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Choosing a Content Management System

So much choice and so little to choose from?

There’s lots of options out there but what’s the compelling difference that enables you to identify the right content management(CMS) solution? If you’re not a technical expert, how can you establish the best value option for your particular content management needs?
We know from experience that most clients use less than 10% of the functionality that they’ve typically invested tens of thousands in – why is this? Is it because wicked salesmen prey on their ignorance or that they can’t be bothered to learn the system? Or just a rule of nature that only 10% of software functionality ever gets used – after all, it’s not exclusive to CMS systems.
We recently advised a client on their options – if you’re in the same boat, you might find this helpful.
They’re problems were:
1)    Limited communication between their database and website. Currently the information gathered by their site can’t be used easily to provide dynamic content.
2)    Their current CMS system is complex to use with the added issue of having to rewrite URLs - this makes their current cms unworkable and impractical.
3)    They have limited manpower and limited budgets.
A Java based CMS solution would seem the most obvious route and at first glance, a perfect solution. However, we believe going with a Java system isn’t the best option for them. We’ve worked on, developed, reviewed and compared several CMSs from the Java as well as the PHP stable. Based on our own experience and learning, we think a PHP based solution would suit them better. Here’s why.
1. Evolution:
The PHP Content Management Systems seem more evolved. Mambo, PostNuke, Drupal…all have huge communities and have been around for some time. Joomla in particular has a large UK based community. They’re also running on thousands of sites and so are well tested.
Here are just a few example of well known companies who use Joomla:

  • Avis (The car rental company in Nicaragua)
  • Danone (A lot more than just yogurts)
  • Derbi (Motorcycle maker - part of Piaggio)
  • English National Ballet (England’s flagship ballet company)
  • IBS Software (Software for airlines)
  • IT Wire (Most popular IT site in Australia)
  • Jetstar (Airline owned by Qantas)
  • Latvia (The country’s official site)
  • Mistubishi Venezuela  (The car manufacturer)
  • Porsche (Brazilian site)
  • Quizilla (Joomla site owned by MTV)
  • Scandinavian Airlines (Official crew guide)
  • Schneider Electric (World leader in power and control solutions)
  • Sprint (Customer feedback site for cell-phone company)
  • Toshiba (Greek site for the electronics giant)
  • UNRIC (Branch of the United Nations)
  • Vodafone (Cell-phone company’s Icelandic site).

Ease of Use

PHP CMSs are remarkably easy to use. In 15 minutes time, even a PHP illiterate person can get a site going. I doubt if that can be done with a Java CMS.

Hosting

Java hosting is not only costly but it is also a specialised segment. Not many hosting providers understand how Java J2EE web applications are deployed. Apache + PHP is so common that even the small hosting companies are good at it and can fix issues in no time.

Sleek

Some Java CMSs are 10 times bigger and more complex than the popular PHP ones. If you know HTML, you can more or less figure out how a PHP CMS is working. That also makes tweaking the CMS a fairly simple task.

Community

The community around Java is one of its strong points but PHP CMSs also have huge community bases and so getting help from fellow users is simple.
Even if we presume that PHP cannot match Java in terms of scaleability, object orientation …
The real questions here are that of
1)    Company image - how long can the client expect to stand in a market which is becoming more and more web based everyday, without an effective online presence?
2)    What manpower is available to build and maintain their site? Answer - not a lot.
A proven PHP based solution such as Joomla will give a quick and effective fix to the situation so they can hit the ground running. Whilst being intuitive and easy to maintain, it may not tick all their IT boxes for future development,  but it does fit their current resources and budget whilst supplying the company with an effective online presence.
As of today, the PHP CMSs have convincingly beaten the Java based ones in terms of reliability and effectiveness. Let’s face it you don’t need a tank to get from A to B - a Mini will do the job.
The one issue that remains for both PHP and Java based CMS’s is how do they communicate with the database? Currently this is done by using Domino forms, although a few systems have been built to allow other interaction with the database.
The PHP solution would use the current Domino forms as a work around until the development of an XML based solution, which would allow for communication between their current databases and the PHP CMS database/website. XML is strongly supported by both php and Java so should provide a fully workable solution once implemented.

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