With more and more users wanting to update the content of their websites themselves there has been an increase in the number of Content Management Systems (CMS) available for web developers to use, but with so many available which one should you use?
In this post we will look over the top 3 freely available CMSs that are in use today so that you can ensure your website is powered by a system that is not only secure but also maintained and updated. Whats the main benefit of using a popular publicly maintained CMS? Using one will mean that any security threats identified will be patched in the next version of the CMS all you need to do is ensure you keep it updated which with the modern systems is easily done in a few seconds via the admin area.
Using a popular CMS means that if you need to find a new web developer or move creative agency you will be able to find someone else who will be able to update the website, you wont get this flexibility with a bespoke CMS. It also means that you wont be left with an out of date system if for example your web team decide to stop supporting your CMS as the system is maintained by volunteers contributing to the open source code. This coupled with the fact that thousands and thousands of websites around the world are using any one of these CMSs means that there will always be someone willing to update the system as there is money to be made in maintaining open source code (for example wordpress.org which is free to use is maintained by wordpress.com a commercial version).
Lets start by looking at the most popular CMS around, WordPress is used by 16.4% of websites (source) and out of websites that use a CMS 54.2% are powered by this open source CMS. Moving forward 22 out of every 100 new active domains in the US are running WordPress (source) shows that WordPress is here to stay.
There are 2 versions of WordPress the first is their commercial outfit using the software to provide users with blogs at wordpress.com – users can sign up for a free blog but need to pay for extras such as a custom URL (domain name) or for storage space, you can find affordable ones just the same way you find cheap self-storage deals.
the second version of WordPress is the open source CMS which is the same ‘software’ as the .com version however it has all of the features enabled such as custom themes and the ability to install widgets making it a much more powerful CMS. This version requires you have your own website hosting set up which supports PHP and also needs a MySQL database. If you are not sure check with your website host as many like http://www.heartinternet.co.uk/ not only offer WordPress support but include a simple to use installer that means you can have WordPress up and running in a matter of seconds.
The best thing about WordPress is how popular it is, this means that there are thousands of themes and plugins available to extend your website quickly and easily, take a look at the WordPress.org theme gallery for some of the freely available themes you could install on your website. Not all website projects will be suitable for out of the box themes but the amazing thing about WordPress is anyone can create their own theme or even edit an existing one which means that if you cant find what you are looking for you can built a perfect bespoke theme to meet any of your needs.
With a theme in place the next thing to look at is the plugins available, head over to the WordPress.org plugin directory to search through thousands of free plugins containing all of the functionality you could need, from social media plugins to shops it has everything. Just like the themes anyone who knows how to code in PHP / HTML / CSS will be able to create their own plugins to ensure the website has the features it needs to meet the clients needs.
Another thing worth mentioning is the admin area of WordPress is very intuitive and easy to use which is why its my CMS of choice.
Joomla is another vastly popular CMS that has been written in PHP and since version 1.6 it is using object oriented programming bringing it right up to date with modern programming standards.In march 2012 Joomla reached a milestone with over 30 Million downloads! this hugely popular CMS is used by websites around the world including several governments showing that it is more then capable. You can get Joomla via their offical webiste www.joomla.org or instal it via Heart Internets one click install. Joomla has themes available as well as having a large extension library
Want to know more about creating themes, extensions? or just about setting up and using a website CMS based on Joomla take a look at their extensive documentation http://docs.joomla.org/ and forum.
Next up we have Drupal another freely avaliable open source CMS that has been built on PHP, sold as the perfect CMS for large websites it is more then capable of running websites with a single page to websites featuring a vast database of information.
Drupal can be extended with pre made extensions (more information) and you can even make your own extensions and release them for other peoples to use. Drupal websites can also make use of free themes – use the offical search feature to locate themes just watch out for which version of drupal you are using.
Drupal offer links to developers that have contributed to the project which means if your project needs help you can turn to people who know their stuff via Drupal training dont forget to check out the online forums and documentation for help if you need it.
Blog post by Alex Wells
Working as a Website developer I love nothing more then working waist deep in code, I have specific interests in PHP and WordPress development but mostly working with local businesses to provide them with a website that meets their needs. Contact me if you have a project in mind and would like to get an input from an experienced website developer.