Content Management Systems help you focus on content.

Over the years that I have been involved with many different ways to build websites. I started out working Word Pad in in Windows 95, and quickly migrated to HoT MetaL Pro. When I started with classic ASP and PHP, I moved to Drumbeat, which eventually became Dreamweaver.

Although there is still a need for a completely customized site, many sites today rely on content management systems. This generally means that the content of your website is stored in a database and pulled up and extracted when requested by the user. I have worked with many of these systems.

One important point to note. When designing websites today, the designers have to account for different devices (phones, tablets, TV’s, Desktops) and different browsers. This responsive design can be time consuming and require much testing. One huge advantage to good content management systems is that use frameworks that handle the onerous task of responsive design and browser compatibility.

WordPress– This is a WordPress site. WordPress is probably the most popular content management system in the world. It is still easy to use, and is free to use. There are a lot of plugins and themes available. It uses MySQL database and PHP.

There are some disadvantages. Because it is so common, it is frequently targeted by hackers. You have to keep the site up to date. Also, if you use too many plugins, there could be a conflict and trouble shooting can be difficult. Also, even with the plethora of themes available, WordPress sites tend to look alike. It is hard (but not impossible) to create a truly unique site with WordPress.

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Joomla– Joomla is the first content management system with which I worked, and it has it’s passionate followers. Overtime the interface became a little more complicated (although it became more customizable). Like WordPress, it uses MySQL and PHP. I have not seen any real performance or stability differences between Joomla and WordPress. It is really a matter of personal choice.

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Drupal– Drupal is a content management system that many developers enjoy working with. You can add custom code and applications with much less potential for conflict. However, the interface is the most difficult with which to work. It uses PHP and MySQL/Maria DB (but you can work with other databases). In my opinion, there is a greater diversity in site designs with Drupal and it seems to perform better in high traffic scenarios. I really like it and always keep the most recent version on my Laptop so I can explore its vast capabilities. It is certainly a content management system designed for developers, or developers at heart!

I have found that Drupal is the easiest content management system to use when using Web Services (SOAP or REST).

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SharePoint– SharePoint is Microsofts Portal tool. It doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but it is okay at most things. It is a good Document Management system. If you primarily use MS Office for your business, this can be a useful tool. Simple workflows are easy to create and Power Automate and PowerApps make designing mobile friendly apps fairly straightforward. It uses ASP.Net for the front end and SQL Server for the database. However, you can extract and work with information from a wide range of databases, including Oracle. I have been a SharePoint Administrator since 2003.

Another SharePoint strongpoint (in addition to Document Management) is the ability to create custom lists. Many groups use Excel to create lists (or mini databases) for tracking. Most commonly used lists can be recreated (or even imported) into SharePoint. Actionable workflows (like email updates or approvals) can be added with relative ease.

SharePoint is not free, and the options for purchasing are many and can be confusing. Also, most SharePoint sites look a like. Adding custom code beyond what you can do in PowerApps requires a mid-level .Net Programmer and some patience. However, I think SharePoint is best as a company Intranet Portal for organizations that want to get more out of their workers.

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Confluence- Like SharePoint, Confluence is a more focused CMS. It is made by Atlassian, the developers of Jira. It integrates beautifully with Jira, but as a stand-alone CMS it is a but difficult to work with. It’s interface reminds me of SharePoint. Document Management is good, but is mostly handled by Jira. I really like the sheer number of plugins available to enhance the overall experience.

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Club Systems– This is a niche market tool using ASP.Net and SQL Server to create websites with a solid array of features. However, you cannot customize it without the help of Club Systems, so all of the websites look alike, even their own. There is solid support for things like members databases, event management and mass emails, but there are no third party plugins. It is also expensive compared to the other options.

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