CMS Evaluation

Table Of Contents

Introduction
Choosing test candidates
Requirements
Test results
Conclusion
Update to the original article

Introduction

In September 2004, I started using phpWebSite on my site herzbube.ch. This document tells you a bit about the evaluation I did in order to find out which software I should use.

Choosing test candidates

To find a number of possible test candidates, I searched for projects on SourceForge.net and freshmeat.net. In addition, I did a bit of googling, and came up with the following helpful resources:

Requirements

Before I would consider a software for testing, it would have to meet the following criteria:

  • have an open source license
  • run on a LAMP system
  • have basic user authentication

In addition, these criteria were also a must:

  • have a blog/news oriented sub-system
  • have a sub-system to create regular web pages or articles
  • can have links in a global sidebar (or similar) to other parts of the site, outside of the CMS domain (e.g. to a photo gallery)
  • site management is completely browser-based
  • site management can be done from the intranet as well as the Internet (i.e. the site can be reached under more than just 1 URL)
  • content is displayed correctly in Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer (Mac, Linux, Windows)

Test results

I didn't define a clear test procedure. My goal was just to install each software as quickly as possible so that I could fool around with it and see if it would meet my requirements. Of course, a nasty installation process or bad usability would give the software a negative score from the start.

The following list tells you what I found out:

phpWebSite
  • Easy and well documented installation process
  • After initial installation, a number of modules can be activated that seem to fit all my needs
  • Site management is easy with good context help all over the place
  • Looks good in Firefox, Safari and IE (all on the Mac)
  • Management is possible from intranet and Internet
Nucleus
  • Easy and well documented installation process
  • After having seen phpWebSite, site administration with Nucleus seems a bit uninspired
  • Despite a number of plugins, the software is mainly a weblog, which does not satisfy all my needs
BLOG:CMS
  • Is a clone/fork of Nucleus, but comes with 40 or so plugins pre-installed
  • Unfortunately, contrary to what I had hoped, all those plugins don't change the fact that BLOG:CMS is still mainly a weblog (not a surprise considering its ancestry)
  • In the end, the verdict is the same as with Nucleus: unsuitable
Serendipity
  • Easy and well documented installation process
  • Looks very good and site management is convenient...
  • ...but it's only a weblog :-(
XOOPS
  • Easy and well documented installation process
  • Has grave problems if it is supposed to run on an absolute path (/xoops/) instead of full URL (http://www.herzbube.ch/xoops/). Site management from intranet is therefore not possible
OpenCMS
  • I didn't even have a closer look - from only looking at the OpenCMS homepage, I got the impression that the software is just too big for me
WebGUI
  • I tried out the demo installation on http://demo.plainblack.com/, so I can't say anything about the installation process
  • Makes a slightly sluggish impression; it's too big :-)
  • Despite its huge feature set, WebGUI seems to be quite manageable and understandable
  • Pages can be configured via Drag&Drop - and you don't have to use IE for this feature!
  • Menus don't look very nice in Firefox (some problem with my font settings?)
  • WebGUI appears to be very page-oriented, i.e. I didn't see a news-oriented weblog feature. Although this probably could be implemented, I still preferred phpWebSite where everything is already in place
phpwcms
  • The software isn't very finished yet
Wordpress
  • Easy installation process (once you dare to click on the link that threatens with a possible installation failure)
  • Looks very good
  • Contextual help opens in the same window, which is very annoying
  • Is only a weblog
  • There is no link back from the main page to the edit section
  • Overall, seems to be not quite finished yet
Envolution
  • Fork of phpnuke
  • Looks very chaotic
  • Some appearance problems in Firefox
  • My personal overall impression of Envolution was not so good. I can't put my finger on it, but I just didn't like the software very much...
TYPO3
  • Somewhat challenging, but manageable installation
  • Makes a complicated impression. I didn't look further into it because I suddenly got tired of the whole testing stuff. You can probably do everything with TYPO3, but for me it just wasn't worth the effort

Conclusion

Although phpWebSite was the first test candidate that I ran across, I instantly liked it a lot. In the end, I chose phpWebSite, because it had all that I wanted, was very easy to use and had a nice theme.

Update to the original article

Somehow, for the evaluation above I totally overlooked both Plone and Drupal, two very nice-looking CMS that I came to use later on. I eventually gave up on Plone because administration/maintenance was too complicated for my taste (Plone runs within the Zope application server, and dealing with Zope in addition to the actual CMS was/is simply over my head). My experience was with Plone 2, maybe things have improved these days with Plone 3 (or even newer versions), but somehow I doubt it. Anyway, these days I am happily using Drupal, which is moderately easy to administer and, once installed, is a joy to work with.

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