Given my need for a small learning curve, ease of use, and established structure; the CMS system that I most want to learn is WordPress. There are others that I also want to learn and I am interested enough to go learn them when school is no longer my highest priority or if one of those CMSs, in turn, becomes a class assignment.
In this blog, I will discuss several CMSs and what’s important to me as a web designer.
Popularity Matters?WordPress is a blogging platform that has enough power and options to be used as a CMS, whereas others like Joomla and Drupal are CMSs that can be used for blogging. As of March 26, 2011 according to opensourceCMS in the CMS/Portals-sort by: User Rating (Best to Worst), WordPress 3.1 is second best after Joomla 1.6. Popularity is a good reason to learn a CMS because many clients will be asking for custom templates for that CMS. Tim Stiffler-Dean of goodwebpractices.com stated “Since WordPress is easy to use and some of them were already familiar with it, it was an obvious solution. Install WordPress on a server that they could access quickly and easily from anywhere with an internet connection, and let them get to business rather than have to learn about a whole different system.”
However, as Marc stated on December 11, 2010 in the comments section of opensourceCMS “If you’re a professional or a beginning freelancer, you should look far and wide at the other CMS offerings. If you offer WordPress, you are competing with rest of the known world and your work will be perceived as cheap.” I would like to add that as a designer, if you don’t know WordPress, you could be perceived as out of touch with the market place. Besides, if you follow that logic, then Joomla could be perceived as cheap also.
Security:Another commenter from opensourceCMS, Dominate on August 7, 2010 stated that "WordPress sites seem to be a target for hackers". However, a May 5th 2010 article at http://www.theopensourcery.com/ showed that as of January 1, 2009, WordPress had a total of 15 security advisories while Drupal had 156 and Joomla had 192. WordPress has clearly solved many of its security issues, at least well enough to not be a concern to me.
Google Friendly:Google loves WordPress. Refer to one of my earlier blogs for the featured video with a Google rep talking up WordPress. What they like about it is that it is web standard. Rudolf Boogerman of miracletutorials.com wrote in his review of WordPress vs Joomla, that this Google friendliness makes Wordpress “hard to resist…from a marketing standpoint.” He also said that WordPress sites "will be listed in Google within 2 days" whereas he hasn’t “seen any other system doing that so far.”
Navigational Structure:According to Boogerman, navigational structure is one of the downfalls of WordPress because the menus are inherited from the chosen template and thus are difficult to change. Of course this isn’t a problem if you know the WP scripting language and CSS. This is one reason to use Joomla because its menus can be manipulated from the control panel. The same problem applies to WordPress in regards to changing the order of categories and pages. Joomla is certainly more flexible than WordPress but it also has a higher learning curve. I intend to learn Joomla in the future because a good web designer should have several options to offer clients, depending on their website needs. Drupal is the most flexible but we as a class are not going there at this time because it’s beyond the scope of the class.
User/Designer/Developer Friendly?Tim Stiffler-Dean of goodwebpractices.com compares WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. He says that while WordPress is definitely user friendly, it is not developer friendly “because there will be countless times in your journey to that great website that an upgrade released by the WP developers causes your entire site to simply disappear, or for those modifications that you made previously to no longer even exist.” That’s a pretty heavy statement and it is an issue that may cause me to move away from WordPress in the future but I still think it’s a good place to begin. Tim says that Drupal is very developer friendly but not so friendly to designers while “designers will choose Joomla because of the amazing capabilities that its engine has in making websites look fantastic.” However, Joomla is not very user friendly because of the learning curve for designers and for the clients.
At the moment, I want the CMS that is the friendliest to me to begin learning and I think that one is going to be WordPress. However, I can see that down the line in this class project, I may wish for the flexibility of Joomla if or when WordPress becomes insurmountable in some matter of design or add-on situation.
Alternatives for Future Reference:There are a multitude of CMSs to explore, learn and use. The best place to go to find them and take them for a test drive is opensource.com. Look at the Php demos navigation sidebar and click on CMS / Portals to get to a page where you can change the sort box to number of different categories. This website offers a way to demo the CMSs.
The two that I found most interesting were concrete5 and ModX. Both are four-star rated in popularity. I read a fairly unbiased review comparing these two CMSs by Seth at hstuff.net Seth ultimately chose concrete5 as the winner and he talked greatly about his experiences using both systems and ended with a pros and cons section for both. I will repeat his summary list here:
Pros:Modular, templates, code re-use, apply changes to multiple pages simultaneously, once site is up can be operated by average computer user, community is kind and free.
Cons:Documentation outdated, not easily spit and polished, getting site up is not for faint of heart, not easy to manipulate structure to suit each page's needs, no easy way for https login, no front end management except for comments.
Pros:Easily polished, easy to use front end content management, easily manipulated blocks, project managers highly motivated to keep project secure.
Cons:Need flash, no simple way for https login, best stuff from community is not free (relatively cheap though), no backend management of comments.
If Seth’s word isn’t enough, Bill Carone, independent web designer in North Carolina stated in cms.phpmagazine.net that Concrete5 is the best CMS to come on the block in a long time. Bill says, “There are no funky complicated rules or ways to do things. The installation is done through your favorite browser but works best using Gecko or Mozilla browsers. Designers like it because they can create custom themes very easily. Developers like it because the php used is straight forward and uses the MVC architecture.” Concrete5 sounds good to me, especially after I watched their initial video on their main page, which I have included in my featured videos section.