CMS Applications

All thoughts on various CMS apps including Joomla, CMS Made Simple, and blogging tools.

CMS Made Simple

March 17th, 2009

I’ve worked with Joomla!, WordPress, Blogspot, Blogger, Zencart osCommerce, and custom CMS tools, and I must say that CMS Made Simple is by far my favorite. It just makes sense to me and I’m really surprised I don’t see it used more often.

Joomla! is definitely the star in the open-source CMS world, but frankly, I’m not a huge fan of it. Sections, categories, articles, etc when all I want to do is open the “About Us” page and edit its content is just not right. I don’t like that ALL of the website contents are listed as “articles.” What a strange and counterintuitive concept! This general organization principle drives me nuts and the additional confusion caused by the multiple menu managers and the way you have to upload new templates in a zipped directory with an xml file just make this system unwieldly to me.

CMS Made Simple on the other hand is… SIMPLE! CMSMS takes Joomla’s menu manager and article manager and combines them into one incredibly easy interface called Pages. Hey, an area called Pages where I go to edit pages, now that makes sense. In the Pages area you see a list of all of the pages on your site listed in the order they appear on your menu. You simply click a page title to edit the contents of that page directly rather than going and finding what articles are published on the page and then finding that article in the 75+ articles in the article manager. To reorder your menu, you don’t need a menu manager, you simply click up and down arrows to move the pages around and your menu is instantly updated. A new page will also be instantly added to your menu and the “parent” option makes it really easy to nest menu items. Editing templates thankfully involves no uploading of zip files and no xml configuration files, just HTML and CSS. Whew!!!

CMSMS also has a ton of additional features. I know that Joomla! does too, but I never got around to playing with them because the basics took too long to master. Great looking photo albums, easy to use blogs, public and private forums, newsletters, customizable web forms, and guestbooks all take less than an hour to install and configure. Amazing!

CMSMS does have its downfalls as it’s not really capable of a ton of end-user account management or social networking, but for the vast majority of personal and business sites I can’t imagine using anything else.

Recent Web Projects

January 15th, 2009

Well, I always seem to keep myself busy, usually too busy. I really love nothing more than mastering a new technology or putting the finishing touches on a new design I’m really proud of, so working on new projects really has become quite an addiction for me. Actual paying work has been scarce, but I’ve been putting any free time I have to good use.

Over the last few months I completed a few projects of my own, most notably the redesign of this website. I took a long, steady approach to the site, working 20-30 minutes a day for about 3 weeks before I was finished with what is by far the best version of my web design portfolio I’ve ever made.

I also poured a ton of time and effort into learning all I could about CMS Made Simple. I set up a sample cms website to explore all of the features including photo albums, blogs, forums, comments, web forms, and more. I though I knew a lot about the system before this experiment as I have used it in 5 previous web projects, but now I really see the true power of it all. I cannot think of an easier and more efficient way for a client to maintain a site.

Shopping carts have always been a source of ire in my freelance experience- everybody wants one, nobody really wants to pay for one, nobody is willing to invest the time into setting one up. Therefore, I’ve never actually set up a full shopping cart system. Last month I took the initiative to just set up a cart of my own using Zencart. It’s not a fully functioning online store now, but I think it’s a pretty good shopping cart solution.

Installing this blog was actually yet another project, as it was only recently added- months after the initial site redesign. The purpose of the blog was to learn the ins and outs of WordPress so that I could have an outlet for delivering news and thoughts about web design and development.

Busy, busy, busy, and more to come.

WordPress Themes

January 10th, 2009

There are tons of beautiful wordpress themes available but I’ve decided to skin this blog like the rest of my site. So far, so good, but there’s plenty of work to do still.

Why a blog?

January 10th, 2009

So, after blogs have been popular for 3 or 4 years I’m finally hopping on board and taking the time to learn some blogging tools. I used the blog tool which comes wtih CMS Made Simple and I must say it’s a pretty handy thing for a site which is to consist mostly of static text with the blog function being secondary. WordPress, however, is definitely where it’s at for a site which is to primarily function as a blog. It’s incredibley easy to install on your own server so you don’t have to worry about your site needing to be hosted by blogspot or anything like that. The user interface is really intuitive and attractive, and the ability to intergrate static pages in addition to the blog content is a real plus. Over the next few months I hope to start designing my own themes and even setting up a few small social network sites using WordPress. Stay tuned.