How to Choose the Right Content Management System
There is a great variety of content management systems (CMSs) now. Though WordPress, Joomla, and Magento are definitely among the leaders today, at least amid free open source CMSs. Each of them has their own specialty and suits some particular objectives. Knowing that difference as well as their strengths and weaknesses can be very helpful when choosing a CMS for your own website.
Content Management Systems – Definition in Brief
Many websites have a lot in common, in particular, one and the same groups of functions: menus, contact and order forms, on-site search, user registration and authentication, comments, spam protection, news feeds, as well as image galleries, product catalogs, etc.
A content management system provides such typical functional blocks as a set of ready-made but customizable modules plus an environment to manage them, as well as some other functionality for writing, collaborative work, reporting, etc. Users can choose necessary modules and additional plug-ins, set them up in accordance with their needs and, as a result, essentially simplify the website development as well as content (texts, images, video, documents) publication and update.
Moreove, CMSs help to:
* Keep a website organized as a comprehensive whole
* Increase data security, control access to data
* Reduce the site maintenance or update costs
* Improve communication and content contribution for visitors
* Provide version control
Choosing CMS: Step 1 – Define the Requirements
First of all define the requirements to the website:
* Specify main sections and functions of your website that are of the highest priority. Commonly they include, but are not limited to: pages with a basic information (about a company, its services or products), news and promo actions, product catalogs, ordering systems, photo galleries, etc.
* Social media functions and integration – What social media do you plan to use and whether you need such options as blogs, forums, tagging, content syndication, comments, user generated content?
* Editorial features – Visual text editors, spell-checker presence, adding video or images.
* Multilingual support – Do you need support for multiple languages? Any localization or translation?
Also, evaluate the following points:
* Weigh up your security requirements
* Think up whether you expect to use 3rd party technical support or intend to manage the site by yourself
Step 2: Make a Short List of Possible Candidates
When you have more or less clear requirements to a CMS, you can make a short list of possible candidates.
There are free and paid CMSs in the market now. Small and medium businesses often prefer, at least for a start, free open source CMSs. In fact, their implementation is not completely free of charge because usually you need some assistance in their installation and especially customization and adaptation.
Below we consider the most popular free open source content management systems in more detail.
WordPress is definitely the most popular blog platform, though can be used for developing a complex content-driven website too. It is very easy to use and few modifications are needed, excellent for blogging or sharing thoughts in a sequential manner and easy-to-learn for not techie users. Pluses:
* A lot of pre-developed templates, popular add-on modules available for free
* No server experience required
* Friendly theming system
* Sometimes difficult to adapt to specific requirements
* 3rd party modules can cause unexpected results and conflict with each other
* Quite vulnerable to spam attacks
Joomla! is now one of the most popular and recognized content management systems, suitable for creating corporate websites, online magazines, community-based portals, etc. Joomla! has a lot of build-in features as well as a large choice of extra modules and components.
Noteworthy Joomla! features are:
* Easy installation and mastering
* A lot of extensions available
* Additional modules/components development, design integration
* Custom modification and customization
Though among the weaknesses should be noted:
* Extensions usually cost money
* Can be security concerns with 3rd party components
* Requires additional efforts to make it entirely SEO friendly
Magento can be used to develop modern, dynamic web applications. Here is a small part of Magento platform Pros list:
* Ready to use solution
* Easy to configure
* Readily available open source plug-ins and add-ons
* Good multi-language support
* Quite a good solution for small and medium e-commerce needs
* SEO friendly – Google site map, full control of URLs, etc.
Some Magento Cons:
* Functionality limited mainly to e-Commerce requirements
* Lesser content management features
* Making templates is time consuming
Step 3: Try It Out
Before making a final decision, it is better to test the waters in more detail and try out the pre-selected CMS. It is preferable not to stop at a demo version as it is already set up and will surely work. Install a regular CMS version onto your server and see by your own eyes what it is all about and how convenient it is in work and maintenance. Also, review available plug-ins for this CMS, especially free ones, and what they can do.
Results of such an investigation can help to define more realistic and detailed requirement to a CMS as well as refine the preliminary design of your website. The next step is converting designs (as AI, PNG, PSD files) into a WordPress theme or a Joomla template. But describing the PSD to WordPress process (or PSD to Joomla, etc., as well as PSD to HTML conversion en masse) is a topic for a whole different article.