Web Content Management Systems

I have used several CMS’s over the years, from my time at Cisco with their internally developed system, and again starting in 2009 or so when I started working with WordPress and later Joomla! They are wonderful tools, but they do have some drawbacks.

First the positives. Someone who is technically minded can setup a WordPress site, add a custom template, and have a pretty decent site in an afternoon. WordPress has grown a lot since I first started using it, and it is a pretty good environment to setup a public website, not just a blog. Joomla! is a bit more complex, but it is infinitely more customizable, and flexible. You can run a pretty complex site with options like project management, multiple vehicles of managing content and contributions, and even a pretty robust e-commerce site.

Both platforms make it easy to create and modify content with either built in WYSIWYG editors, or extended editors as a plugin. That means that your contributors can easily create and maintain pretty complex content like the were creating a document in Microsoft Word.

But that is also a problem as content is updated, modified, and changed. These WYSIWYG editors do all the html stuff on the back end, hiding the complexity from the user. They also do not create optimal html. Little glitches add up over time, and soon, if you have content that you update frequently you will need to either blow it away and restart, or drop into raw HTML mode to clean it up. Fortunately both platforms make this easy, as long as you know how to edit HTML.

The second positive is the amount of customization possible. Both platforms have a great ecosystem of plugins, extensions, and packages. Joomla has a slight lead here, as the quality and support of these third party bits is quite good. WordPress has a lot more, but some of the components are buggy, or are security holes. Again, the community will help guide you to the best pieces.

But there is a downside. I have been using Joomla for a couple years now, running one of my personal sites, as well as a non-profit site (Southern Arizona Greyhound Adoption). I have done lots of experimenting, and sometimes it is a bit of a struggle to undo some changes.  At first, for the SA Greys site I had a testbed, but soon the two sites structurally diverged enough, that I really just keep the main site up now. Of course, with the coming of Joomla! 3.5 stable, I will be making a new version of the website (the hassle of finding and updating plugins and components to 3.0 compatible is a task that I don’t have the patience for, or the time to do. Time for a fresh start with all that I have learned in the past two years)

This weekend, I am beginning the process of configuring a Joomla 3 site as a testbed, and that means replication and processing a lot of data. A fun activity for a cloudy, rainy Sunday.

(This post is a little diversion from the tedious documenting of the current site.)

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