• Background Image

    The CMS Uber Guide: Licensed

    May 18, 2011

May 18, 2011

The CMS Uber Guide: Licensed

How do you pick the right CMS for the job?

When I first started web design I thought that using a content management system was a type of cheating. I didn’t believe in the quality of the systems out their that offered everything you need in a box. It was also a bit concerning, just starting in this field, that I could be replaced by an out-of-the-box solution. Even worse, what if I used the system only to have something break on me and not work as planned?

It was this type of mindset that started me to lean towards making your CMS from the ground up for each project that required it. Although satisfying when complete, way to many countless hours, sleepless nights and energy drinks were wasted crafting these systems.
The icing on the cake happened when clients wanted custom modifications and rather than enhance the functionality, they just broke the system even more making them a maintenance disaster.

Thankfully I’ve learned much since then and over the last couple of years have grown to become very familiar with the various types of CMS available for deployment. Their are quite a number of them, so many in fact that for the purpose of this guide, they will be split into three major categories: Free, Hosted and Licensed. We will cover Licensed Systems first in this post. I’m not going to recommend any particular CMS over another; obviously I do have ones I prefer or use on a daily basis, but what works for me might not work for you. I will however, advise that you don’t limit yourself to just a single CMS for all scenarios. I find most professionals have a balanced mix of systems they like to work in tandum with to cover a very wide range of project requirements.

Each CMS has strengths and weaknesses in different areas and it’s important to keep this privy while picking the right one for your project.

Licensed Systems

Usually licensed CMS require you to either make a simple payment or invest in a subscription. You wonder why you would want to even consider a licensed system when their are a ton of free options. Well, typically the costs required to contribute to continuing development and provide client support factor into systems like this. Really, what you’re paying for is quality support from people who made the system when you need it.

Expression Engine

Expression Engine

ExpressionEngine is a vastly popular CMS with freelancers and web design companies. It’s right at home with designers wanting to integrate the design markup on their own without a developer. You can write all your HTML and CSS separately and then just ‘drop’ the whole theme into ExpressionEngine and just using the system’s proprietary tags, replace your content accordingly. This allows the system to be extremely flexible and because it’s a licensed system the support is excellent; a thriving development community and modular allowing for a lot of extensions.

On the flip side, there are some potential hidden costs to be aware of. As you use ExpressionEngine you’ll want to take advantage of some more advanced functionality granted to it by some excellent plugins and add-ons. Some that stand out are Playa, Matrix and Structure and usually plug-ins aren’t free; albeit they likely give excellent support.

Breakdown
  • URL: ExpressionEngine
  • Framework: PHP (CodeIgniter Framework)
  • Price: $99.95 – $299.95
  • Free Version: No
  • Tag System: Yes
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Broad Range

Magento

Magento

Specializing in E-commerce. It’s actually quite scary what Magento can do; highly customizable with powerful reporting and analytical tools giving you free reign over your site. As far as CMS go, this one is probably one of the most resource heavy on web servers so make sure you take that into account if you want to use it for your online store and plan accordingly. This CMS has three flavours: Community (free), Professional and Enterprise. The latter having 24 hour support being paid versions. Magento also has a larger learning curve to it than others I’ve found and at the enterprise level the system can start to become overwhelming for just a single person. Usually thats why small teams and companies prefer this system.

Breakdown
  • URL: Magento
  • Framework: PHP
  • Price: $2,995/yr – $12,990/yr
  • Free Version: Yes
  • Tag System: No
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Ecommerce

CMS Pro!

CMS Pro! Framework

This is a little less known framework but I’m including it here because I think it’s noteworthy. Built from the ground up by a Canadian developer it helps bring simpler sites to life with an easy theming system. It is quite modular and adding/remove different content types are easy. Although this is a paid system, support is good but waiting for new features can take a while.

Breakdown
  • URL: CMS Pro!
  • Framework: PHP
  • Price: $25
  • Free Version: No
  • Tag System: Yes
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Small Sites / Blogging

Perch

Grab a Perch

This is a little CMS that’s quite surprisingly versatile and easy to implement. If you have a static site that you want to make editable, Perch is ideal and then some. Developers have been known to use it with different MVC frameworks for the CMS part of bigger applications. This system also has an API to extend the CMS as you see fit which is a nice option to have, making it quite extensible.

Breakdown
  • URL: Perch
  • Framework: PHP
  • Price: $45
  • Free Version: No
  • Tag System: No
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Simple Sites
Other Noteworthy Licensed CMS
1 Comment

    Leave A Comment

    Leave a Reply