Introduction to Content Management Systems (CMS)
If you ever dabbled in building a website you know how time consuming it can be to build the pages from scratch, especially if you’re hand coding them. Most people will opt to use a website building tool like Adobe’s Dreamweaver or Microdsoft’s Frontpage. Some hosting compnies also offer ways to build website using their web based building tools e.g. Godaddy’s “Website Tonight”.
Now if you’ve ever used these online site building tools, and I’ve had experience with quite a few of them, you will of realized that they are pretty much useless for all but the simples of website. Sure, if you want to put up a quick and dirty 5 page site they may be just what the web doctor ordered. When it comes to adding pages to your site on a regular basis, allow other people to add content to your site, have your pages turn up in the search engines and a whole list of other features they fail miserably.
You may wonder how huge website like The New York Times or Yahoo build their sites and how they update them, sometimes on a half hourly basis. They are all using something called a Content Management System (CMS). It’s basically a big program that sits on a server and grabs the stories from a database and spits them out using a templating system. The author of an article never has to worry about hand coding a web page, using a ftp program or an html editor. They simply fires up a web browser, open a web page and do a quick cut and paste from a Word document or just typetheir story into a box on the page, much like you do when you compose an email in Yahoo or Gmail. Next they hit a button and off it goes to be stored in a database and displayed on the website. This is the beauty of a CMS, the author can concentrate on writing good articles and updating the site on a regular basis while the CMS takes care of the rest.
A company like the NY Times paid a tidy sum for their CMS, hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions of dollars. There are however cheaper solutions, the Drupal CMS being one of them.
Intro to Drupal
• Drupal is a CMS and is free to use and modify.
• Some large, well know sites use drupal: Amnesty International, Sony Music, The Onion, The New York Observer, One.org and Linux Journal, to name a few.
Why use Drupal
• The biggest advantage of using a CMS system is that it is much easier to maintain and update.
• If you have a site who’s content is growing on a daily basis then a CMS IS A MUST!
• You may also need other people to add content to your site and this will require giving them access to some parts of the site but keeping them out of other parts. Drupal can do this too.
• All functions of the Drupal website are administered through a web browser.
• Drupal can be tweaked to play nicely with the Search Engines. Having a site that will enable your content to turn up in Google or Yahoo is vital.
• Drupal is a free Open Source software product. It’s developed by enthusiasts from around the world. It’s built on other open source technology like PHP, Apache and MySql, the same technology that powers some on the best know and biggest website on the internet (Yahoo, Google).
• Because the code that powers Drupal is written under the open source license when you use Drupal you are not locking yourself in to a particular vendor or company. Ask any programmer and they will tell you that trying to understand or modify someone else’s code is a their worse nightmare. When it comes to custom coded CMS based websites, most programmers will refuse to work with other people’s code and insist that on coding the site from scratch. Programmers who are familiar with Drupal are much more likely to be able to reuse most of your existing Drupal code. If your programmer gets a job offer in Hawaii they can’t refuse, no problem, just hire a new Drupal programmer!
• Drupal can be expanded through the use of modules. There are hundreds of add-on modules. A modules can be as simple as code to allow a user to add a comment to an article page or as complex as to enable you to sell products or services on your site via an elaborate shopping cart and e-commerce system.
• The look of a Drupal can be changed through the use of themes.
• Drupal comes with built-in blogging functionality and a message board
• For a full list of Drupals features, see this link drupal.org—features
• Drupal needs to be installed on a server, this will cost anywhere from $10 – $30 per month. Drupal can’t be hosted on budget services like Godaddy or but there are plenty of hosting companies that will let you install.
• Installing Drupal does require some system admin skills.
• Drupal is a cost effective way for smaller companies and those on a limited budget to have a website with functionality only found sites costing ten times more.
• The beauty of Drupal is in it’s expandability, start off small with a few modules and as you grow add more modules and functionality. Can’t find the module you need, no problem, hire someone to write a new module. No switching to another platform or starting form scratch, just add the new module!
What Jacana Designs can do for your organization
• Set up a Drupal based website. The site can be hosted (for a fee) on Jacana Design’s web server or on a server of your choice.
• Change the look of the site. Add menu items, content pages and simple or existing graphics.
• Set up user accounts that will enable your staff to add content to or manage parts of the website but be disallowed from changing other parts of the site.
• Train you and your staff on the use of Drupal. Adding of new or existing content to the site, management of comments and other features.
• Help you set up a classification system for the content of your site. This is important to help users find content on your site and to help you organize your site into sections or categories.
• Tweak your pages so they will rank high in the search engines
• Add shopping cart functionality so you can sell products online (using Drupal’s ecommerce module)
• Add specialized modules that will enable a “constituent relationship management solution”. With this you can manage online signup and membership management, do online fundraising and donor management and do personalized email blasts and newsletters. Jacana Designs utilizes the popular CiviCRM modules that work with Drupal.