Category Archives: Content Management Systems


This Post was written by admin
Date posted: August 29, 2011

The third guest blog in our CMS series.

I was asked by the folks at Bridge Technical Solutions if I’d be interested in contributing an article defending my choice of Drupal over WordPress and Joomla.  While it’s taken longer than I’d hoped to find time to actually write it down, the reasons have been clear to me for over 4 years since I first made the decision to head in this direction.  I’ve been involved in web design and development since about 1994 – having created Rhode Island College’s first official web site while I was in school there studying graphic design.  Over the intervening years I’ve used just about every imaginable application, editor and development platform, have built countless Content Management Systems from scratch, and have put together sites in many more.  So when I decided to move fully to a pre-existing CMS, I had a lot of ideas about what I wanted from an ideal candidate.

At the time I was working as Director of Web Services for North Sails, and we needed a CMS platform in which to develop a network of over 30 sites worldwide.  The sites needed to share a design framework in addition to having the abilities to share content and control usage of media assets across the entire network.  Given one limitation – it had to be a Microsoft-based solution – I ended up with Dot Net Nuke, and I hired Embolden Design here in Providence to do the development.  I worked with them to define several key areas of functionality that were lacking at the time and had them build custom modules to support them.  These included areas of media management and placement, tagging of content using predefined libraries of terms, and a bit more.  The system did turn out well, and it presently drives many sites in many languages quite successfully.  But I have to say that the development environment and feature set were not what I’d hoped for.

After leaving North for a position at (add)ventures as their Director of Interactive/Technology in 2007, I had the chance to revisit my exploration of Open Source CMSs in order to standardize our work on a single, more capable platform than what was in use when I started.  I’d done a lot of research, and these three CMSs (WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal) were the only real candidates that got any amount of coverage in the enterprise IT press.  WordPress at the time was still very blog-focused and not a comfortable fit as a general purpose CMS, but Joomla and Drupal were fairly evenly matched.  Or so I thought.  What I did find was that while the admin experience in Joomla was quite good, its core (and contributed) functionality was no match for what I found with Drupal.  Within a week or two, I’d found and configured pre-existing functionality and modules that equaled or surpassed work that I’d contracted to have built for Dot Net Nuke at a seriously significant cost – all for free.

I’m not going to insinuate that there’s no learning curve with Drupal.  Or say that the admin/site owner experience is natively great.  But after a couple of weeks and an initial project or two, I haven’t looked back.  The admin experience gets better all the time and with a little effort can be as good as anything out there.  And capabilities?  Well, project number two was CVS Caremark’s corporate site, which handled 6-7 million page views per month and had over 20,000 registered users getting automatic updates emailed out regularly, and it only needed one custom module.  Since then I’ve worked on dozens of projects ranging from online ticketing for Newport Polo (with Rubic Design) to numerous client sites and have developed an entire platform for independent school sites for Schoolyard.  The power and flexibility of the platform and the tremendously supportive nature of the community are unparalleled in my nearly 20 years of web experience.  Need zip-code-based proximity searching?  There’s a module for that – and I had it configured and running on a site with several thousand locations nationwide in about 3 hours.  Need to import 3,000 news stories from an export of another CMS?  Sure thing – check out the Feeds module and in about half an hour, you’re all done.  Want to have a network of related websites that share a common theme with a style sheet override for individual needs?  I did that for the nation’s largest healthcare company several years ago, and not only would you not know they’re in Drupal, but you’d never know they were sharing a code base.  Common code or core features never get in the way of thoughtful, considered design.

The bottom line for me is that Drupal has made the best tool for creating web sites I’ve found.  Having that solid foundation and about 10,000 modules in the community frees me to think about strategy and design challenges posed by my clients rather than spending endless hours and weeks writing the functionality or wrangling the system to do what I need it to do.  I just get to do great work for great organizations.  So that’s my story – and I’m sticking to it (I suppose I’d better be – I’m writing this while on a plane to London to present at DrupalCon!).

-Jason Pamental, Web Strategist, Designer, Technologist:

Platform Architect: Schoolyard

See our posts on Joomla and WordPress.

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What is Joomla?

This Post was written by admin
Date posted: August 23, 2011

The second article in a series of three guest posts on CMS.

Joomla is an open source content management system (CMS), founded in September 2005 as a fork from Mambo. Joomla is one of the three most popular open source content management systems in the world. It powers nearly 25 million websites, or 10.3% of marketshare of the top one million websites, boasts 500,000 forum posts, and has thousands of contributors. Over 2,800 government websites from 204 countries use Joomla. Indeed, it is more likely that a government has Joomla running in some part of its website system than it is that the government is a member of the United Nations.

Joomla is a completely independent project, powered only by its volunteers. There is no major corporation contributing to Joomla or backing it in any way, as is true with WordPress and Drupal. Joomla’s annual budget is less than $400,000 per year, largely derived from Google AdWords and donations. No one is paid for their work on the Joomla project at this time.

Furthermore, there is no “benevolent dictator” in the Joomla project. The community is governed through three entitites, including the Production Leadership Team (PLT), the Community Leadership Team (CLT), and the board of directors at Open Source Matters (OSM). The PLT’s job is to set the vision and direction for the project’s software. The CLT governs the community, including Joomla’s websites. OSM is responsible for finances, legal aspects, and the trademark for the project. The three teams work together to govern Joomla and meet regularly to discuss the project.

What makes Joomla unique?

Joomla has made some interesting changes in the last year to its project, making it fairly unique among open source CMSs. First of all, the Joomla project now consists of two entities: a CMS, plus a fully independent framework. The framework is called the Joomla Platform, and it was released in July 2011. The platform may be used for many types of applications in development. The most notable development is eBay’s adoption of the Joomla Platform, as it develops an intranet system for measuring analytics.

The CMS is also in active development.  The CMS now undergoes releases every 6 months, with three releases occurring during each major development cycle, called a series.  The first two releases of the cycle (in this case, Joomla 1.6 and 1.7) are short-term releases, viable for a period of 7 months before reaching end of life. The third release (in this case, Joomla 2.5) is a long-term release, good for at least 18 months. Joomla 1.6 was released in January 2011, and Joomla 1.7 followed in July 2011. Joomla 2.5, a long-term release, is expected to be released in January 2012.

Following the release of Joomla 2.5, a new cycle of development will begin. Major changes will happen to Joomla with the next release, Joomla 3.0, which will appear in July 2012. A discussion of those changes is starting to emerge now.

Joomla 1.6 ushered in some major new features for Joomla, including a powerful access control list (ACL) system, nested categories, and improved templating. Joomla’s core output now supports HTML 5 as well. A fully accessible administrator template, Hathor, comes with this Joomla release. Hathor allows use of Joomla’s back-end by people with disabilities. It supports WCAG 2.0 AA standards, making this template essential for those with disabilities who must support Joomla administrators.

Joomla 1.7 has built on Joomla 1.6’s successes, squashing hundreds of bugs, adding a few new features, and completing the separation of the framework from the CMS.

What kinds of sites are good to build with Joomla?

Joomla is generally seen as standing between Drupal and WordPress from both a marketing and technical perspective – while WordPress occupies the low end of the Web site development market and Drupal the top end, Joomla bridges these two markets easily. Because of Joomla’s simple, friendly interface, Joomla is widely adopted by former WordPress developers who need a bit more power to build a given site but don’t necessarily have a full arsenal of coding skills. At the same time, in the hands of an experienced developer, Joomla can build a powerful site with thousands of pages, shopping carts, social communities, and more.

My company, 4Web Inc., has built small sites (5-20 pages) with Joomla, mostly so our clients can edit the sites without knowing HTML. More typically, the sites we build consist of hundreds to thousands of pages of content.

With a wide variety of both commercial and free templates and extensions available, it is possible to build a Joomla site without knowing HTML, CSS, PHP, or MySQL. However, if you want to go beyond the basics in Joomla, the best way to accomplish this is by learning hand-coded HTML and CSS, with an eye toward learning Joomla’s templating system.

What are Joomla’s strengths and weaknesses?

Joomla’s weakness, at this point in time, is its lack of multi-site management capabilities. There are some third-party extensions that allow for multi-site management, but I have not used them, and reviews of these extensions tend to be mixed. Without excellent multi-site management potential in Joomla, there is a major difference between Joomla and Drupal, since multi-site management is core to Drupal’s functioning.

One of Joomla’s strengths, however, is that over 8,000 third-party extensions are available. These extensions are useful – from the simple (creating dropdown menus in Joomla) and the beautiful (slideshows and photo galleries), to the powerful (shopping carts, social networking, and content construction kits) and the downright silly (the Simpsons Quote Generator comes to mind). Don’t see an extension you need? Joomla is built with the integration of extensions in mind, with tools that developers need to make this integration an easy and seamless process.

Joomla’s community is also a major strength. Many engaged, involved participants write code, squash bugs, write documentation, complete translations to dozens of languages, answer forum questions, and generally socialize with each other. Joomla Day events happen around the world with great regularity, typically organized by Joomla user groups, providing opportunities for developers to meet each other in person and collaborate. Two international Joomla events are planned for 2012, one in Europe and the other in the U.S.

I encourage you to take a closer look at Joomla. The community is strong and supportive, the tools are excellent, and the fan base continues to grow.

-Jen Kramer

For nearly ten years, Jen Kramer has been educating clients, colleagues, friends and graduate students about the meaning of a “quality Web site.”  Jen develops sites that are functional, usable, accessible, and supportive of business and marketing goals.  Through her full-service Web site development company 4Web Inc., she works with clients to build highly customized Joomla websites for a variety of small businesses, non-profits, government agencies, and educational institutions.

Jen is also a author.  Her six titles include the very popular Joomla! 1.6: Creating & Editing Custom Templates and Joomla! 1.6 Essential Training.  In January 2010, Jen’s first book Joomla! Start to Finish: How to Plan, Execute, and Maintain Your Web Site was published by Wrox Press (a division of Wiley).  Her second book, Joomla! 24-Hour Trainer, a book and DVD combination, was published in May 2011. Jen is the manager of Joomla! User Group New England and she earned a BS in biology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MS in Internet Strategy Management at the Graduate Center of Marlboro College.

See our posts on Drupal, and WordPress.

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Why WordPress

This Post was written by admin
Date posted: August 16, 2011

Jake Goldman, the first of our guest bloggers on CMS, outlines an argument for WordPress:

There’s a reason why WordPress consistently ranks highest for overall user satisfaction and has become the engine behind some 7% of websites (more than any other content management system). What started out as a cutting-edge blogging platform 7 years ago has evolved into a full-fledged content management system now estimated to command a plurality of all CMS-driven Web sites. In the last year and a half, WordPress core has integrated robust support for high-end CMS features like custom content types and taxonomies, putting the final nail in the coffin of the naysayers.

WordPress has a lot going for it. An energetic community hosts meet ups around the country (including Providence, which I’m proud to have founded), and dozens of WordCamps – grassroots WordPress conferences – are held around the world. There are more than 10,000 free plug-ins on the official repository alone, along with thousands of free and commercial themes. There are a stunning number of online tutorials and documentation, including the surprisingly detailed official codex. The core software is fine-tuned and light-weight, allowing it to perform much better, even on lower-end hosts, when compared with much of its competition.

But there’s no question that the biggest driver of its popularity is ease of use. The administrative user interface, designed by a dedicated user experience team, offers a level of polish, attention to detail, and intuitiveness that are all too rare in the geek-dominated world of open source software. Starting to create content with a basic WordPress install takes little more web-savvy than writing an email. The leadership behind the project has made an effort to design the user interface around end users – not developers. In fact, the core team insists that for each option added to the user interface, two more need to come out. It’s this mission that makes WordPress, well, WordPress.

There are no complex user role management pages or complex content definition screens. The writing interface is clean and doesn’t disrupt the appearance of content on the front end. You don’t need to “choose a distribution” of WordPress and manage a dozen modules – you just install WordPress. If you want to update WordPress to a newer version, an administrator can simply click “update now.” And if you really want an interface for managing all of that complexity, there’s always a plug-in for that.

The simple interface deceives some into thinking that WordPress is only for simple CMS implementations, which it supports with little friction. But under the hood, WordPress has an incredibly rich API (application programming interface) that can do amazing things in the hands of a capable web programmer.

The disparity between the simple content management interface and powerful API does create an interesting side effect, which I’ve dubbed the “WordPress Curve.” The lack of a complex interface for managing advanced CMS objects makes WordPress the easiest CMS out of the box for 90% of users whose heads spin when they hear terms like “define taxonomy.” But if you do want to take advantage of deeper CMS capabilities – custom post types, taxonomies, etc. – you may need a developer with more skill than what it would take to do something similar with a platform like Drupal or Joomla (or it would simply require a bigger learning curve). Those platforms provide intermediary developers who might not be great programmers an interface for doing things that are conceptually complex. Out of the box, WordPress pushes you toward code to achieve these results (although there are plug-ins that put an interface around these features).

While WordPress is the right solution for 95% of websites, there are areas where I think WordPress still needs growth. WordPress has been localized in virtually every living language, but support for multilingual sites is really only available through plug-ins that aren’t keeping up well. And even though the user / privileges API is pretty flexible, achieving complex role definitions – especially for member- centric websites – can be a chore when compared to some of the alternatives. WordPress can do all of these things, but if something like membership management is central to your CMS, then there may be a more optimal choice, like a platform built specifically for member management.

The bottom line is that if you want your website to do what 95% of website owners need their website to do, WordPress is the way to go. It’s easier to manage your content, easier for your web team to manage, and iterates quicker than any other platform, which means that you spend less time and money managing your website, and that means more resources for your actual business.
– Jake Goldman, 10up LLC

Jake Goldman is the President of 10up LLC, a web development and strategy agency focused on awesome WordPress implementations. 10up supports clients ranging from small mom-and-pop shops all the way up to enterprise VIP clients like TechCrunch.

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What’s the Deal with Web Content Management Systems?

This Post was written by admin
Date posted: August 11, 2011

WordPress vs. Drupal vs. Joomla

Over the next year, we plan to redesign our website- for an overall refresh, and to provide more functionality and resources for our clients and IT pros. But which Content Management Systems (CMS) to use? We know many of you may also be struggling with this choice. Looking through the comments on blogs and articles on this topic are a great indicator of just how seriously people approach the choice of CMS. While talking to the CMS experts it quickly became clear that opinions are strong.

What we’ve learned so far is that each system is appropriate for different situations, depending on who you are and what you’re looking for. If you’re a small company and looking for simple functionality and easy administrative controls, WordPress is going to be a great option for you.  If you are looking for a system to be very developer-friendly then Drupal is the one for you, and Joomla is great if you are building a more community-based site.

There are multiple factors that need to be considered before making this decision, such as security features, blogging capabilities, frequency of updates, or even investigating other systems besides the big three. With so much online content we wanted to share some interesting resources we found to be helpful (don’t be surprised if you detect some bias based on authorship…we warned you it’s an intense battle!): YouTube Comparison, Techi Infographic, and Open Sourcery Article.  After completing our initial research, we feel that talking to people who have developed and used the systems we are deciding between is the best approach.

To help us—and others facing this decision—we’d like to invite CMS experts to post here to give us a better idea of what each system offers and provide some insight on their pros and cons. If you’re not an expert, we’d still like to know which CMS you chose and why. Please feel free to comment and share your experiences with the different systems. To get the conversation started, BRIDGE lined up some experts to guest blog throughout August so check back for their thoughts!

See our posts on Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress.

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