Your Website's CMS: Open Source Isn't Always the Best Choice
Jason chin - Interactive Technology Director
Ever since the dawn of the internet age in the ‘90s, developers and mad scientists have been contriving new ways to help the average internet user - who knows nothing about coding - manage all the information contained in their website by themselves.
Some developers went ahead and developed their own, while others attempted to contort existing open source frameworks to suit their needs.
The ending result is an unimaginable multitude of options that the user has to consider before deciding which platform they will invest their time and resources into for the next decade or more.
When you ask most developers for advice, the first words out of their mouths usually start with “WordPress” or “Drupal” almost always because they are free.
Unfortunately, from a business perspective it’s not that simple. There is a lot more cost that needs to be assessed besides the singular price of the software. There are a lot of other questions that should be asked besides “which platform should I use?”.
Many people elect to go with an open source solution because it’s free and 3rd party hosting companies make it really easy to install and begin to use.
What many people eventually come to realize, is that although it is free, it is far from easy to customize it into something that will be useful for your company to project its brand image. You also become concerned when you first try to update it to the latest version but it warns you that you should back everything up first and that the update may break your website.
First, I’m going to attempt to cover some very basic strengths and weaknesses that I believe matter to the average user of the two platforms that I mentioned above - then provide an interesting alternative.
WordPress (Open Source)
Just the fact that WordPress is considered a viable CMS (Content Management System) platform to manage a website is a bit of a misnomer. WordPress is not a CMS for websites. It is designed to be used as a content management tool for blogging. Only through the heavy use of plug-ins and custom coding can you bend it into a CMS - which usually results in a very unintuitive interface. A common question from an every day user would be: “Why do I have to do it this way? That doesn’t make any sense! Why can’t it just be easy?”.
Drupal (Open Source)
Unlike WordPress, Drupal is actually designed for websites - and more. One of the great features of Drupal is its flexibility and the community around it which houses thousands of plug-ins - each of which are available at your request.
However, when it comes to ease of use, Drupal can be overwhelming for the average user. There is always a lot of clicking around, remembering to save your changes, and if you’re not running it on a powerful server - a lot of waiting for screens to load. That makes a simple text edit very tedious and annoying.
Developing a website with Drupal also requires a skilled developer to not only construct the site, but to also manage, tweak, and upgrade it when necessary.
What Other Options Do I Have?
Surprisingly, there are quite a few options available that will give you a better overall experience. In my opinion, the best CMS solution should have the following qualities:
- You should be able to make a quick change in under 30 seconds and in less than 4 clicks.
- You shouldn’t be able to 'break' your website by doing something wrong.
- It should be available to you at least 95% of the time.
- There should be no storage or bandwidth limits.
- You should be able to revert your changes forward and backward for anything at anytime.
- You should have the ability to test out your changes first, and then publish them live when you’re ready.
- There should be someone available for you to email or call if something goes wrong - AND you should get a meaningful response within 24 business hours.
- You shouldn’t have to do your own backups, software updates, penetration testing, etc.
The Cloud Option
Over the last decade or so, the idea of the Cloud has gone from merely a concept to a way of life for most of us. If you have a Netflix, Dropbox, or Gmail account then you’ve already grown accustomed to the great benefits of the Cloud.
As far as CMSs are concerned, and with all the power that the Cloud possesses, the idea of a Website CMS solution hosted in the Cloud hasn’t gained a whole lot of traction in the grassroots community aka The Small/Medium-sized business community.
Yes, you can have a blogging platform directly hosted with WordPress, or fire up a cheap GoDaddy account, or even stitch together a Wix.com site for free - but what I’m talking about is a solution that allows you to project your unique brand and manage that projection with power and ease - without much assistance from a developer.
The Reality Engine CMS Cloud
Reality Engine (www.realityengine.com) was one of the first companies on the planet to begin offering their clients the CMS Cloud solution. Over the years they have kept their ear to the ground and really paid attention to what their clients wanted and expected, as well as how their users instinctively used the system. They have been very active in finding new ways to make the system easier to use while increasing it’s flexibility. After taking a page out of Apple’s playbook - UI 1st, FUNCTION 2nd, the product is both one of the most intuitive and flexible systems available in the market today.
Some of the really cool features include:
- detailed and searchable timeline of what updates users have been making - its a great tool for those who need to run audits on their data
- instant updating - you don’t have to remember to hit the save button
- everything you want to do is 1 or 2 clicks away
- you can undo/redo any change at any time
- developer friendly - your changes won’t cost an arm and a leg
- it runs fast and light in your browser
- you can have multiple items open at the same time
- you don’t have to worry about 'mucking' up the live site since you are always working from a fully functional draft copy of the website
- The support staff is only a quick email away - and they are very kind and responsive
If you are someone who thinks they may be interested in test driving this out, send them a quick message and they will fire up a quick demo for you.
The Cloud represents a final frontier of sorts as it will allow your CMS platform to organically improve with new features, better performance, stay fresh, and stay secure as the years march on. With the majority of websites heavily invested in open-source solutions, the companies that make the choice to embrace a cloud-based infrastructure will benefit from greater ROI’s and the ability to pivot to different directions more swiftly when the needs and purposes of their website change.