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What are Blogs Good For? – Blog as CMS

In my last post I said blogs were an excellent content management system. A couple of people asked me to elaborate. What is a CMS and why are they a good thing?

What is a CMS?

A CMS (Content Management System) is simply a computer software package that makes it easy to create web pages. In the old days to create a web site you would need knowledge of HTML (HyperText Markup Language), FTP (File Transfer Protocol), and some other geeky stuff.

Content Management Systems, sometimes also called Publishing Systems, came along to allow non-geeks to do the job. Initially they were bespoke-built for purpose, tailor-made to fit the exact need. Expensive generic CMS packages such as systems from Vignette were released and adopted by big websites, often they were ludicrously complicated and enefficient but still better than doing it the hard way. These were snidely labelled “consultantware” as rather than a team of webmonkeys you needed a team of consultants to get the best out of them.

Over time those products improved, cheaper alternatives were introduced, and some of the nastier aspects simplified. Many smaller companies though still avoided them because their needs were modest. Only larger organisations needed the multiple layers of procedure, checkpoints, version control, “work flow”, etc. Smaller outfits were quite happy to use Frontpage (shudder), Dreamweaver (smaller shudder) or cheap and cheerful ASP/PHP homebrew/open source setups.

Today there is a big overlap between low-end CMS and modern Blog packages. It is hardly worth making the distinction in most non-geek discussions of the topic.

Why should I use a CMS?

If you are not using a CMS then you might be missing out on the following benefits

  • Easy – using a CMS is easier than edit and upload, you don’t need mad geek skillz just the same level of technical proficiency required to use Hotmail etc
  • Fast – just type … that’s it
  • Consistant – by using page templates all that you alter is the content, it keeps things nice and easy for you and your reader and cuts down on bugs
  • Reactive – need to change the copyright notice in your footer? One change reflected instantly over thousands of pages.

Blog as CMS

Particularly in the case of Drupal and WordPress, software seen as just for blogs make excellent CMS systems. Drupal even has some workflow and version control features and WordPress has plugins to make it easier to make backups. With both you can change the front page to a more traditional website feel rather than the sea of news blog style.

The biggest benefits of using a Blog package as your CMS are price (free!) and ease of use. If you can blog you can create a traditional site and vice versa. Add to that the hundreds of free templates available that can be tweaked endlessly. There are tons of people willing to help you do it too. No brainer.

Summary

With Blog packages, the days of HTML geekery and FTP’ing changes are over. If you are not using WordPress or Drupal as your website CMS I would take a good long look now.

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Comments

  1. Nice summary.

    I agree that blogs offer a good alternative to “traditional” CMS, especially for small businesses. As with everything in this industry though, the “old” will always have its place. Each platform offers advantages and disadvantages. I’m with you though; if something like WP can be used to accomplish the same results as the big brothers then I’m all for it.

  2. Nice summary.

    I agree that blogs offer a good alternative to “traditional” CMS, especially for small businesses. As with everything in this industry though, the “old” will always have its place. Each platform offers advantages and disadvantages. I’m with you though; if something like WP can be used to accomplish the same results as the big brothers then I’m all for it.

  3. Good point about WordPress. I’ve got a much neglected resources section that gets a reasonable amount of traffic that I’ve been eying up WordPress’s CMS facilities to help out with.

    Not sure about relying on a single CMS for the whole site though. We got burnt early on with Plone and have been reticent to go there again. IMHO it is best to use a CMS for a particular section of a site instead of relying on one CMS for the entire site. It is a pain to duplicate the templates and such, but not as painful as the alternatives.

    I need to see what Drupal is like in the flesh. I’ve only seen screenshots so far. How much flexibility do I get with the latest CMS?

  4. Good point about WordPress. I’ve got a much neglected resources section that gets a reasonable amount of traffic that I’ve been eying up WordPress’s CMS facilities to help out with.

    Not sure about relying on a single CMS for the whole site though. We got burnt early on with Plone and have been reticent to go there again. IMHO it is best to use a CMS for a particular section of a site instead of relying on one CMS for the entire site. It is a pain to duplicate the templates and such, but not as painful as the alternatives.

    I need to see what Drupal is like in the flesh. I’ve only seen screenshots so far. How much flexibility do I get with the latest CMS?

  5. @Gino – agreed, in fact some of the bespoke CMS systems I built 7 or 8 years ago are still going strong. If you are starting out today though then a blog-based CMS is well worth at least looking at

    @Jack – I am a fan of Drupal and the current features are very cool but not quite to the point where I would recommend it to absolutely everybody, it is a platform that is growing though. WordPress is far simpler and the one I have used most often for simple smaller sites. Not used Plone but I have heard people like it.

  6. @Gino – agreed, in fact some of the bespoke CMS systems I built 7 or 8 years ago are still going strong. If you are starting out today though then a blog-based CMS is well worth at least looking at

    @Jack – I am a fan of Drupal and the current features are very cool but not quite to the point where I would recommend it to absolutely everybody, it is a platform that is growing though. WordPress is far simpler and the one I have used most often for simple smaller sites. Not used Plone but I have heard people like it.

  7. @Chris – it was a very early Plone we used from 4 years ago. So, I expect things are a lot better now. The lack of documentation and the constant change were the main problems. I know there are plenty of books now.

  8. @Chris – it was a very early Plone we used from 4 years ago. So, I expect things are a lot better now. The lack of documentation and the constant change were the main problems. I know there are plenty of books now.

  9. I don’t think I will ever build another website (blog or not) without WordPress. The benefits are just too numerous: rapid development and deployment, built in search, automagic backup, streamlined maintenance updates across the entire site, built in login control and perhaps best of all and wide and knowledable support/help desk…

    mark

  10. I don’t think I will ever build another website (blog or not) without WordPress. The benefits are just too numerous: rapid development and deployment, built in search, automagic backup, streamlined maintenance updates across the entire site, built in login control and perhaps best of all and wide and knowledable support/help desk…

    mark

  11. Yup, it just rocks πŸ™‚

  12. Yup, it just rocks πŸ™‚

  13. I’d love to see this expanded on. Seems to me you’d be doing a lot of template customization in WordPress to get your site to not look like a blog. Out of the gate, it is going to want to order your post chronologically.

    I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just not seeing the “easy” part of it. Then again, I’ve never full explored the “pages” aspect of WP.

  14. I’d love to see this expanded on. Seems to me you’d be doing a lot of template customization in WordPress to get your site to not look like a blog. Out of the gate, it is going to want to order your post chronologically.

    I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just not seeing the “easy” part of it. Then again, I’ve never full explored the “pages” aspect of WP.

  15. Hmm, yeah I think I will need to write a follow-up πŸ™‚

  16. Hmm, yeah I think I will need to write a follow-up πŸ™‚

  17. I’ve setup a few sites and the alternative to a cms system is pretty ugly. I only sort of know what I’m doing so I end up with different scripts sewn together to create a working site. The problem is the control is no where near what you get in cms admin panels. I’ve since converted one site to wordpress and I am considering converting another.

    The great thing about wordpress and others is that someone else has probably done what you wanted so there is a pre-made plugin. Also the template section is awesome since it can get you really close to what you want to use.

    As far as a front page there are plugins to help with that and wordpress lets you set a static page so its easier than it seems.

  18. I’ve setup a few sites and the alternative to a cms system is pretty ugly. I only sort of know what I’m doing so I end up with different scripts sewn together to create a working site. The problem is the control is no where near what you get in cms admin panels. I’ve since converted one site to wordpress and I am considering converting another.

    The great thing about wordpress and others is that someone else has probably done what you wanted so there is a pre-made plugin. Also the template section is awesome since it can get you really close to what you want to use.

    As far as a front page there are plugins to help with that and wordpress lets you set a static page so its easier than it seems.

  19. @Chris – I’d certainly be interested in hearing how to use WordPress as a more general CMS.

  20. @Chris – I’d certainly be interested in hearing how to use WordPress as a more general CMS.

  21. hmmm, perhaps I too should write about using WordPress as a CMS since I have moded WordPress so much over at Search-This? Might be a fun write up…

    mark

  22. hmmm, perhaps I too should write about using WordPress as a CMS since I have moded WordPress so much over at Search-This? Might be a fun write up…

    mark

  23. Yeah write it up and I will link to it πŸ™‚

  24. Yeah write it up and I will link to it πŸ™‚

  25. Hello Chris,

    Thanks for a great post as usual πŸ˜‰

    And extemely timely because I was just looking into this today.

    I have been searching but can’t find any good examples of blogs that use wp for CMS.

    Do you have any examples of great sites that use wordpress, but where the daily blog posting isn’t the main point of the site?

  26. Hello Chris,

    Thanks for a great post as usual πŸ˜‰

    And extemely timely because I was just looking into this today.

    I have been searching but can’t find any good examples of blogs that use wp for CMS.

    Do you have any examples of great sites that use wordpress, but where the daily blog posting isn’t the main point of the site?

  27. As a web firm that offers both a CMS solution and blogs using WordPress, I think there are some very distinct differences. CMS (if the right one) allows for much more customization by our “geeks” that make the content management and site management even easier for a non-techy user. I do love WordPress, but past text, links and photo/graphic management you’re going to need some skills to do more, or hire the skills. CMS also allows for better structural management currently. But if we’re only talking about a 4 to 8 page site, I see where you’re coming from. I’ll be looking forward to Chris’s and Mark’s posts as it will be good to know more on WordPress’s full capabilities or limitations. Thanks!

  28. As a web firm that offers both a CMS solution and blogs using WordPress, I think there are some very distinct differences. CMS (if the right one) allows for much more customization by our “geeks” that make the content management and site management even easier for a non-techy user. I do love WordPress, but past text, links and photo/graphic management you’re going to need some skills to do more, or hire the skills. CMS also allows for better structural management currently. But if we’re only talking about a 4 to 8 page site, I see where you’re coming from. I’ll be looking forward to Chris’s and Mark’s posts as it will be good to know more on WordPress’s full capabilities or limitations. Thanks!

  29. @Peter Gillberg: “I have been searching but can’t find any good examples of blogs that use wp for CMS.”

    If you type “define:content management system” in Google it has:


    system for the creation, modification, archiving and removal of information resources from an organised repository. Includes tools for publishing, format management, revision control, indexing, search and retrieval.

    That’s about as good as definition as any other for CMS and that’s exactly what WordPress does. So while WordPress is well known for being a blogging platform, the reality is that it IS a content management system.

  30. @Peter Gillberg: “I have been searching but can’t find any good examples of blogs that use wp for CMS.”

    If you type “define:content management system” in Google it has:


    system for the creation, modification, archiving and removal of information resources from an organised repository. Includes tools for publishing, format management, revision control, indexing, search and retrieval.

    That’s about as good as definition as any other for CMS and that’s exactly what WordPress does. So while WordPress is well known for being a blogging platform, the reality is that it IS a content management system.

  31. Great post Chris.

    I’m with WordPress and I ain’t ever going back. πŸ™‚

    I used to be a heavy FrontPage user (don’t laugh!) way back but haven’t touched it in years.

    WP and CMS is a topic I’d love to see discussed, dissected and solutions made to expand on WP with a CMS view.

    I’ve been playing around with a WP install that looks like a newspaper layout with 4 clear section on the front page all sub-divided and presented by categories. There’s a lot of tweaking involved but it can be done.

  32. Great post Chris.

    I’m with WordPress and I ain’t ever going back. πŸ™‚

    I used to be a heavy FrontPage user (don’t laugh!) way back but haven’t touched it in years.

    WP and CMS is a topic I’d love to see discussed, dissected and solutions made to expand on WP with a CMS view.

    I’ve been playing around with a WP install that looks like a newspaper layout with 4 clear section on the front page all sub-divided and presented by categories. There’s a lot of tweaking involved but it can be done.

  33. I agree after doing the whole “HTML” website thing. I’m trying to figure out the best way to use WP as an e-commerce site. There’s a plug-in or two out there for a shopping cart, but I haven’t gotten it to work correctly.

  34. I agree after doing the whole “HTML” website thing. I’m trying to figure out the best way to use WP as an e-commerce site. There’s a plug-in or two out there for a shopping cart, but I haven’t gotten it to work correctly.

  35. Derek and Aaron,

    A tutorial series on using WordPress to create non-blog websites is at:
    http://www.churchcommunicationspro.com/using-wordpress-to-run-church-websites-tutorial-series/

    The posts discuss church websites, but most of the tips apply to any type of site.

  36. Derek and Aaron,

    A tutorial series on using WordPress to create non-blog websites is at:
    http://www.churchcommunicationspro.com/using-wordpress-to-run-church-websites-tutorial-series/

    The posts discuss church websites, but most of the tips apply to any type of site.

  37. For those of you wanting to make your wordpress site into a cms there is one resource you cannot live without. http://wp-plugins.net/ is an extremely thorough database of plug-ins. The amount of plugins on wordpress.org pales in comparison to this site. I try to search through there whenever I am bored because I always find something useful. Just something to think about.

  38. For those of you wanting to make your wordpress site into a cms there is one resource you cannot live without. http://wp-plugins.net/ is an extremely thorough database of plug-ins. The amount of plugins on wordpress.org pales in comparison to this site. I try to search through there whenever I am bored because I always find something useful. Just something to think about.