Web Developers, Meet the Content Management System (CMS)

By - Tyme


Joomla claims to have the largest availability of plugins (referred to as components, extensions, mambots, themes), many of which are fee based. Some modules are obtained by fee per plugin, others through subscription to all the developer's offerings. You will likely have no trouble finding what you need.

While flexible access control is not part of the core architecture of Joomla (as it is with Drupal), several standard user roles are available: Register, Author, Publisher, Administrator, Super-Administrator. If you want to establish more user rights control, you will need to purchase a module to do so.

When it comes to creating content, Joomla offers several customization options for each content item. Assign your roles carefully--you could easily overwhelm your non-techy client users with the many choices.


WordPress has often been the go-to tool for bloggers, as is hinted by its name. However, WordPress is constantly evolving to offer more and more flexibility and extensibility, in order to compete with other CMS forerunners.

WordPress is often available for installation through Web hosting control panels, and novices find it easy to install and use.

The Vancouver Convention Centre site (http://www .vancouverconventioncentre.com/) is a beautiful example of a WordPress built site.

Which is Best?

Asking Web designers/developers which CMS is best is a bit like starting the Mac vs. PC debate. Sure, each has advantages and disadvantages, but it tends to come down purely to preference.

CMS Site Building Tips

  1. Always create and maintain a development site! You don't want to install new plugins, upgrade core or contributed modules, or experiment on the live site first.
  2. Do not hack core code, if at all possible.
    Content management systems are designed to be customized without having to access the programming code. If you modify the core code, or contributed module code, you will need to redo those modifications each time you upgrade to the software with the many builds that will follow.
  3. If you are an experienced Web designer/developer intending to create a custom site, consider starting with a no-frills theme. These tend to be created by developers who value compliant code over pretty graphics (which you will apply yourself). Select the theme based on the basic layout (2-column, 3-column, tableless, XHTML compliant). A nice feature with CMS is that you can add multiple themes and simply turn them on or off to try out another theme.
  4. Establish user roles thoughtfully. Give users only as much access control (/permissions) as is necessary. Not only is this prudent for site integrity, but you do not want to overwhelm your content creators with more options than they need.
  5. Remember, WYSIWYGs are evil (but clients require them). Good luck with that.
  6. Have Firebug locked and loaded before you begin. The content management systems use many layers of CSS files. (For more on Firebug, see "Firefox and Firebug: A Developer's Swiss Army Knife": http://www.htmlgoodies.com/beyond/ webmaster/toolbox/article.php/3801831.)
  7. Many content management systems, although typically written in PHP, will run on an equipped Windows server, but some functionality (e.g., search engine friendly URLs) will be lost.
  8. Use of a CMS requires some extra search engine optimization (SEO) care. Use search engine friendly URLs, and be sure to use a well-defined robots.txt file and sitemap.
  9. With a CMS, all content and operational instructions are written to a database, and your style mods will be contained in your custom CSS theme files. So, perform regular SQL dumps and backups of those CSS files. If you haven't hacked any programming files, backups (and restores) will be quick and painless.
  10. Don't leave your clients hanging! Even though a CMS is designed to make them more independent, clients typically need guidance and implementation for expanded functionality, as their needs evolve.

Thanks for stopping by to learn about content management systems and check back next week.

Tyme is a freelance writer and multimedia specialist of many years. She likes walks in the park, cotton candy, and baby ducks. To learn more: http://www .MultimediaByTyme.com/.

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