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I Want To Build A Website. Do I Need a Content Management System (CMS)?

Since everyone has blogs and profile pages these days, you may want to create a website of your very own. Do you need a content management system (CMS) to make life easier, or is the old system of updating a file manually and uploading it to your server good enough for today's web developer?


What Can a CMS Do For You?

Web developers initially developed a website by creating web pages on their local computers, using an FTP program to move those files over to their web server, and then those pages became available via their website. If any changes were needed, they would begin the process anew by going through the process again. Some simplified the process by using Server Side Includes (SSI), which cut the number of pages that needed to be updated down, since an include which contained the site's menu could be updated and used throughout the site without any additional changes being required.

The problems began when a website went beyond the traditional "brochure-ware" design and delved into dynamic content, fresh material and live communities. Websites need to be able to be updated daily, with different people adding content as it becomes available, along with some content that is updated automatically through the use of RSS feeds. Content Management Systems came to be a useful part of a web developer's toolbox. The problem then came to be, which CMS is best for me? How much is it going to cost me in terms of money and a learning curve? What features does each CMS offer that my business requires? In this tutorial we'll discuss a few free (and almost free) CMSes, tell you what they offer, and help you get started with your own website.

Open Source CMS to the Rescue

Although there are many open source CMSes available, we're going to focus on those that are based upon PHP. The following CMSes are thus PHP-based, and use a MySQL database. The advantages of using such a CMS include portability, support and a large developer base with frequent updates and improvements. We will discuss the following four CMSes:

  • Drupal - a free open source content management system written in PHP and distributed under the GNU General Public License
  • Joomla - an open source content management system platform for publishing content as a Model–view–controller (MVC) web application framework
  • PHPNuke - a web-based automated news publishing and content management system based on PHP and MySQL
  • Wordpress - an open source CMS, often used as a blog publishing application, and is the most popular blog software in use today


We've discussed the reasons why a CMS can make your life easier, and we've given you some examples of open source CMSes that you can download and try out on your site for free (or almost free). Here are a few additional articles to whet your CMS appetite!

By Scott Clark


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