Choosing a website content management system

Last week I was asked by a business owner what is the best open source Content Management System for their website. Like many questions in technology, the answer was “it depends”.

Discussing open source and CMS in the one sentence is dangerous as you enter a world of religious geek wars where relationships and reputations are ruined over arguments concerning which product is best; think of the Mac versus PC war fought on a thousand fronts.

There’s also the danger of business owners misunderstanding what “open source” means; to many it means “free” because they don’t realise most of the implementation cost of technology is in the labour time of setting the systems up, not the initial purchase cost. Another risk lies in being blinded by the word “free” results in the business being locked into an inappropriate and ultimately more expensive solution.

This isn’t say the same thing can’t happen with a proprietary system either and often you’ll find being locked into one software vendor means you’re forced into expensive upgrades whenever it suits the vendor’s marketing plan.

Software licenses themselves are a source of risk, in the case of one major technology company I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that half their customers are in breach of their user agreements due to some obscure, arcane and contradictory clause buried deep in the legalese. Not that the software company itself would know, being just as befuddled by their own license conditions as their long suffering customers.

Of the open source Content Management Services, three options stand out from a crowded field; Drupal, Joomla and WordPress. Each one has it’s own benefits.

WordPress

One of the features that marks WordPress out as the leader in the blogging world is its CMS functions. For most websites and business, WordPress combines ease of use with a vast range of plugins, templates and features. Because of its popularity, there are an army of consultants and webmasters who can get a professional, corporate looking WordPress-based website up and running.

Joomla

Coming from website development roots, Joomla-based sites don’t have a habit of looking like blogs that WordPress-based sites sometimes do. Like WordPress, Joomla has a large base of developers and supporters and offers access to a wide range of extensions and templates. It offers more flexibility than WordPress if you want to customise your site’s look or feel.

Drupal

Drupal is the best if you want a technical solution. While it’s more expensive and time consuming to set up, it offers more flexibility and power for the business. Drupal is probably the best choice if you have a high traffic site with lots of changing content.

The ultimate solution comes down to what is right for your business so it’s best to get an expert in to have a look at what your current needs and future plans are for your website. Both Aunty B and Craig Reardon have previously looked at how to find the right experts.

One thing to keep in mind when asking experts is that religious aspect; many websites designers are evangelists for one platform or another, so ask widely and remember to be firm about your budgets.

I’d be interested to hear from business owners what their experiences have been with the different platforms and in seeking advice, so please comment below on what you’ve found when shopping for a CMS. Religious geek flame wars on the topic are welcome as well.

 

For more Tech Talk blogs, click here.

Paul Wallbank is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on technology issues. He founded national support organisation PC Rescue in 1995 and has spent over 14 years helping businesses get the most from their IT investment. His PC Rescue and IT Queries websites provide free advice to business computer users and his monthly newsletter has over 3,000 subscribers.

 

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