It was when I visited my good friend, Daniel Levy, in Paris that I heard of the term CMS for the first time.

If you’re now wondering (like I was) what the heck CMS means and for what it should be good… outspoken it means Content Management System, and it can be useful for organizing and managing content that you publish on the Web. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_management_system

There are free or open source and paid content management systems available.

Up to that point, I was using Macromedia/Adobe Dreamweaver for my websites (except for this very blog). But when Daniel and I were talking about the future of my Blue Baby, MyGermanCity.com, a travel related content-rich website, and the plans I have with it in terms of features and number of pages, his reaction was: “You need a CMS!”

“CMS?” I asked.

“CMS,” he said. He then went on and explained what CMS means, what it is, does, and the advantages — and possible disatvantages — of using one.

It made sense to me so I went ahead and researched both costly and open source top content management systems. One tool I used was the CMSMatrix.org, although their database was — and still is — partially outdated. (Showing WordPress version 2.2.1 when the current version was 2.6? That’s a huge difference.)

I also went to OpenSourceCMS.com, but take it with a grain of salt since feedback is marbled by spammy comments of users and partners or owners of the respective software.

Additionally, there were at least 40 reviews and reports whose URLs I purged; though I’m sure you’ll find them using Google’s powerful search engine. ;-)

This entire research (plus testing, and testing, and testing…) took me almost three months.

Which content management systems did I test?

In alphabetical order:

There were a few more, but due to the fact that I removed them from the test domain within a few minutes — or did not even bother installing them due to detailed reviews — I avoid mentioning them here.

Daniel also mentioned the name CMS400. At that time, the company behind this software, Ektron, did not provide prices on its website (hmm…). And when I contacted an Ektron representative, all the person did was ask questions… still no price.

End of conversation.

At the time of this writing, Ektron does provide prices on its website, starting at a whopping $5,000 per URL for the Standard Edition. But what I would have needed would have been the Professional Edition for which it says, “Ask your sales person for details.”

Sure…

You can see that I was not necessarily after a free or open source content management system. No CMS is “for free.” You always spend time (= money) and energy figuring everything out and familiarizing yourself with it. Or you have someone else do it for you, in which case you spend money, too.

Of course, I could have outsourced this task. The thing though is that I wanted to familiarize myself with it to know whether I want to work with it for the next few years, and to see which is the best or most appropriate CMS for MyGermanCity.com.

At one point I narrowed it down to Joomla! and Drupal with tendency towards Drupal. The thing was I would have spend at least $1,500 just for transitioning the existing template alone. Plus, I also needed someone for setting everything up.

What actually pushed me away from it, however, is the lack of plugin development (which they call modules).

You need to understand that modules are being developed for certain main Drupal releases (ex., 5 or 6) since the main Drupal versions are backward INcompatibel. Now, there were a couple modules that I needed upfront or soon, but they were not available for version 6. So I would have been forced to use Drupal 5 instead. Not that bad, perhaps, but what if I want or have to upgrade from 5 to 6?

That’s a huge task, they say.

This got me to remove both Drupal 5 & 6 from the test domain.

OK, then I was ready to use Joomla!.

Gosh, what a software… really impressive, speaking of customizability and features available right from the start! I even was about to fall in love with it (buy me a t-shirt!), but then…

Writing a simple content page, publishing it, and trying to access it on the Web (using the URL alias, not the ugly dynamic URL), displayed a 404 error… WTF?

The thing was this: If you do not assign a page to a left or right hand navigation bar, a Category, or a Section, you canNOT see the page on the Web using the pretty or search engine friendly URL!

End of discussion. What a pity, but Joomla! was removed from the server within a minute.

Another possible CMS was the Bitrix Site Manger. Again, it does have a cost upfront, but this can be compensated by the fact that most tools are already included. This may save you a lot of time later on.

As an example, one developer I got in contact with said that Drupal can do the same things Bitrix Site Manager does. The difference in terms of cost?

Almost non-existent.

I would have paid a similar amount of money for either CMS. The Bitrix Site Manager as it’s being shipped plus transitioning the theme: up to $3,000 altogether. Letting a developer set up Drupal, hand-code and/or customize certain modules, and have another or the same developer transfer the existing XHTML/CSS template to Drupal: up to $3,000 altogether.

Someone may argue that the Bitrix Site Manager does have a whole bunch of features built-in — tools one would need to develop for a Drupal powered site first. Plus, the assurance that Bitrix will maintain and improve those tools further since they’re part of the whole package, whereas one may need to hire a developer for maintaining and improving a Drupal powered site.

So again, both may sum up to an equal amount of time/money.

The thing that made me uninstall the Bitrix Site Manager was that file names are supposed to end in .php. They did say that it should work without the .php, but my testing consistently displayed nothing but error messages.

Another point was that this software is fairly complex (installation consists of thousands of files and folders), and, again, the need of someone to convert the existing site template to the Bitrix Site Manager would likely amount to up to $1,500 (which one may pay for a new but not for transitioning an existing custom template).

Next station was ExpressionEngine, which was recommended by the gentleman who created MyGermanCity.com’s site template — a coder extraordinaire, Pat Heard.

I can code HTML and CSS on my own, but Pat does it better, he does it in lightening speed, and he’s an expert in JavaScript.

If you’re ever in need of a first-class coder — one who exceeds your expectations — I highly recommend Pat Heard of fullahead.org. Let me warn you though… he’s usually booked out for weeks if not months.

Now, he did not only recommend EE, he also gave me a very important tip:

The choice of CMS is highly personal. Usually, once someone has invested the time to learn WordPress, TextPattern, Joomla, etc., they’ll swear up and down that it’s the best out there.

His comment set me up brilliantly. It made me look beyond the reviews of “raving fans.” ;-)

Back to ExpressionEngine…

The backend looked promising. Somehow, I felt comfortable right from the start. Plus, they promote their excellent forum and staff. Sounds good. They further promise to be extremely flexible. Also good. But then…

You CAN customize the layout to your hearts content. The downside, though, is that it affects the URL structure of your site!

As a side note: You can, somehow, program the software (or add something to the .htaccess file) to remove those template related words from URLs, but they strongly recommend you to not do that. “Extremely flexible?”

The other CMSs also just didn’t make it. e107 is too plain and doesn’t meet my needs; eZ Publish was a bit difficult to get to work, plus I couldn’t figure out how to do certain tasks; and Mambo — I dismissed that one, somehow… (doesn’t it lack development power now that some of Mambo’s previous core developers are in on developing Joomla!?).

That was the point where the thought of using WordPress as a content management system started to grow. But before that… “let me give MovableType a chance”.

First off, they consistently announce which websites use their software, and I don’t care who is using what. What interests me is what a software can do for me and my visitors, and its momentum in terms of development.

Long story short, what got me uninstall MovableType were mainly two things:

1) Somehow, it stands on its own. URLs with underscores?? And you have to be a registered user to enable things such as showing your own image next to your own comment?

2) To me it seems as though their marketing and vision is blurred and fuzzy. One day they decide to have this price; another day they decide to release MovableType as open source — with limited features over MovableType Pro. Yet another day they decide to remove those limitations and have the open source version match exactly the Pro version. Yet another day they change the price structure, again.

What about consistency and a clear plan?

Another thing that underscores my thesis is that their staff often writes mt.com or mt.org instead of movabletype.com or movabletype.org. Laziness (or fuzziness) can lead to strange destinations… ;-)

Enough said; on to WordPress.

But can it do what I need it to do?

I quickly realized that it can, and much more.

  • Custom page templates without altering the URL.
  • Custom breadcrumbs navigation (and many more custom fields) by utilizing the Custom Fields options when creating pages or posts.
  • Customize the file name structure to your heart’s content. You could even add any file extension to it, if you wish.
  • Compared to other CMSs, to create a WordPress template is very easy and pretty straight forward. In other words, the transition from a static XHTML/CSS template to a WordPress template was done within a few hours — by myself, a PHP newbie.
  • The momentum and professionalism in terms of development and improvement is unmatched. Really impressive. New version after new version; plus, plugins are consistently developed and improved. And if not, it should be comparably simple to create a new custom plugin or alter an existing one — or to find someone who can alter or create and maintain one for a reasonable price.
  • WordPress with its array of plugins may save you thousands of dollars in comparison to certain other content management systems.

That’s about my decision of using WordPress as a content management system for a content-rich website. :-)

—Marcus Hochstadt

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69 Responses to Using A CMS For A Content-Rich Website

  1. Great to see you back Marcus!

  2. Webdesi3 says:

    This is Great! I’d never heard of CMS before but I definatly could do with using one, Cheers!

  3. […] Hochstadt presents Using A CMS For A Content-Rich Website posted at Marcus Hochstadt, saying, “Marcus describes how he migrated one of his static HTML […]

  4. Web desiger says:

    The scope of static websites are fairly limted in this day and age. The importance of quality content to the success of a website has increased and without a CMS updating frequently is not feasible.

  5. […] Hochstadt presents Using A CMS For A Content-Rich Website posted at Internet Business […]

  6. Phil Bob says:

    The Web 2.0 powered CMS such as Joomla, Drupal, WordPress are used by million web users. Especially wordpress is the widely used blog.

    Without CMS, toda the internet will be a dead dog.

  7. steve says:

    Welcome back

    I have been using Joomla for a few years now and have had no problems with it. Like yourself I tried Drupal but deleted it pretty quickly.

  8. […] Hochstadt presents Using A CMS For A Content-Rich Website posted at Internet Business Guide. saying, Marcus describes how he migrated one of his static HTML […]

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  10. Network 21 says:

    I’ve found joomla to have very nice features for all kinds of business, and good open community support.
    5000 dollars for competitors system seems like way too much money, a scam if you ask me.

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  12. Jason says:

    I have been using Drupal for a few years and do like it a lot. The thing is that you _can_ do everything with it that you can do with the other guys, it just might be harder to do it. If it doesn’t do what you want, a module can be written to make it do what you want.

    If you are a programmer, or are willing to pay to have it customized exactly the way you want it, this is great. I wanted something highly customizable and I found Drupal to be that.

    Since it is Open Source, programmers for it do not get paid (usually). That means that support for a module you love and use can suddenly die out. What then? It is time to move to Drupal 7 and the developer of this most important module no longer develops?

    I try out a lot of modules. Some are good. Most are not. I only keep a couple and I worry about loosing support. I have lost a module or two due to lost support.

    I’m now learning how to program modules. I figure that since it is open source, I can help to make it better. It is a great piece of software, if you are willing and able to customize it. And as you said, templates are a pain. Mine are all very simple as I have not spend much time to learn how to make good templates with Drupal. The Zen module makes it easier, I’m told, but I’ve not spent much time learning Zen either.

    • Jason,

      This was also a reason that pulled me towards Drupal, to have something that is highly customizable. And as you said, one of the downsides for me was time and money. I wasn’t as familiar with Drupal as with WordPress, and the learning curve seemed so steep. So I would have needed someone for the programming part. This can add up quickly, and the question I had was, “Is it worth it?”.

      On the other hand, if one has the time (months?) and inclination to learn it and familiarize oneself with it, Drupal might be the #1 choice.

      And as far as modules or plugins go, this is something I always keep in mind, too — to use as less plugins as possible as to not be dependent from too many 3rd parties.

      As one example, the most popular WordPress plugin is the All-in-one-SEO-Pack. The initial developer or Founder of this plugin signed off of it; another developer took it over, but he apparently doesn’t work on it either. So as you said, its support seems to die out.

      I still use AIOSP on this very blog, but I happily shunned it from MyGermanCity.com when I learned that I have a similar effect with just a few tiny tweaks in the template.

      ~Marcus

  13. dave so says:

    I use wordpress as a CMS on about 5 of my websites. these are not blogs but normal websites with content that needs updating constantly.

    WordPress just works for me, as its easy for me to update the content, without worrying about anything else.

  14. Chris says:

    The moment you are starting to be serious about online marketing you should definitely build your own in house content management system. Because only this way you will be able to get exactly what you’re looking for. Many of the CMS that are currently available are not as SEO friendly as they should be. This is why I think that building your own software is the key of success.

    • Leon says:

      There are many succesful websites built using just wordpress and Drupal with little customization however. They come pretty good out the box!

      • MarcTLA says:

        @Chris – while some may not be SEO-friendly, WordPress certainly is.  And you can optimize really ANY site with the proper keyword, naming and content strategy. So, IMO, SEO should never be the primary factor in deciding on a CMS – ease of use, customization (as needed), low cost, reasonable security – and the CMS’ ability to display your site design and content faithfully are the only important factors.

  15. i met wordpress about a year ago, and now it is an unseparable mate of my blogging process. it simplify tons of works not to mention the ease of plugin.

  16. All of these comments are giving me great insight into the topic. I am a relative newbie and therefore need all the information I can get. Thanks again.
    http://paullhamilton.com

  17. david says:

    I have never heard of CMS before but having just read the article above realised that it is something i need to look into in more depth so thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  18. […] Hochstadt presents Using A CMS For A Content-Rich Website posted at Marcus Hochstadt, saying, “Marcus describes how he migrated one of his static HTML […]

  19. Ruri says:

    I just wondering why people mostly said wordpress as CMS. WordPress is blogging system. It is use only for blog. It cannot use as forum, or any other type of website. CMS, for example like drupal, is more flexible. Basically it can be use for any type of website.

    • MarcTLA says:

      Sorry, Ruri.  Not true.  WordPress is optimized (and started life) as a blogging tool, but it can render a broad range of website styles and structures.  And the huge community of plug-in developers has made adding sophisticated features a breeze, even for non-techies.

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  21. Owain says:

    I couldn’t live without a decent CMS anymore. WordPress makes updating and maintaining multiple websites with clean code easy. Having to update all the HTML, RSS etc by hand is an absolute nightmare no matter how good you are at it.

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  23. CSS Layouts says:

    I fall in love with CMS after I start using wordpress and Joomla =) I used to develop websites using PHP and Mysql but i am now only rely on CMS to setup sites.

    Thanks for the great article, Marcus!

  24. Max says:

    WordPress works best for me so far. It’s just great

  25. Andre says:

    Hmm..I love wordpress more than blogspot..:)

  26. WordPress is not exactly a CMS though it can be used as a CMS> Joomla or for that drupal will be a good one.

  27. I love wordpress, I use it for my main sites, I also use other free blogging platforms, CMS is the way to go. I didn’t know what html was 3 years ago. I’ve learned by doing and cms makes that possible. Self hosted wordpress is great from an seo perspective and the other free platforms have aided in the success of my wordpress sites.

  28. Tk says:

    I use WordPress for many of my sites but sometimes I feel it is too much for some of my sites. For those I usually make a custom CMS that is more functional for the site I’m trying to make.

  29. whisky shop says:

    unbelieveable that people know so few about cms systems. while the internet market is such big. this let me think to change our offers to explain more about cms system. maybe this will help our prospect clients.
    my favs is defenitly wordpress, and our own cms. but work with joomla aswell.

  30. wilhb81 says:

    Marcus, I haven’t hear this stuff before and I loved the way you described it. Thanks for this useful information, I’ll certainly try it out in the future!

  31. If you do find anyone please could you let me know.

    Thanks

  32. I love wordpress, I use it for my main sites, I also use other free blogging platforms, CMS is the way to go. I didn’t know what html was 3 years ago. I’ve learned by doing and cms makes that possible. Self hosted wordpress is great from an seo perspective and the other free platforms have aided in the success of my wordpress sites.

  33. Choosing the right CMS for your website is a critical task. If you later decided to switch to a different system, the process can be so daunting that it’s not even worth switching. I have seen WordPress used for many content-rich static websites but I personally would probably look into something less blog-focused.

  34. Ron says:

    Hello Marcus,

    I appreciate all your thoughts on using utilizing WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS). I am a complete newbie and very non technical.

    Can you recommend a high quality course (using step-by-step videos) that is available to help newbies build regular websites using WordPress?

    Thanks for your help!!

    Ron

  35. Jack says:

    The expression engine looks very good, but i’ll opt for joomla or in a case of a blog, to wordpress.

  36. Tim Gross says:

    Hey Marcus! Really great review of CMS! I wish I found it before. I use Joomla! for my site, but it had to be customized a lot. It was a big project involving full time PHP engineer. So far I’m quite happy with results and then future will show.;)

  37. Bai Jiu says:

    Quite some time ago I had the same question. I trued drupal, joomla and php nuke. And with each of them I got the same question: Am I the only person to stupid to use these CMSs? Luckily I found wordpress. At the moment I can hardly imagine any use case where wordpress is a bad choice.

  38. Great post. I’ve found WordPress to be the best CMS overall. It’s not just great for blogging, but also any business can use it.

  39. smith says:

    I am new to web development field and I want to thank you for providing me this kind of rich information. Thank you very much.

  40. Hi Marcus,
    I would say, it is more interesting to read post because of the amazing details that make your blog & views significant. Anyways, I enjoyed it for personal touch. Touche!

  41. Jeff says:

    I’m personally not a fan of Content Management Systems, it makes it difficult when there isn’t a plug-in available for what you’re looking to have done, and when you need to create custom “one-of-a-kind” type web applications for your website. It’s really only an ideal choice if your site is purely informational, and you’re just looking to be able to update / add more content and you don’t necessarily have the technical expertise to do the updating yourself.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Great post Marcus. Like you, I’ve been building static HTML websites using Dreamweaver. You have now saved me a ton of time knowing to simply visit WP. Since I was able to code HTML, I suspect transitioning to PHP should not be so difficult. Kudos on a job well done.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Hmm…I was actually going to use Joomla! but after reading this post I’ll be trying something else. The reviews were very helpful so thanks for sharing. I keep hearing mostly positive things about wordpress and after reading this post I’ll have to check it out.

  44. TokY says:

    I like the simplicity and usability of wordpress than any other cms

  45. Anokimchen says:

    I think WordPress is really a good CMS
    I’m now gonna shift from free blogspot to wordpress cuz its more customizable.
    Thanks for the informative blog

  46. dan says:

    Hmm im still new to this stuff. Not so familiar with wordpress but I definitely would like to be. any post about it in detials?

  47. Juan says:

    I also tried plenty of CMS software.It was also a very long and tedious process.Eventually I just went with wordpress.It is in my opinion,a lot easier to learn than drupal or some other cms software.

  48. Herman Swan says:

    Hi Marcus, I like your first hand analysis of all the available CMSs in this single post. I also have done such a comparison for my website and concluded that wordpress is the only best as of now.

    – Herman Swan

  49. Anonymous says:

    Hi Marcus,
    Your article on CMS is illuminating. I completely agree with you. Using a CMS is a must if you are going to manage content. Free form pages would eventually be a nightmare. CMS applications like wordpress, joomla, or drupal offer not only ways to manage you content but also offer plugins to help disperse content making it very viral and more likely to gain followers and recognition. The easy integration combined with easy content management make CMS systems a must have for large amounts of content or really any website with more than 5 pages.

  50. This is very useful information, especially for web developer. Thanks!

  51. Well I must admit I had never heard of CMS before and reading how it works I am very surprised. Thanks for the info

  52. John says:

    I actually prefer Drupal over WordPress, but WordPress was the first I used.

  53. Gary says:

    Hi Marcus good list and well tested. If you want to go by what CMS are the most commonly used, which is a good indicator of which one might be best please have a look at
    http://trends.builtwith.com/cms

    It looks the top CMS systems and their usage.

    Thanks,

    Gary

    • Thanks, Gary. But isn’t it funny that you, too, didn’t list WordPress?

      That’s the idiosyncrasy with most CMS popularity or comparison tables — they still consider WordPress a pure blogging platform and thus refrain from including it in their comparison.

      ~Marcus

  54. Owain Lewis says:

    I have experimented with so many CMS systems over the years but finally settled on Expression Engine and Modx as my primary tools of choice. The only downside to Expression Enginge is convincing people to pay for the license. Modx is definitely worth checking out. WordPress is still a great option for simple blogs and it’s easy to theme which is nice.

  55. If you’re just blogging WordPress is definitely the way to go, especially if you’re an entry level user. The problem lies when people think wordpress is the answer to every one of their problems as a full blown cms, which it is not. One more thing, I think you gave up on joomla too easily.

  56. Ram says:

    Hi,

    It was a very interesting topic you brought there. We are using Joomla as well. We have tried drupal but it didn’t work out well the way we wanted it. I agree to one of the comments, maybe you give up on Joomla too easily. Anyway thank you for the additional knowledge that you have imparted with us. This can help a lot for starters who want to engage in online businesses.

    Cheers!

  57. Mort Fertel says:

    Wow, as I read this article I couldn’t help but think that my humble friend WordPress would be relegated to another of those things suitable only for the blue collar ‘Net tinker who couldn’t appreciate the niceties of a REAL CMS. Good to know that my suspicions about WP were in agreement with yours; a fantastic CMS for $0 (although there admittedly can be quite a steep learning curve as you adopt widgets and plugins).

  58. yss6594 says:

    hi… i am new to CMS. I have some experience with asp. Now i have to develop an e-commerce website for my client. Would you be able to tell me if i should stick to asp or use some CMS?

  59. Sam Denial says:

    WordPress is a good cms indeed and I am having a website on it. My experience with this is amazing.

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