Gone are the days of simple, static HTML pages. To be taken seriously, you need a Content Management System or CMS. With the evolution of Wordpress, Joomla!, Drupal and the various LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) hosting providers, it is now easier than ever to set up a nice dynamic web page. The question becomes “What do you need it for?”
For a quick website that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and can generate leads for your business, the best solution is Wordpress. Wordpress was first released in 2003 and built originally as a blogging platform. Since then, Wordpress has been consistently expanding as a more robust website and can handle a multitude of demands. If you need a website put up in a day, it serves all your needs because there is a huge following and tons of themes and plugins to choose from. As of 2011, Wordpress became the most popular CMS with 22% of the market.
So what are the drawbacks? Wordpress started as a blogging platform. To do more than blogging and creating pages, you will be relying on plugins that are often bulky and require updates that are all too frequent with Wordpress releases. It is not uncommon for users to update and get 404 or 500 errors because something in the core didn’t update correctly or one of the plugins is not compatible with the latest version. I have worked on many Wordpress sites. It is imperative to back up your site before updates because almost 20% of the time, updates will render your website useless.
A nice mid-size CMS is Joomla!. Joomla! was released in 2005 and has received a lot of accolades as an open source CMS over the years. It is currently regarded as the second most popular content management system with over 30 million downloads. What sets Joomla! apart is that it has a lot of built in functionality that allows you to create nice dynamic blocks of code and display them on the various “articles” (aka pages). Aspects of a website like blogs, feeds, and forms are just a simple click in the menu manager, and you are ready to go. Joomla also has a nice following, and there are plenty of themes and plugins to choose from.
Issues? The main issue developers have with Joomla! is the setup. To create a page/article in Joomla! you don’t just click new article, you have to assign the article to a menu and the website is run through the menus and not the pages. Then, in order to get different objects to appear on the page, you have to go to the modules and assign them based on page location to display the block and choose the pages to display it on. Confused? Me too.
For a large CMS with hundreds of pages, the answer is supposed to be Drupal. That’s its niche. Drupal was introduced in 2001, and a buddy of mine swears by it. To add pages simply log in as an administrator and you can edit the pages in blocks on the spot. Drupal, like it’s counterparts, has plenty of plugins and themes to choose from and the largest supporting community of all the CMS’s. It boasts over 17,000 plugins. Also, updates and other issues are relatively seamless and bug free.
Are there problems? Depends. Due to how the pages are developed, many of the pages appear cookie cutter. Several companies have switched to Joomla! and Wordpress because of the look and feel those sites can provide. Also, the lack of a full dashboard can create confusion when editing.
So what’s my choice... about a year ago I tried Mura and never looked back. Initially released in 2008, Mura is open source like the other CMS’s and can serve as both a simple blogging site or a mega site. It has a user friendly backend and a site structure that is easy to grasp. Updates also are a simple click and wont blow up your site. The main pull for me is the ability to manipulate the various data structures to fit the needs of the client. It’s an open canvas. You can use the backend to create components, forms, blogs all without going into heavy coding. If you want to dig deeper, you can create new data fields with extended attributes. I’ve even used it to create an intratnet. It’s a very dynamic CMS.
What it lacks? Mura’s main issues derive from its reliance on Java. Most hosting providers don’t include Railo or Coldfusion in their low hosting prices. The installation can also be tricky. It is not a quick fantastico installation that many “developers” have become accustomed to. What you do get, though, far outweighs the setbacks. That is why major companies like Apple, Intel, AT&T and Proctor & Gamble have switched over to it.