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Content (Management) is King

27 Jun 2003 by LukeW

Most every Web presence design/redesign I get involved with these days has a content management component. Long gone are the days of calling your Web Design firm to update your news page or product descriptions. Here’s a nice variety of CMS I’ve recently applied on projects:

ASP/PHP & On-line forms (PDF) -most often a custom development job works best: more streamlined and frequently just as fast to set up as a “in the box” solution.

WebGUI by Plainblack -if you want to go with an open source solution WebGui is a good bet.

Macromedia Contirbute -features one of the best UIs for CMS, but…

Quicksilver Quickflex -an ASP solution that drops edit buttons in areas where authorized users may edit content.

17 comments so far (Post a Comment)

27 Jun 2003 | Darrel said...

Note that there is a difference between Content Management and Page Management.

Products like Contribute, while useful, don't manage content...they just allow you to update what's on the actual site with some remedial archiving abilities.

Another one I've been looking at lately is Plone.

...namely because they actually have usability and interface folks on the open source team.

27 Jun 2003 | David Mabury said...

We've used CommonSpot by Paperthin on several projects in the last couple of years. It definitely has the best functionality for the buck of anything we've seen. It's got great metadata tools and a lot of other promising features (though roughly implemented now). And Paperthin's customer service is astoundingly good.

My big gripe: It ties content too tightly to pages, which makes it a pain to share content other than metadata. Per Darrel's comment about page management vs. content management, the basic building block in a CMS should be the content chunk, not the page.

27 Jun 2003 | steve, another steve said...

no, No, NO! not Quicksilver!!!

27 Jun 2003 | Paperhead said...

CMS does indeed rule at the mo. Generally I find it quicker and easier to just write a system on a per job basis. For the last one i did, the general idea was to database content and create pages on the fly into a template, so i left an option for the clients to set the metatags for the page as well, just through a simple conditional statement, if they set some — then they appeared, if they didn't — then the default company ones did. CMS systems, whilst very cool and useful, aren't actually that hard — just don't go telling everyone.

27 Jun 2003 | aliotsy said...

Macromedia Contirbute -features one of the best UIs for CMS, but…

...but what?

27 Jun 2003 | Darrel said...

I spent the past several months looking through a lot of CMS solutions and found that a lot of them still see 'content management' as 'web page management'.

Many of them try to directly correlate site structure with page structure, and that can get incredibly frustrating as you try to manage content across more than once site or even just more than one instance.

27 Jun 2003 | LukeW said...

a lot of them still see 'content management' as 'web page management'.

But for most "brochure-ware" sites, that's all you need: add a news item, update some text on a given page. Once you get into more complex information resources and especially Web applications, IMHO custom solutions are the way to go. As I mentioned putting together a custom tool is often a lot faster than adapting one of these "in a box" products to your specific needs.

no, No, NO! not Quicksilver!!!

Do tell... That choice was entirely client driven.

28 Jun 2003 | p8 said...

What do you guys think of rich text editing widgets like html area?

I can see some benefits for using links, making something bold and creating lists, etc. Some users love being able to drag a word document in the widget.

I also see some problems because:
a. users can use 10 different fonts and colors making the page a mess
b. users can screw accessibility, standard compliance, etc. by using font tags, tables where they shouldn't
c. users should be worrying about the content in the first place
d. (and this overlaps with Darrel point about "Content Management and Page Management") Do you want to save the whole text with all tags in the database or do you want to have different database fields for titles, subtitles, paragraphs, images, dates etc.

28 Jun 2003 | LukeW said...

Do you want to save the whole text with all tags in the database

Ideally you want content seperate from formatting. That way you can reuse the same content across multiple delivery platforms: different formatting for PDAs, Cell phones, browsers, etc.

users can screw up...

Contribute is designed so you can "lock" certain portions of the pages, and limit what users can do with those portions.
Also, I am assuming by users you mean authorized admins, i.e. the people that are allowed/supposed to update the site's content.

30 Jun 2003 | Darrel said...

But for most "brochure-ware" sites, that's all you need

Absolutely. Just be sure to differentiate between a proper CMS and a page editor. Different tools for different needs.

And I do agree, a custom solution is quite often easier to implement.

As to P8s comment, one benefit of a CMS, IMHO, is forms-based content entry. By making the content editing field based, you can ensure proper meta and contextual information gets entered (title, sub title, author, date, subject, etc, etc.)

30 Jun 2003 | Al said...

ASP/PHP & On-line forms (PDF) -most often a custom development job works best

For those that roll their own, I'd be curious to hear your experiences in tweaking something open source to suit your needs, like PostNuke or Moveable Type. It seems like blogging software like MT is really catching on as a basis for more than just blogs and I'm trying to persuade my work to check it out, since the budget rules out most commercial solutions.

One example - Lane from Adaptive Path recently told me that their site management tool is a heavily hacked version of MT and it seems to be running great for them.

30 Jun 2003 | p8 said...

I have looked at Postnuke but never liked their templates which look like spaghetti by combining conditional statements, database queries and html in one file. I mostly use template systems like phpLib, although some think template engines are a bad idea.

You could also check out: or
But most of these solutions seem like overkill for most of my apps with way to many options.

I've been looking at some "java struts" like php-frameworks based on the Model-View-Controller design pattern like ambivalence
and phrame.

03 Jul 2003 | ryan said...

HTMLarea and MM Contribute seem to be simply leveraging the ContentEditable=True function that Microsoft has built into its browser since 5.5.

I built a php/mysql utility for my site (and others) that allows for archiving, updating, deleting, etc. I think that most "plug-and-play" CMS tools are either too vague or too overloaded with functions.

08 Jul 2003 | iva said...

HTMLarea and such mix content and presentation, even logic -- a dangerous direction IMO. The way to keep function, design, usability, accessibility consistent and coherent is to keep them separated. While a non-technical contributor to a website should be able to add/edit content/pages/sections, they should be able to do so in a way that does not affect these principles. Most WYSIWYG page editing or CMS tools completely overlook this issue.

"one benefit of a CMS, IMHO, is forms-based content entry. By making the content editing field based, you can ensure proper meta and contextual information gets entered (title, sub title, author, date, subject, etc, etc.)"

In agreement with Darrel, often WYSIWYG tools promote non-semantically meaningful markup. What does font/style "red and bold" mean? Is it there to make things pretty or callout something important or is it a section title? But I don't think that form-based content entry is a good solution. Often authors find it critical to be able to easily view thier work in the context of a presentation layer.

liveSTORYBOARD CMS addressess all these issues and more (disclaimer: I work for the company) by providing a simple WYSYWIG editor that allows contributors of any skillset to create meaningful semantic markup automatically styled with CSS defined by the designer.

31 Jan 2005 | compatelius said...

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