Do you need a CMS like Drupal?

May 3rd, 2011 (Guest) Leave a comment 5 comments
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Do You Need a CMS?

How do you know when to choose a content management system as a foundation for your Website, and how flexible should it be? There could be many different reasons to choose this path, but I believe the most important reason is that we are humans and we get ideas and change our minds – often. How do you best plan for future needs without being overwhelmed right now by features you do not need right away?

If you think your Website is just going to be an online business card, and only that, you may wonder, why would you need a content management system (CMS)? I honestly wish people would stop trying to fool themselves or cheap out on this issue – it is your Website, your digital face to the world. Think of your Website as your vehicle – you may not want a flimsy little bicycle to take you around the World, you might need a car that is able to handle all the different terrains. It is the same for your Website. You may start out with one to five pages, but chances are, you will expand on that format sooner than later, or entirely re-purpose the site for different content. At any time during the process you may change your mind and if you already have a CMS in place, you will be able to change the theme and add features to your site such as a blog, forums, chat, or pretty much any functionality you can think of. The Drupal community is hard at work creating thousands of modules to extend the functionality of the software.

Cost Factor

If you have a static site that is created with HTML, you will have to hire someone with coding skills to add features to your site. This can be a costly proposition as well as time consuming and frustrating if you do not speak in programmers language.

One most treacherous hurdle is to find a new developer for your existing site when you have no idea what the original developer did to create the site. Even if there is documentation, it can take a good deal of time to sort out the past development in order to move forward.

Starting out with a full featured CMS as a foundation will enable you to grow at your own pace when deciding on interactivity or ecommerce for your site. Drupal works just as well for a very simple one to five page site, and yet it gives you the flexibility to expand and grow your business.

CMS: First Steps

These are a few ways to take advantage of using a CMS, each depends upon your skills and desire to learn:

  1. Installing a standalone software such as Drupal, Joomla, WordPress or many others, on your server
  2. Selecting a hosting company that auto installs and manages your CMS updates
  3. Using the proprietary CMS services offered by some hosting companies

Standalone vs. Hosted CMS

When considering Drupal or any CMS, be aware that there are costs associated with upgrades and updates of the core software as well as modules. One good reason to use a standalone CMS software is that you may choose to have features as you want them – if you are using a hosted proprietary CMS application on a hosting Website, they may upgrade and add features that you do not necessarily want or need. There is also the downside of customization – most hosted applications do not allow a programmer to make any custom modifications to their application/service. I say service because a host is really offering you a service when they allow you to use their proprietary CMS features.

With open source software the community will keep you informed on what the focus of new development will be – end user features or back end Administrative features and flexibility… I always choose back end development as I know the front end user part will come along soon, or is less expensive to have a programmer create.

Drupal vs. WordPress

So here is why I moved towards Drupal vs. WordPress – I hope this is useful to know, just for the sake of knowledge:

WordPress still has only two content types: Blog Posts and Pages. You can’t easily have different kinds of pages, or different kinds of posts, or any different content types (reviews, news, events, etc.) that are not stored as a blog post or a page. That is a deal-breaker for many kinds of sites, especially if you want to showcase different products and services and list them separately – books, articles, seminars etc…, Another reason I moved to Drupal is the way you can easily control how lists of content are presented and viewed. The other reason is granular permission settings for users and for features – I will devote a blog to this subject soon.

So, the moral of the story is – if you don’t need or want to control how lists of content are presented and viewed by users, then you don’t need a very complex foundation. You can create a great Website using a simple platform like WordPress, or you can be more flexible and prepared for expansion if you use a framework such as Drupal.

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About Micky Metts

Micky helps small businesses and entrepreneurs create and maintain Websites, using Drupal. She provides freelance Drupal Administrator/Developer services for individuals and small companies. Drupal is a CMS - content management system. Micky has been involved with the Drupal community since 2006 and has created Websites for clients while teaching them how to update and maintain their sites. She began teaching Drupal Basics and Introduction to Drupal in 2008 to clients, and found that there was a need to get this information out to a larger audience - anyone that has a message, a product or a service. Self publishing is the future. LearnComputer is proud to have Micky as our Drupal training instructor.

5 comments

  1. Mike Kalil says:

    I think WordPress is sufficient for smaller webistes, but it’s true that the limitations make Drupal (and Joomla, I’d say) a better choice. I wrote a similar blog post recently about the merits of using an open-source CMS: http://www.danconia.com/open-source-vs-proprietary-cms.html

  2. ferrisoxide says:

    Hi Micky

    Out-of-the-box CMS solutions like Drupal and WordPress are fantastic as an entry point into web development, but as your website grows more sophisticated you might find it harder to fit your own particular ideas or needs into what these sorts of solutions offer. At least that’s been my experience.

    I used to argue that it was a better proposition to build a “CMS” using accepted web frameworks like Rails, as I felt Drupal and the like were just too much overhead to begin with and too much scaffolding by the time your site got to a decent size. Start simple and build complexity rather than start with a complex system and configure it. There are arguments either way.

    Recently I’ve been working with nanoc (http://nanoc.stoneship.org/) – a static HTML builder for websites, blogs, etc. The nice thing here is that it’s very simple, content is separated from design and it’s a great tool to facilitate that dialogue between technical and design people.

    This sort of solution is not for everyone, but I believe it’s a way to “democratise” web technologies.

    • ashish says:

      hey man, i really liked your point :
      “Start simple and build complexity rather than start with a complex system and configure it”

      i’m going to be building a website, on which basically people will chat with people in rooms of their chosen category. i will record and store their conversations accordingly, the conversations will be resumable – even after a year if a new guy reads it, and wants to add his own opinion or point. and there will be a page of categories – and a login/logout system.

      so do i really need a cms or can i just begine developing in PHP ? i mean it may get big. like 1000s of people coming in for chat and storage of their conversation and accounts etc.. all this needs a CMS or not? please i would be really thankful if you could reply.. i’ve been asking this on the drupal irc channel, but in vain.

      hoping for a quick reply
      my email: austinpayne26@gmail.com

  3. BG says:

    Too many times Drupal is chosen as a CMS because of the developer. He/she may be a Drupal expert but it is not taken into account that non-Drupal developers may have to take over at some point. This is a problem because the Drupal learning curve is exceptionally high compared to other frameworks. It simply takes too long time before you can work effectively.
    IMHO…Drupal is always a bad choice IF customization and module development is needed.

    • ML says:

      I’m In 100% agreement with you. I currently work in a web shop where the bossman is obsessed with Drupal is requires it for just about every project, no matter what, with no consideration to what that project entails. I recently wrote a RESTful web service using Drupal. I had recommended a web services framework like Apache Wink, specifically for this task, but he shot it down, insisting I use Drupal for it. His reasoning was that we do it, and then tell the community we did so. This breaks one of my cardinal rules of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” and “pick the right tool for the job.” The service uses the menu system for URIs, the db layer, and a module for putting some data in from another service with some transformations. That’s it.

      I often hear “Drupal is a framework!” from the Drupal community. The more and more I use it, the more I see Drupal as a framework…a content management framework. Not all sites are a good fit for content management. Drupal is a horrid applications framework. It’s procedural structure makes for difficult to find, hard to read code. The fact that ALL functionality comes from thousands of developers all over the world is not a good thing. Security, bugs, the module actually performing. Why are we putting our faith in this sort of thing?

      Of any community I’ve seen of any library, platform, or framework, Drupal has to be the most obsessed with itself. Every time someone makes a suggestion or criticism of Drupal, you’ll see half the posts flaming the person, as if to say “you just don’t understand.” It’s to the point of cult status, and I really mean that.

      I also saw someone once mention that Drupal is used for high security websites, then pointed to whitehouse.gov. To whomever said that, whitehouse.gov is not a high security website. It’s the blog and informational page put out by the whitehouse and I SERIOUSLY doubt it’s actually connected to anything important. That would be poor design on the architects part.

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