May 18, 2011

The CMS Uber Guide: Hosted

Lots of hosted CMS options, let’s break it down

A Hosted CMS is totally owned and operated by the provider of that CMS. This is benefitial in numerious ways depending on your point of view. You don’t have to worry about setups, maintenance and updates to the system: everything is done for you. A hosted CMS also scales upwards very well, being able to handle most traffic spikes, and all for a single, little, or no cost. The downside can be limited flexablity in how you’re able to deploy/customize the CMS and not all are free.

Squarespace

SquareSpace CMS

This CMS is quite well designed and has a great user interface. It’s easy to get started, simple to use and updates almost automatically. The custom templates are easy to put your own content into and their are tonnes of extra options to add functionality to your site like photo galleries, forms, maps, forums all by inserting them into defined blocks. If you know CSS you can fully customize themes or make your own using the provided controls for editing. The only real drawback I find is the lack of an API or 3rd party plug-ins to add extendability.

Breakdown
  • URL: Squarespace
  • Price: $12/mo – $36/mo
  • Free Version: No
  • Tag System: No
  • Extendable: No
  • Common Usage: Broad Range

LightCMS

Light CMS

This CMS is targeted more towards designers, but still requiring no technical skills to get started. It provides a plethora of features like the abilty to re-bill clients at a definable rate for hosting their website though the system. Once you setup your branded theme, your clients can add and edit their own content inline within the pages, inserting a photo gallery within a few clicks, for example. If you’re a more advanced developer looking to get a little more in-depth you’re out of luck. The system is closed source, so you can’t create your own plug-ins or extend the CMS in any way. On a harsher note you can only create an unlimited number of pages within a site with the Pro package @ $69/mo.

Breakdown
  • URL: lightCMS
  • Price: $19/mo – $99/mo
  • Free Version: Yes
  • Tag System: No
  • Extendable: No
  • Common Usage: Broad Range

Business Catalyst

Adobe Business Catalyist

This Content Management System acts more like an extremely powerful CRM (Content Relationship Manager) system coupled with CMS features. All interactions a customer makes with your website is recorded. And i’m talking everything; products purchased, last login date & time, which emails they opened first etc… All this data can then be used for advertising and target marketing campaign purposes. For the designer in you, template options are a bit limited and the support for customizing templates isn’t as extensive as its metrics tools. Their is also a lack of nested template support making reusable code unavoidable which could cause maintenance issues down the road.

Breakdown
  • URL: Adobe Business Catalyist
  • Price: $9/mo – $39/mo
  • Free Version: No
  • Tag System: No
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Small/Medium Business

Shopify

Shopify

If you need a professional looking store, online then Shopify is the way to go. It has a theme libary to help you hit the ground running; and it’s completely customizable. At the time of this post it only supports two UK online merchants (Sage & Paypal) which take a presentage of each sale on the site. When you add this to the monthy subscription cost and credit card charges you incurr and things could add up quite quickly.

Breakdown
  • URL: Shopify
  • Price: $29/mo – $699/mo
  • Free Version: No
  • Tag System: Yes
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Ecommerce

Blogger

Google Blog Service

One of the original blogging websites. Blogger was first on the scene offering users a place to store or share their thoughts. With a wide range of customizable themes and no cost, its a great starter website to help learn about how to run a website and content creation. It is a bit limited in its flexability as you can’t extend it beyond what’s given to you from Google.

Breakdown
  • URL: Blogger
  • Free Version: Yes
  • Tag System: Yes
  • Extendable: No
  • Common Usage: Blogging
Other Hosted CMS of note:
  • TypePad
  • SushiWorks
  • WordPress
  • Harmoney
  • Tumblr
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