2015-04-01

How to choose your CMS

This article is dedicated to non Python folks searching for a good CMS because I've seen too many times people taking bad decisions.

If you are searching for a CMS solution or are you writing a custom web application with content management features inside, you should consider also one of the existing solutions built with Python before choosing your platform. Even if your core business is based on different technologies or other programming languages like Java or PHP.

I'm not telling that you have to choose Python solutions, I'm just suggesting you to start with a 360 degrees serious software selection before choosing.

Obviously the final choice depends on what you have to do: a lot of times a Wordpress site with a few dollars theme and a couple of third party plugins is good enough.

But if you are plan to build something more complex that involves:
  • top level security solutions 
  • complex security requirements 
  • extensibility without having to fork the existent code
  • heavy, but still maintainable, customizations in core logics
  • you are not going to build a website, but something of more complex like an intranet
  • you are going to build something that can evolve for covering future changes without requiring a complete rewrite
you should evaluate carefully your future platform before deciding.

If you have the above strong requirements, you can have a look at the following projects:
  • Plone (nosql, enterprise level, a lot of plugins)
  • Kotti (traditional database storage, more lightweight, easy to approach)
They are both Python based, quite different solutions but they have common roots and a long CMS tradition. They are open source, secure, with a friendly an skilled community and a clean editing experience compared with other "CMS" solutions (you can't call CMS something that looks like a messy version of an admin interface! Just good for technicians or for small projects, not for content editors).

I'm just suggesting: if you are evaluating CMS frameworks, don't choose a solution because it is built with your preferred programming language or framework but consider also other existing solutions. Don't choose a project because you were able to change the logo and few colours quickly. You should evaluate the main available solutions and after that choose the best fit for you... and be prepared to change technology if needed.

Change attitude also means continuously searching for something of better, find new opportunities, learning something of new, learn new development pratices, get involved in other open source communities: it is definitively a good thing. You are not disrupting your existing knowledge, you are improving your experience and enlarging your knowledge. So don't be scared, choose the best for you and be open minded!

Another hint: don't be tempted to write from scratch a new CMS unless you are know well what you are doing and/or you have a good budget with dozens of experienced developers. Still having the idea of writing your new CMS from scratch?! Have a look at how many contributors and how many years are needed before an open source CMS it is considered stable with a good feature set and then decide. Don't reinvent the wheel!

Or if you don't want to learn another framework or programming language but you found the best fit for you: hire a consultant but always choose the best.


PS: if you like adventure and you chose a RDBMS based solution like Kotti you have another option: you can follow a hybrid approach.

This way you can use Kotti as a private content management area and implement your public website with the technology or frontend tools you like exposing data marked as published on the database. There are a lot of benefits due to backend decoupled from the frontend.

Maybe I'll talk about a similar successful case history built with this technique in an another blog post. Stay tuned with @davidemoro.

Update 20150720 - hybrid approach

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