Content is the life of a website. I had a conversation today with a business owner who is struggling with his content management system and the restrictions it puts on him. Another person that was talking to a buddy of mine mentioned they didn’t like how Wordpress.com and Blogger.com restricted what they could do with their blog. Every system allows for a certain level of flexibility, beyond that you have to customize. Starting with a open source content management system can help.
I spent most of my day today, besides conversations both offline and online, working on CMS Made Simple. At first I was disappointed by the system from a basic technical point of view. It really has missed the boat in some ways in providing features of more powerful frameworks (Ruby-on-Rails, Cakephp, etc.), but it also has some advantages. The main one being it puts the power back in the hands of the site owner and designer, not just the programmer.

CMS Made Simple

The way it does this is instead of having your templates in include files somewhere in FTP space (what is FTP, also came up in a conversation today) you make them very accessible through a web based interface. This allows for a try, try again, approach that is more intuitive than figuring out stylesheets, html files, FTP, etc. It provides the flexibility of light weight programming through the well known Smarty template language syntax, but that knowledge isn’t as important, if you are just willing to tweak a few things. You can also install extensions or plugins (they call them modules) through the web interface through install files right off of their site. This means that once you go through the initial install, you can for the most part avoid ever having to touch FTP or the database directly. Get a tech to get you through this small barrier and you are off and running.

Special mention goes to the Calguy’s set of plugins. He has done a fantastic job making a robust set of modules for the system. Simple database structures a with very dynamic set of features.

CMS Made Simple isn’t for everyone and for the most part I’d recommend sticking to whatever you or your designer is familiar with, but if you are looking to add some dynamic components to your site and don’t want something too complicated, CMS Made Simple is worth checking out.