Do you remember back in the days of Web 1.0 before Google was really a verb and before Flickr lost the “˜e’? That was back when static web pages plagued the web. FrontPage and Dreamweaver were the common tools of webmasters all over. However, the world has changed. Programs are more so on the internet these days than they are on your computer. Sites like Facebook and MySpace try to add the most functionality to your online world making actual pieces of local software less and less appealing.
With that all being said, what is a “webmaster” to do when content and a clean interface are really what they want? Should they create an HTML page in Dreamweaver and update content directly on the page every time one of their writers submits an article to them? Theoretically they could but that would make their life more difficult than it really has to be. Instead they should turn to a Content Management System, or CMS.
Content Management Systems basically keep the content separate from the interface of the website while maintaining a clean look and endless possibilities. The next question becomes, what are my options and what should I use? In reality, there are very, very many options, but only some of the options really matter for personal users.
When I look for a CMS for a personal blog or website I look at a few key things:
Functionality : What exactly can this CMS do for my website? What will it allow and not allow?
Price : If it’s for my personal website, it’d better be FREE! Also, be wary of how the software is licensed and how you are entitled to use the software.
Security : How fast are security vulnerabilities fixed? How many people contribute to bug fixes, etc.?
Extensibility: This goes along with functionality. Does the CMS offer plug-ins or extensions? That is, can I add functionality and expand my site if I wish to do so in the future?
This article is going to focus on two major Content Management Systems that, in my opinion, are the only two that matter or have something to offer for everyone. You can, of course, dispute this in the comments. Let us know what CMS you use or favor.
The first CMS to highlight is called WordPress (which is what Make Use Of runs on). WordPress was started in 2003 and is released as free, open-source software, meaning it is developed for and by the community. WordPress is a very functional, extensible, and easy to use blogging content management system. With WordPress you can create just about anything from a family photo journal to large scale news site.
At WordPress.org, you can find the open source software that you can run on your webhosting service. It takes a little bit of know how to set up but if you’re lucky, your webhost might have an auto-installer for it. For those of you that don’t have hosting or don’t want to get into the configuration and setup, WordPress.com gives you your own free WordPress blog. It is like a blogging social network of sorts. WordPress is very secure and reliable because of its large user base and development backing. It is extensible through thousands of plug-ins to use on your WordPress site. Your site can grow as you grow.
The next CMS is Drupal. Drupal is an open source content management system framework which means you can build anything from a static two page site to a high traffic social network. With this huge pool of flexibility comes a much more advanced set up and configuration. It will take you longer to get your site ready but it may make more sense in the long run.
The latest version of Drupal 6.x, gives a very clean admin panel with status and error logs so you can track most errors and know when your installation is out of date. This applies to all of your modules (referred to as modules in the Drupal community), themes, and core. Drupal, like WordPress, is extremely extensible and secure. It also has a very large user base and developer base. Best of all, Drupal is my favorite price – free!
If you are developing a website or online platform, take into consideration WordPress’ ease of use and Drupal’s framework capacity. Check out their websites and real world examples, be sure they have themes or plug-ins that you do or may need later so you can be future-proof for whatever may happen in your website’s potential future. Good luck and may the best CMS win!