Open Source Content Management Systems

Open Source Content Management Systems (CMS) have become the new standard of websites on the Internet and are clearly the way of the future for website owners.  When the Internet first came into being, computer people and then graphic design people stated developing websites.

If they were like BeareWare, most likely their first development was for a friend or a club, and the initial tools used to develop the website were wide and varied. Besides coding in HTML directly (which was the preference of many programmers), a group of tools were developed by companies that helped in the development process. Some of the most common tools were Microsoft products such as Publisher or Frontpage. More sophisticated products were found with Dreamweaver and Flash (which really became specilized for great graphic effects), as well as other development tools.

With these first generation website development tools, the webmaster would install the development tool on their PC and then would use the tool to help develop the website. This would usually be done “off-line” – and then when the website was finished, it would be FTP’d (published) to the Internet.  Of course, this was fine for the webmaster, who would make the changes and then re-publish the updated site. For the “non-webmaster” – which in essence became a website owner (client) – it meant that all website content was bound to go through a webmaster to get online. This really was the first generation of websites: a website owner (client) would use a product like Microsoft Word to type out his/her new content or changes, then would e-mail the information off to the webmaster (and pray that it would actually get online quickly). A few more adventurous web owners learned to use publishing and editing tools in order to manage their site directly, but most would have found that the task required a lot more than just having the new content ready to go.

Apparently a lot of website owners are still sending content to their Webmasters for updates. So what came along to give Website Owners an opportunity to manage content independent of a webmaster ?

What actually came along was the second generation of website development tools in the form of Opensource Systems, Website Builders and Custom Application Websites. These are actually systems that allow website owners to update their content directly through a web browser, with no extra software tools needed. Let’s have a quick look at each system:

Custom Application Websites are usually created for very large website projects that have unique business requirements within their business model. This is the most expensive way to develop a website – starting from scratch and developing each piece of the application. Of course, any change to the site may require additional custom work – and support and upgrades are a key consideration. Many smaller companies in the early 2000’s period chose to develop websites this way, but sadly many did not have a specific unique business model and did not truly need a custom application. These companies ended up spending thousands of dollars on a site that become obsolete within several years. Ultimately, the company invested heavily in a program that had no long term future. Custom Applications are now geared towards major business applications and have ongoing development aims.

Website Builders are websites that actually allow a website owner to build his/her own website through the online builder. Once the site is built, the website owner can then update their own content and ultimately elminate the need for a webmaster. Today there are many web builders out there – but the biggest issue with the web builder is their limitation to customizations that a client may need. The builder uses pre-existing theme templates and therefore does not directly design the site based on the client’s business & marketing models. Website builders are less expensive than custom websites, and if you have a very limited budget, are fairly proficient with computers, and are simply looking for a starter website, this is a reasonable option to consider.

Open Source – which was a form of system development that had been around since the 1970’s really caught wind in the Internet world with Content Management Systems (CMS) in the late 1990’s. In early 2000, several world class CMS systems started to emerge. These systems are database driven and come as a base application which is installed on a web server. The source code of these systems is “open”, meaning that programmers (like BeareWare) are allowed to customize the system for each client’s requirements. At the same time, these systems allow for direct content management through a web browser, giving website owners (clients) the full ability to manage and update their content.

You’ve no doubt come across hundreds of sites driven by CMS without even realizing it. Take blogs, for instance, or those news sites that allow you to add your comments to a story. These are very powerful systems that are developed by some of the leading programmers around the world, with the development of new versions being an on going process. Open Source CMS systems also have a very large user base who all contribute to feature requests and future enhancements. The beauty of Open Source CMS is that the application you are using is state-of-the-art (and would cost thousands of dollars if written from scratch) – but actually comes royalty free, with the client cost being spent in customization and implementation of the website itself.

So, Open Source Content Management Systems are the future?

Absolutely!  BeareWare has been using OpenSource CMS Systems with our clients for over two years. The system we use is called Joomla! (with an exclamation point enthusiastically included in the name). It has an estimated 5 million users around the world, and we believe it is the best content management system in existence, not only delivering our clients the latest technology today, but also ensuring them the lastest technology of the future. The system comes with a custom administration area that is simply superb and very user friendly. CMS puts the web owners in the driver seat while reducing their webmaster management fees long term.

I cannot emphasize how important it is to look forward 3-5 years and think about where your website will be. If you have to start from scratch every few years – you will be perpetually questioning your website investment. But if you have an Open Source CMS website, the latest technology will always be right at your fingertips. And while you may decide to change the look of your website in the future, you can rest assured that your Open Source CMS site can undergo a graphical makeover in a very short period of time, and for just a fraction of the cost of a completely new website.  

If you have used Mircosoft Word or Publisher, you will find similiar content tools for updating both text and images with your CMS systems. These systems also have add-on modules such as Online Shops, e-NEWS, Photo Galleries and Events Calendars (just to name a few). They all intergrate beautifully into the Joomla! CMS system. We at BeareWare anticipate that all of our clients will be using the CMS system by the middle of 2008, and we will be dedicating resouces in the area of client training and documentation as our clients become content managers and take charge of their website. It is definitely an exciting time to be a website owner with the new Open Source CMS Systems…

Peter Beare

Peter founded Bear Web Design in Nashville, Tennessee in May of 2000 and has been actively involved in web design & development, web content management & education, web hosting & management as well as internet marketing. His experience gained by working with clients from the sales cycle to launching a new website to overseeing a client’ s second generation redevelopment has given him a unique understanding and perspective of the internet. This allows him to serve our client base with expert leadership & service with a completely hands on approach.


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