Choosing the right Content Management System for your website or blogs

Rigo Gonzalez        July 2, 2016        CMS, General, Joomla, Wordpress,
cms, content management system, variantcode, website management,

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The primary purpose of this article is to compare a Premium CMS against open-source CMS, well-known and most used CMS floating in the internet. We are not including Drupal as part of the comparison as it is considered that WordPress and Joomla is easier to use than Drupal which in our case Sitefinity is known for its ease of use feature.

 

Introduction

Listed below are a small description of the CMS being compared in this document:

 

WordPress – WordPress is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time. – http://wordpress.org

 

Joomla – Joomla is an award-winning content management system (CMS), which enables you to build Web sites and powerful online applications. Many aspects, including its ease-of-use and extensibility, have made Joomla the most popular Web site software available. Best of all, Joomla is an open source solution that is freely available to everyone. – http://joomla.org

 

Sitefinity – Telerik Sitefinity™ is a content management and customer analytics platform developed by Telerik®, a leading vendor of enterprise software products. Telerik tools and services can be adopted individually or seamlessly integrated with each other or with other popular enterprise solutions. – http://sitefinity.com

 

 

Costing and features

As developers (and / or webmasters, website owners), we already accepted the fact that we’re in an industry that evolves by the minute and that we need to quickly decide on what to learn or what to use as part of our arsenal to provide a product or a solution. By understanding and being able to use a framework or a CMS effectively, we need enough time and effort to harness the capability and full potential of the system we chose to use.

 

Studying costs time, but are we, as developers / webmasters willing to pay for the CMS we wish to use, given that we already decided to give time, effort and our patience to understand it?

 

WordPress and Joomla is by far the best known open-source CMS out there, they are free to an extent. In order for us to extend the two, we need to download and install plugins, modules or components. These enhancements are created by developers using open-source technologies ( mostly PHP, Javascript) for free and some costs from a cent to even a hundred dollars.

 

Remember, free creation is more or less developed by a person or a group of people with enough time on their hands, but it is not every day that we shouldn’t expect an error, bug or a mistyped code in the plugins we install. When we find bugs, we either get support from the developers or fix them ourselves, this process takes time and not 100% acceptable to a corporate world that requires rapid development with less mistakes.

 

Paid plugins are fairly considered safer since the person who created it made sure the plugin they develop presents less errors than free ones since they’re going to sell it and support is much quicker than free ones also.

 

Having to pay for a single plugin is alright as long as we’re satisfied and happily using it but what about needing to pay more for different plugins promising different features and functionality? We might get surprised in the end that our project is nearly or even over-budget cause of the plugins we bought.

 

Our alternate option is to use a framework or a system that already provides if not all, most of the requirements needed for a project, that’s where Sitefinity comes in.

 

Telerik’s Sitefinity CMS provides a lot of features that covers most website / web app features compared to WordPress and Joomla. An example is cloud-based option with MS Azure / host, social media integration, version control, multisite, marketing tools and more!

 

Almost or more than 60% of Sitefinity’s feature is not even available in WordPress and Joomla without the help of plugins to extend their native functionality. For developers, this seems to be a heaven-sent but what’s the cost to use it?

 

Sitefinity is not free. It is offered as a package with different features available. The cheapest one is $2,999 with basic and some fair amount of advance website features included, costing will go up depending on the feature we want to have in this case, one might think is expensive for a standard website project.

 

Now that we know the cost of the three CMS in question, what should we then consider? Support.

 

Knowing WordPress and Joomla is free and open source, we can easily get support, bug fixes and “help” anywhere in the web, since tons of developers prefer open source but those people that acts as support to us have their own way of fixing things, which might confuse the project or the development team.

 

In the case of Sitefinity, Telerik, the creator of the CMS themselves will be your support and since you paid for the CMS, they are obliged to assist you, very convenient!

 

Conclusion: While Sitefinity offers overwhelming features than WordPress and Joomla natively, the price or cost to use it packs a very heavy punch to our pockets unless a corporate entity backs you up.

 

 

User Interface (Usability)

In this scenario, we will not include Joomla for comparison as by just logging in their control panel makes you want to logout with the confusing admin navigation and labels. This makes Joomla loose in ease-of-use.

 

Mostly, users or even developers prefer the extreme user-friendly interface of WordPress since its primary target users are non-techy people, the open-source community who created and maintaining the CMS constantly updates their UI to meet the comprehension level of their audience, for them to easily navigate and manage the content of their site.

 

Sitefinity on the other hand is quite promising, going to their site, checking the overview of the product, there’s an image showing an animated screenshot of their user interface which is a very pleasant to see. It clearly displayed the simplicity and speed of creating a page using their interface. If you checked the page, you’ll be like “Wow! Where in the world can you see a CMS that allows you to create columns dynamically without having to edit a code in your HTML template or CSS!?”.

 

Conclusion: With just that simple GIF animation, we could say User Interface is very intuitive in Sitefinity especially for non-developer users.

 

 

Website Design Templating

We now go to customizing the looks of our website project which is a very important part of creating a site. As for web designers, the number one goal is to make the site look great not just for your boss but initially for your client, we all need that two word in our designs “Wow-Factor” which makes it difficult for designers since every day, new design styles appear out of nowhere like bubbles in the web. This is a problem for designers, but if you’re also the Front-end developer that will implement the design, well good-luck!

 

Templating in WordPress is fairly easy compared to Joomla since WordPress’ architecture is based in blogging as a whole. WordPress theme runs based on the type of page (post types) from a blog post, search page, blog listing, static page, category page, etc. All these can be individual PHP files (containing HTML with PHP wordpress functions). The files themselves can even have the same content or source code if you don’t have specific requirements on different page types. If you want something different for your category pages, then simple make some changes to your category PHP file, that simple!

 

Having multiple PHP files that contains the same codes is not necessary for WordPress, you can just have one file and the CMS will automatically use it as default for all your page types and blogs. Very time conserving indeed.
For Joomla themes, they run in one single PHP index file, this makes your template file more organized without seeing too many PHP template files, but how does it work? You do your templating in that single PHP, no more, no less.

 

You can run conditional statements inside that PHP file to specify the template codes for a specific page type or page. Yes, this is not ideal for a website that has a lot of page types. Your template file will clutter and makes it harder to manage and edit in the future. This is a nono for templating if you’re not organized with your codes, but may prove nice to some as they just need to open one file when updating their theme.

 

Let’s see how Sitefinity handles this. Sitefinity can adapt easily to your template, if it is already coded in HTML and CSS. You can import then apply your theme to your site, then again, you need a software for it!

 

Yes, you need Sitefinity Thunder, a Visual Studio plugin. It is free but you still need a working Visual Studio to use and run it.

 

In this case, let’s say we have the needed software, all we have to do is update some codes, include some predefined constants to specify positions of dynamic data which is populated by Sitefinity. Navigation, page contents and image are examples of dynamic data.

 

When importing your template to Sitefinity, all assets including HTML, CSS and Image files will automatically be imported as part of your new Sitefinity template. After importing, you just need to update or “copy and paste” the predefined scripts (in ASP.Net) in your HTML template files.

 

If you’re familiar with ASP.Net or Sharepoint templating, it’ll be like a walk in the park.

 

Correctly importing your template to Sitefinity, you can then use it right away, put some contents using their intuitive UI.

 

Conclusion: Having the availability of Sitefinity Thunder for Sitefinity and being able to create templates using your favorite text editor for WordPress and Joomla, in all cases, we are required to include predefined scripts in our templates to make them work correctly but being able to still use the intuitive UI for page editing of Sitefinity to your template makes Sitefinity the choice for rapid template implementation.

 

 

Technologies

We have now come to learning the technologies being used by the CMS, the complications in adapting one CMS and another and the capability of running the CMS via Mobile devices.

 

Numerous times we have iterated that we’re in an industry that changes almost in an instant with new technologies, programming languages and devices appearing almost every day. Should we worry about the technologies used by our CMS? Yes! We need to consider if the technology of our CMS is stable, in what way and its power with regards to our needs.

 

Both WordPress and Joomla are created using the PHP programming language and MySQL as database while Sitefinity is .NET framework (ASP). As a web developer, it is a frustration to choose whether PHP or ASP.NET since they are both for web development and they are considered as an adversary of one another but almost have the same syntax and logic.

 

To make it simple, the programming languages shouldn’t be the one to compare but their availability and environment. PHP is open source which is available to the public for free, and by being free, most developers uses it since they don’t need to pay for it, this also means more resources and support; ASP on the other hand is under the .NET framework which is handled by Microsoft, which means it is not free. You need to buy the right software to use as your environment (Visual studio) but in PHP, you just configure your server instance and libraries then setup your environment for free.

 

Coming to our server, when hosting locally, you can run your site in your computer by having the right software and / or environment installed. But remotely, you need your site hosted online.

 

PHP can be run under Linux and Windows server while ASP.NET is under a Windows server only. Windows server costs more than a Linux server since Linux is also free and open source.

 

Conclusion: This is also a part of considering the cost of using the CMS, the cost of the server, the cost of the plugins and the cost of the CMS itself.

 

 

Adaptability

We now know the technology, how about perplexity of adapting a CMS coming from a different one?

 

When it comes to using a new framework or a system, the question of “how” is always present, like how can I do this? Or how can I edit that? Adaptability shouldn’t be an issue if you’re familiar in using or extending a CMS. They all have similarities, advantages and disadvantages. All of the three CMS provides the ability to edit your site without having to code or being technical. That is the whole point of a CMS, allowing users to have a site without developing. It’s just a matter of being comfortable, being able to navigate through your CMS’ control panel and understanding the concept behind a CMS in order to extend and alter their default behaviour.

 

Conclusion: It takes a lot of “getting used to” for adapting or using a new framework or a system. It is also the same for a CMS, a user or a developer only needs to be able to familiarize themselves to new technologies they want to master. With that said, all the three CMS have large support topics and community along the documentation that will aid in understanding the whole thing.

 

 

Mobility

Many times have we iterated that we’re in an industry that changes every day, people access the web using their smartphones and tablets, how well is our CMS adapting?

 

Firstly, WordPress and Joomla are template-based CMS, which means, they depend heavily on the theme of their site. If you use a theme or template that is structured in an HTML table, then your site will be rendered in a tabular manner even in mobile devices. Your website’s template should be responsive to make your site display correctly in mobile devices, or if you’re old-school, you develop a separate mobile website (some sites have “m.” as prefix of the URL for this). If you’re following the latest trends, your template should be “responsive” to make sure your site display nice in any type of smart devices.

 

Latest WordPress version includes a responsive template and is coded using CSS by the wordpress developers in their own style and the latest version of Joomla uses Twitter bootstrap as base CSS framework making their default template responsive.

 

Sitefinity itself has its own system for making your site responsive. This is part of their intuitive UI, remember allowing users to create dynamic columns for their page content? Yes, they’re all responsive which makes template a bit easier.

 

Conclusion: Website display in Smart devices depends on the size of the device, if your site has a content bigger the size of your device, then you have a problem that is why a lot of front-end / CSS framework is being used by many front-end developers. The frameworks help automating display for smart devices. In this Sitefinity features are advanced than the two since it has a system that controls it not just ordinary CSS.

 

 

Extensibility

As stated above, WordPress, Joomla and Sitefinity has their own advantages and disadvantages. They all have their limitations; we need to know if we can, ourselves, enhance the whole CMS.

 

Let’s take an external app and webservices as an example. Will we be able to retrieve a page’s content from our CMS and its database and use it in our external app? I think we should be since this is our website!

 

Joomla and WordPress is created using PHP and MySQL, but their whole architecture is focused in being a CMS, yes, they are effective since they provide a way to create a site without coding, but is that it?

 

In order for us to retrieve data from Joomla or WordPress and use it in an external app, we need to create a way to generate and pass the data from scratch, this just means we need to develop or use a plugin to make this happen, either write your own webservice API, incorporate it to Joomla or WordPress then call the API in your external app. This is a tedious work especially if you’re just retrieving a specific single page’s title!

 

For Sitefinity, this is possible, it has its own API, and they have documentations on how to use it also. Well, this just makes a developer’s life easy, we just need to integrate it to our external app.

 

Conclusion: In this part, it just proves that Sitefinity is not just a simple CMS, it may already be considered a system given the option to extend their functionality.

 

 

All information presented in this article is based on the writer’s in-sights and experience in using, extending and developing a CMS.

 

Originally written last June 2015

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About the author



Rigo Gonzalez
Development lead of VariantCode and a Web Developer with more than 6 years of experience in creating websites using various open-source technologies both for Front-End and Back-End.
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