I tried out three CMS‘s this weekend, in search of a backend for the new Maru a Pula web site I am building. Unlike the AFMAP site I built last year, this needs to be easy to manage, as I intend to give the keys to the Principal’s assistant there.
I headed to OpenSourceCMS.com to review and try out different CMS software packages. On the one hand, I was impressed with the standardization around PHP/mySQL and the near-universal adoption of trendy features such as extensibility and RSS. However, I found it challenging to browse the list of top-rated tools, as considerably variety exists within this category. I did not want or need a suite of community features such as Drupal offers.
In the end, I downloaded and installed three packages: CMSMadeSimple, Joomla, and phpWebSite, based on ratings, front page design, and features. If you try it soon, you may visit the test sites by clicking on each image below.
CMSMadeSimple is the only one of the three that made it through the first day. As the name suggests, this package focuses on web site content. The admin interface prioritizes the creation and organization of content pages. It’s easy to use, works, and doesn’t get in the way of the site content. Hopefully, this one will carry me through the entire project.
Joomla is a rising star with potential for a site admin who wants more features. I found that the admin interface got in the way of simple content management.
To post the first articles, I had to create a section, then a category, then a page, then a menu item, and I still couldn’t get the content to actually show up in the home page. That’s far more than the MAP users will be able to handle without the help of their computer staff.
phpWebSite was so promising to me at first. It was the only package that included an Edit link at the bottom of each article by default, an intuitive user interface element for novice admin users. Like CMSMadeSimple, it prioritizes content over features but has an active development community that has created a number of potentially useful modules. Unfortunately, installation was a disaster. If I installed only the core, then I could get it running. If I installed even one module, then the install script threw an error and the site broke. Check out the screen shot. Yup, the content doesn’t appear. That won’t do.
I thought that this process would allow me to develop content and install a graphic design (pro bono from a local firm) on three installations to really learn how well they ran. At the end of the first day, I am down to just one. Hopefully, CMSMadeSimple will be robust enough to get me through this project. Otherwise, I will be looking for another solution pretty soon! Let me know if you have other CMS suggestions that meet the criteria I have explained above.
Update Sep 10 2008
I realize from the comments posted to this item that this blog post does not tell the end of the story. After trying five different content management packages, I ultimately chose Website Baker and have since operated two web sites on the platform for two years. While not perfect, it has offered the best combination of simplicity and features that I have been able to find. I would still choose website baker if I were to fully hand over site administration to others. If I were to continue to administer the site myself but wanted content editors to have the best possible experience, I would choose Drupal. Check out some sites: Maru-a-Pula (Website Baker), San Diego Hat Co (Website Baker), and Shasta Mountain Guides (Drupal).
Update Oct 8 2010
Like a giant vortex, Drupal has sucked this site in, as it has most of the others that I manage. The Principal wanted to start a blog, which Website Baker did not support. With three years of Drupal experience under my belt, I felt able to migrate them while keeping the user experience as simple (or simpler) than Website Baker.