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.
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:
- Installing a standalone software such as Drupal, Joomla, WordPress or many others, on your server
- Selecting a hosting company that auto installs and manages your CMS updates
- 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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