicoWeb macrumors 65816

    ChicoWeb

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    Location:
    California
    #18
    Because any CMS that is actually a CMS, is not going to be simple. There is no magic CMS that just automatically does everything you need it to do.

    Joomla! is a good idea, but may be overkill. Though you can install it in minutes, it's a very in depth solution for content and management. We used it as a CMS for a site that has over 10k pages. It's great because this organization of hundreds of volunteers will have almost complete control over every content aspect of their site. The plugins are easy as long as it meets your needs. Customizing anything in the code in Joomla! proves to be a challenge since it's so robust and you don't want to re-write any existing functionality by accident.

    Anyways, as someone who has worked, installed, and created many custom CMS to do it correctly, is not simple.
     
  19. shecky thread starter Guest

    shecky

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
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    #19
    i do understand your point, but i do not know why you equate "simple" with "automatic", i don't. but thats getting into a semantic argument thats kind of off topic anyway. i appreciate what you are saying, tho.

    the thing that worries me about all of these guys is the template: a lot of them look alike and i am wondering if i am going to be constrained in designing the site 100% custom to how i want it to look. (maybe i am not looking at well done CMS sites?) i do not want a CMS that is going to limit the look of the site. i do know someone who used Typo3 to make a very custom site, but i keep reading that its a nightmare to figure out how to code a template. thats really the part that gets me worried about all the CMS stuff.
     
  20. pengu macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2005
    Location:
    Diddily Daddily...
    #20
    well.. i've noticed something in my time

    no CMS out there does exactly what anyone wants, EXCEPT the person/people who wrote it (more ppl involved, less people in the dev team will like every feature/method).

    which leads me to: i'm close to finishing a CMS for the agency im contracted to at the moment (they had some unique requirements.. Oracle DB, static file generation (with ftp sync to public site), layered edit/release rights..), run on Win2K3 server, usable by non-IT staff)

    Anywho. that has prompted me to take the very basic theory of that CMS ( i cant re-use the code even if i wanted to, for contractual reasons) and develop an OO (original version is all procedural) CMS/doodad. the workflow for it would be something like this:

    1) design layout/graphics
    2) create CSS/JS/HTML for template(s)
    3) add CSS/JS/HTML to database, and replace dummy content with a simple tag that calls some predefined (or extend the CMS if u like with ur own class) functionality to put the changing data into the screen.

    there are some things i have yet to see in any other CMS that i have/will cover off.. things like a sitemaps.org XML sitemap for google.com etc, built-in markup validation and link checking.

    anywho. i hope to have the basic ("normal" pages + gallery plugin) stuff finished in the next month or so if you're still looking (or dissatisfied and looking again) and it sounds like what you want, let me know.. oh. and it'll be free :D
     
  21. ChicoWeb macrumors 65816

    ChicoWeb

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    Location:
    California
    #21
    That kind of proves my point. It's not easy to integrate a CMS into a custom design. Can it be done, yes, but it takes a lot of time and knowledge.
     
  22. shecky thread starter Guest

    shecky

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  23. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    toronto
    #23
    i'm speaking again from a joomla perspective, since that's what i know best, and i'll say that though it'll take some work, you can do it with few constraints.

    as i mentioned before, joomla loads static and dynamic content via modules. modules are placed in positions of your choosing, and you can write the index.php to load in the modules as you want. of course, you'll make a CSS file or three to go with it.

    built-in to joomla is the idea that menus can be either vertical or horizontal, and you can have separate CSS rules for each. i mention menus because this is the one limitation i can think of off-hand, and that's your first menu item in Main menu is Home. joomla doesn't load right if that's omitted.

    i think your best bet for more info is to head over to:
    http://forum.joomla.org/

    ... and ask your templating questions there. it's an active and helpful community.

    ......

    i'm also going to second the wordpress suggestion, i've built 2 sites using WP. it's a little more geared to programmers, but i don't get the impression that'll chase you away. it also doesn't seem to be as much of a hacking target as joomla is.
     
  24. RedTomato macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #24
    Many thanks Zimv20 for letting me see your site, and to dustininsf for your suggestions. I've had a look at the recommended sites, and in the end I feel that anything written with blog software struggles with avoiding becoming overcrowded and overlong.

    At our site http://www.deafinitelytheatre.co.uk I'm quite strict about only having 4 or so items on the front page at a time. Our budget for the new website is about £5k ($10k) so a jump in quality from our current site is possible.

    Ideally I want something more on the lines of http://www.shapearts.org.uk/

    Can you tell if that was made with a CMS or not? I'd love that kind of unified look and simple approachability.

    I still have to maintain the thing tho, so without a CMS or other assistance I'm dreading breaking any fancy graphic elements each time I make an update. :eek:
     
  25. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    toronto
    #25
    budget! oh my, i built our site for nothing more than a promise they'd keep $20 in the paypal account to pay our $10/mo hosting fee :)

    i wouldn't mind a check for $10k USD right about now...

    i saw aspx in one of the links there, so i'm guessing it was made with .net?

    btw, i like many aspects of your current site. a £5k improvement on that should be kick-ass once it's done.

    .........

    regarding content management of theater stuff, specifically shows: the reason i first tried drupal (even though i was familiar w/ mambo) was because of the taxonomy -- i wanted to be able to multiply-classify shows from our history.

    i wanted this so that links such as "highly recommended" and "critic's choice" would pull up all the so-classified content items, and also so that someone could search on, say, "dada 2005" and get the intersection of those two terms.

    in the end, i realized i could get a site up faster w/ joomla, and had to give up that taxonomy functionality (now i have shows categorized under the year, and rely on keywords for the search functionality). but, i'd like to do a site in drupal in the future, once i have more time, and wanted to mention all this in case you wanted to manage your show content as i did.

    if so, then please consider drupal.
     

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