Content Management Systems – Choosing the Right One for You

Content management systems are everywhere on the web these days, helping thousands of web contributors pump out robust sites loaded with content with easy and constant fresh updates. Whether you’re looking to build a deeply functional community-based web site overnight, or just too lazy to learn how to code a professional and good-looking network of pages yourself; chances are there’s a content management system (CMS) out there for you.

The way it works is simple. The new webmaster to be simply follows a few simple instructions to install someone else’s code onto a web hosting account. They can then login to the admin interface, and start running a site or an entire community almost immediately, loaded with all the features desired.

Which one should I choose?

Almost everyone who’s spent enough time on the internet has heard of the big content management systems such as phpNuke and Drupal, but did you know that there are literally hundreds upon hundreds more great options out there for a webmaster to choose from? Each one is slightly different, designed to run on a different platform, and to support a different library of features, plug-ins, and templates. Each one has not only a slightly different feel on the front end, but a totally different interface for your site contributors to utilize on the back end.

The first decision you need to make about your content management system is where you plan to run it. The most popular option nowadays seems to be a combination of PHP and MySQL, which can be support by any modern Linux host. While this option is the easiest to support and install, you should remember that it’s not the only option, and might not be the best. If you’re running from a Linux platform, there are other options that tend to require a bit more effort in setting up, but may be well worth your while, such as PERL, Cold Fusion, Java, JSP, or Ruby on Rails. All of these languages are just as effective, however may be less likely to be supported by your host. There are also a number of options which run from a Windows environment, demanding technology such as ASP. In the end, choose what you feel comfortable with, and know for sure that your web host will support.

After you know what kind of site you can run, you can start thinking about features. There is a content management system out there that will do literally anything you can think of. Period. Start thinking about how you want your web site to function, and the greater purpose it will serve. library management system
Will you have a lot of authors to your pages that don’t know HTML? Get a CMS system with a built-in HTML editor. Would you like visitor statistics beyond what your web host keeps? Get a CMS system that tracks that too. Do you want polls, email, or photo galleries? Is the potential for search optimization of this site important to you? These are just a few examples of things that are very important to consider, and are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

Now, granted, that’s a lot of information to gather. Here we find ourselves halfway through this article, and I haven’t even told you where to look. By the glory of the internet, most of the work is of course already done for you. My personal recommendation for comparing the various options a website known as CMS Matrix, which for the record, I have no affiliation with; it’s simply a great site for this purpose. From this interface you can browse through virtually every viable option for a content management system out there, designed to work on anything from a fun personal site to an enterprise-level corporate intranet, and get a full breakdown of pricing, compatibility, security, features, and even ratings from others who’ve already given the system a try.

Won’t my CMS site look like all the rest?

It doesn’t have to! Most quality content management systems will allow you to apply templates and plug-ins to your site, which can set the design of your site apart from others using the same engine by nearly anything that HTML and CSS can do. Typically, you can find templates on the main web site for the content management system you’ve chosen – and in the rare event that this is not the case, templates are typically no more than a Google search away. Most systems which let you install a custom skin will even let you design your own; allowing you to make your new site virtually as personalized as any site on the web can be.