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Home » Blog » Review: Content Management Systems - Part 1

Review: Content Management Systems - Part 1

Written by UKWDA on 27 July 2012

Forum Discussion: Review: Content Management Systems

With so many content management systems to choose from, we’ve put together a quick overview of the most popular options to help you decide which one is right for you – this week we're looking at WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, ModX and Silverstripe.

WordPress

Wordpress began life as a blogging platform, but it has grown into a powerful CMS, with good page management features, and a slick, customisable admin interface. You can easily set up a straightforward website in very little time, and this simplicity has made it one of the most popular systems on the market.

The user friendly functions mean that you can change most elements of your website without knowing a single line of code. It does have its limitations when it comes to larger sites, but simple tasks like editing images and altering content can be done quickly and with little hassle. Updated frequently, the vast amount of extensions and themes on offer makes it the ideal CMS to create a simple website.

Wordpress has a thriving online community, meaning that support is always just around the corner. It’s also evolving, with a constantly growing web library of plugins, and software improvements. It lends itself to smaller projects and is perfect for creating portfolios, galleries, and news and magazine sites.

Users include: eBay, CNN, People Magazine

Strengths:

  • User friendly interface/ simple to use even for inexperienced users
  • Regular updates
  • Quick and easy to install
  • Lots of extensions - over 20,000 plugins
  • Flexible format
  • Free
  • Built in Code Editor

Weaknesses:

  • No Rollback facility
  • Limited use - not suitable for some larger projects

Drupal

Drupal is a vast CMS with many modules and features, and it can be made to run almost any kind of website. It's one of the most complex systems on the market, used by sites like Sony, and The Economist. It allows you to create sites that are rich in features, from the simplest design, to a fully integrated community portal. It can pretty much do whatever you want it to do.

Using Drupal can be intimidating for a beginner, posing a challenge for the non-programmer. The amount of configurations and options mean that it has a steep learning curve. But, once mastered, you are in control of a very high quality system. It's considered more of a developing platform than a simple CMS tool. It is incredibly well built, with an extensive selection of modules available.

The interface is a little confusing, and you do need to understand code to install the extensions. In short, it's a professional's CMS. Once set up though, content entry is relatively simple, and it's easy to customise. If you anticipate good tech skills, and you want a powerful system that can control large sites, this is the one for you.

Users include: Mattel, Sony Ericsson, FedEx

Strengths:

  • Extremely powerful
  • Good building tools
  • Lots of modules
  • Advanced admin controls
  • All the basic features you need
  • Flexible, robust content creation

Weaknesses:

  • Steep learning curve
  • Not the most user friendly CMS
  • Limited number of professional quality designer themes
  • Only text links - no icons in admin interface
  • Slow loading

Joomla

Joomla is ideal for building large websites with lots of user generated content. It has more functionality than Wordpress, and is less technical than Drupal. There are thousands of extensions available and these can all easily be modified to suit your needs. However, a complaint is that many Joomla sites have a distinguishable look, meaning that it can be hard to achieve a completely original design.

Whilst being simple to install, it has a less intuitive approach which can be an issue for non technical users. The extension management system is more complex than WordPress, although creating a template is relatively simple. Joomla uses a large amount of server resources meaning it's not suitable if you are looking to run a fleet of websites. It's flexible, but this comes at a cost of a complex design.

The navigation system supports two level hierarchies, making it possible to create sites with hundreds of pages. It's often used to create multimedia websites and is ideal for integrated e-commerce. It is ideal for building a highly customised website that scales well, such as the White House's site, and is the perfect solution for building a professional site for small and medium sized businesses.

Users include: IKEA, Orange, General Electric, McDonalds

Strengths:                 

  • Simple Installation
  • Over 6,000 extensions
  • Open Design Platform
  • Simple URLs with no string queries
  • Lots of readily-integrated features
  • Easily customized template system

Weaknesses:

  • Difficult to truly customize complex websites
  • Can be slow loading
  • Back-end isn't as user-friendly as some CMSs

ModX

ModX has been designed to work with everything from JavaScript, to AJAX. An open source PHP application framework, it's fast to build, and allows you to manage files, pages and weblinks with ease, and has many smart features such as a site backup.

It is produced with designers in mind, with a huge amount of simple templates that can be easily tweaked to change the appearance of each page. Developers can add their own scripts, and there is a huge scope for customisation. If you're a designer who likes to roll your own HTML and CSS, then ModX gives you the freedom to implement your own design. Although it's possible to do almost anything with ModX, not everything is practical.

It uses a built in tag language rather than a template engine that adds a layer of complexity to the system. It was built by professionals out of frustration with existing solutions, and offers a platform for complete control. It can handle most small to medium sites, and you can create custom and complex apps specifically designed for your needs. You can make it as big, complicated or as technical as you need, whilst the default is simple.

Users include: jStokes, Wolfmother, TopGolf

Strengths:

  • No limitations - you can create any custom content field
  • Flexible
  • Allows complete control

Weaknesses:

  • Limited Documentation
  • Lack of features in the core installation
  • Small community of developers

Silverstripe

Silverstripe is well suited for both beginners, and developers who are comfortable with coding. It has multiple page templates and powerful tools, with plenty of modules for blogs, forms, and forums. You can publish content on specific dates, and apply differing permission levels. It's unique in that it allows designers to customise the administration area for their clients.

It is best for more advanced non e-commerce sites or those where aesthetics are a focus. Websites can be highly customised, but the interface may be intimidating to those with limited tech knowledge. It handles images, forms and pages simply, and it has a rich feature set for content editing. It's built on the Sapphire framework, and this allows developers to extend its functionality with ease.

Silverstripe uses a model view controller approach which is extremely flexible, and it has an Object Relational Mapper which means that by learning a few lines of code, databases are created for you. The site hierarchy is logical, making navigating easy, and extending the database is intuitive. It's a good platform for small to medium sized businesses. It runs e-commerce well, and is used in a number of successful online stores.

Users include: Air New Zealand

Strengths: 

  • Easy to perform, basic functions
  • Freedom to use HTML and CSS 
  • Customisable 
  • Straightforward and quick installation
  • Versatile
  • Active developer community

Weaknesses: 

  • Limited amount of extensions and themes.
  • Slight learning curve 
  • Lacking in documentation.
  • Limited support

Check back next week for Part 2 when we'll be reviewing: DotNetNuke, Concrete5, Symphony, Umbraco, and ExpressionEngine.

Forum Discussion: Review: Content Management Systems

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