Content Management Systems Bravado in Truckee

What’s in a CMS? How long does it take to write one? Neither question yields much insight for a less than web savvy business when it is time to choose a new webmaster. The question can take on new meaning if your business also wants to make changes and otherwise add new content to your website.

I often field requests for the capability to modify a website. 15 years ago all I really had was a text editor (emacs), an apache server with ssh/ftp support, and a copy of good ol’ Paintshop Pro! Designing a website was a real sink hole of hours and hours. Soon though, we had tools like FrontPage and Dreamweaver.

FrontPage rather than Dreamweaver got the early nod, due to the extensibility of FrontPage. Even today, setting up a menu system in Dreamweaver is best left to JavaScript.

As time passed, web coding standards congealed and not around Microsoft’s proprietary standards. Dreamweaver also became more robust with the addition of WEBDAV support for publishing and finally, the ability to handle websites with hundreds of pages without crashing. But you still need more than a bit of web savvy to use Dreamweaver or any other professional web design tool or platform.

To address the needs of a small business who wants to easily edit and maintain their website, a whole raft of Content Management Systems, or CMS, are available. And of course, they all have funny names like WordPress (not to be confused with the WordPress blog!), Joomla!, and Drupal; the current market share leaders.

The following report from Water and Stone gives a great overview of the current market conditions for CMS.

CMS 2010 Market Conditions

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Got a favorite? No problem. Gossamer offers support for the current big three in web based CMS.

Small Pond Studio enters the market?

With so many CMS to choose from I was more than a bit surprised to hear that a print shop in Truckee is advertising that they too, had entered the CMS market. From their website:

“Truckee-based marketing and graphic design firm SmallPond Studio designed and developed the content management system Website.”

“We design, build, and develop these systems (CMS) for a reasonable price and offer training to clients so they can manage their own websites.”

“SmallPond Studio has developed two content management systems for San Luis Obispo commercial real estate broker Rossetti Company”

“Truckee marketing and graphic design firm SmallPond Studio designed and developed the content management system Web site. SmallPond’s content management system is designed to be flexible and affordable…”

“Updating your website with SmallPond’s content management system is easy as 1, 2, 3.”

It didn’t take much digging to find out their show case website is in fact based on a Drupal CMS, an OpenSource offering subject to the Creative Commons License, Attribution-ShareAlike2.0 and the GNU General Public License.

This should concern your business on two fronts.

Is it legal?
Is it fit for use?

I use OpenSource stuff and it works great. The professionals that work on these projects know what they are doing and do their best to make their stuff bullet proof. I am proud to tell you so; and, … it is part of the Licensing Agreement.

Truth is, that on most large scale commercial web hosting platforms, installing one of these CMS is just a mouse click away on the provided web based desktop. There is very little customization available beyond what is found in the web based desktop interface.

The downside of such ease of use is that these servers are usually configured with out of date PHP releases and are subject to a number of security bulletins. Keeping the PHP platform up to date is key.

There is a good reason for this lack of control. These systems are design to make life simple for a beginner, which means some functionality of the system is on a shelf just a bit out of your reach. To actually modify any of these platforms for production release requires a PHP programmer familiar with a multitude of issues in an evolving security environment.

The top CMS offerings are so robust, that they usually only need a little help to ensure W3C coding conformance. A good example is the Google Doc Embedder used in this post. The standard release code for this plugin fails to properly encode ‘&’ in its URLs.

To be fair, I’ve also seen this claim from other print shops in Reno and elsewhere. They all claim to have developed a CMS that is easier to use than, I guess, the professional competition. And they deploy their systems on servers void of the latest PHP releases. A security nightmare.

Bottom line: Do you really want to trust access to your website to a print and marketing company?

I think not.

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