First Step In Choosing A CMS

With so many great and award winning content management systems on the market it can be difficult to choose the right one for a project or for a company to use as the basis for its sites. It's a big enough topic that articles have been written and books published on the topic. But, I think there is a more basic decision that needs to be made before the selection can be considered. One that tells you about your plans for using the system.

In the current state of CMS you can't have your cake and eat it, too. That is, you can't have everything you may want out of the box. You need to make a base decision about what you want. Basically, choose two of the following three:

  • Flexibility
  • Slick UI
  • Install and Setup Ease

Let's take a look a couple real world examples using Wordpress and Drupal.

The Slick UI

Wordpress has a slick user interface. One that is referred to for comparison with other tools. It has a feel that people like to use. But, when Wordpress was in the CMS Showdown at SXSW the evaluators thought Wordpress had the least intuitive UI. How can that be?

Wordpress is targeted at blogging and simple publishing. The UI was designed for this and done quite well. In making those assumptions flexibility was greatly reduced in the UI. This is a good thing for a blog or simple publishing site. When Wordpress was extended, for the competition, in directions other than it's core competencies (increasing flexibility) the UI became less intuitive (decreased slickness of the UI).

What makes a UI feel slick to the users is one that knows something about what they are doing and making what they need to do easy. In order to do that the tool must know what the users are doing. The more assumptions the tool can make the slicker the UI can be.

Setup Out Of The Box

Imagine you wanted to build a company Intranet using a CMS. This is a fairly targeted tool. If you were to build it from the ground up with Drupal the two chosen from the list would be flexibility and slick UI. In order to use the flexibility and slick UI in Drupal to build out a system like this it will take quite a bit of setup time. This is because Drupal makes less assumptions than a tool like Wordpress so those assumptions need to be entered in the form of setup and configuration.

If you want proof of that take a look at a tool like Open Atrium. This takes advantage of the flexibility and slick UI of Drupal but took a lot of setup and config time to get to where it is now.

This is, also, where a nice twist happens. Installing Atrium is fairly easy because the installation and setup is handled by an installer. Don't you get all three in one box because the install profile takes care of the setup and config?

Atrium makes assumptions about what you want to do in an Intranet and how to extend it. In order to deviate from that setup you have an increased time to setup the site. The more flexibility you want to take advantage of the more time to setup the site. In essence atrium takes advantage of the slick ui and ease to install and setup.

How Do The Big Boys Stack Up?

After you choose two of these the next question is which one stacks up best for your needs? That's the topic for a follow-up post. Stay tuned or subscribe to receive the post when it comes out.