How to Select an Open Source Content Management System
A Content Management System (CMS), is a database management tool, used along with a template, to create a functioning website. The template, or frontend, is an attractive form that you can choose to fit your business. The database, or backend, is the form you use to submit your data, including contacts, products, articles and more. CMS are increasingly taking the place of traditional programmed websites because they are more user-friendly. Open source CMS are programs that are formed collectively, such as WordPress.com. Although they are free programs, they are often believed to be more attractive, easy to use and adjustable than proprietary programs. This is because they are constantly being improved by volunteer web developers. It can often be hard to wade through the CMS options. This article will tell you how to select an open source content management system.
Choosing an Open Source CMS
Research your options.A quick Internet search will tell you that WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, Plone and Blogger are probably the most common; however, there are dozens more. Make sure you are testing a CMS, rather than a vendor, as the names may be easily confused in the beginning.
- Many online reviews say that WordPress CMS is good for blogs, and Drupal is great for community-oriented sites, with a lot of user interaction. Joomla! works well for the most basic websites and users. Plone is a newer CMS that manages documents and community very well. You should make your own decisions based on what looks best for your site.
Decide what experience you want to give your website visitors.Sit down with your marketing or branding department and make a list of the essential parts of a website, so that you can look for them in your CMS. This will help you to choose the frontend designs you prefer.
- You can also get a private web development company to design your template and plug in an open source CMS. This is considerably more expensive than simply choosing a ready-made design through an Internet-based service. It may allow you extensive customization of your site.
Decide what you need from the backend of the CMS.For example, decide if you need search engine optimization (SEO) features, mailing lists, events applications, customization, scalability or a specific programming language.
Test drive each programming platform.Assign 2 to 3 people who will be working with the programs most to do a trial run, or "sandbox" version, of the CMS. They should report back with reviews and rate them according to overall preference.
- Open source CMS can all be installed for free. You may need to hire a web programmer to install them, if no one in your organization is very computer savvy. You still want to test the backend of the system with the non-technical users.
- You can also go to opensourcecms.com to try over 70 open source CMS programs for free. The site will allow you to do a demo without having to install the whole program.
Read community reviews of the open source CMS or extensions you want to install.Each open source program has a web-based community that helps users ask and answer questions. You can get an idea of how easy it will be to accomplish the things on your marketing list by searching for reviews and instructions.
Choose a CMS according to website functionality and employee functionality.Compare each CMS/template with the frontend/backend list you made. Choose the program that fulfills the most preferences on your lists.
Implementing an Open Source CMS
Decide how you want to do installation and support.Since open source CMS are available to all, they have community forums that help with support. However, if you aren't very proficient with computer programming, you will have to follow an alternate method.
- Hire a web vendor to install the program and train your staff. Although you will need to pay for this service, it will decrease the problems you will have with the open source CMS. Ask if the vendor offers tech support help in the future at a fee.
- Task your IT department with installing and training staff. You may have to send part of your staff to a course to learn all about the program and its requirements. If you already have a fully competent IT staff, you will save money with this option.
- Install the program yourself and train your staff. If you and your employees are very computer literate, it may not be essential to get outside support. You can look for plugins in the directory and read how to fix problems in the forums.
Be prepared for an adoption period.After changing any database, you should be prepared for a slow period where your employees learn to use the program, and at times, there are complaints. Try to wait for a period of 30 to 90 days before deciding if the CMS will work, because most website changes take time to adjust to.
Look to enhance your open source CMS.Look for extensions and plugins, once your employees are completely functional with the backend. The great thing about CMS is that talented volunteer programmers are improving it all the time.
- Subscribe to blogs, newsletters or forums about your CMS blog. This will keep you aware of new updates or plugins. It will also direct you to websites that use the CMS so that you can see what others are doing with it.
Video: How to Select a Web Content Management System
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