Open Source CMS Evaluation - Part III: Implementation
In my last post, I narrowed my open source CMS candidates down to Joomla and Drupal. I was hoping to have a choice made by Monday morning, implement the design in the morning, and populate the content in the afternoon. Two days later and I'm now where I was hoping to be on Monday morning. I've spent the last two days implementing both Joomla and Drupal. Monday, I spent most of the day with
Joomla. While it was easy to apply my own theme, I became very discouraged when I discovered I didn't have full control over the HTML markup produced. All of the content I produced was wrapped with a <table> - and from what I could tell, it was impossible for me to change that w/o hacking Joomla's code.
Based on that discovery, as well as the overwhelming number of pro-Drupal comments I received, I moved on to implementing Drupal. Monday night and yesterday were spent with Drupal. It's been extremely frustrating, but mostly because of all the CSS I had to write. The major problem with Drupal is the admin interface uses the same template as the reader interface. I did find a nice way to use an existing theme for the admin, and our own for the reader - but decided not to use it because it would give content authors the wrong impression of what their stuff looks like.
The majority of the time I've spent with Drupal has been modifying templates and installing modules. For the most part, Drupal doesn't come with everything you might need. I found the CivicSpace download to be much more complete with modules I needed. In addition, it has an installer which makes things a bit easier to setup for a web designer. I'm currently using the Article module, which works quite well, but I wish I could create multiple blocks for different categories (taxomies). Instead, I had to hack up my own block using some SQL to select all the "news" content types (for a Recent News block).
My biggest problem with Drupal continues to be my lack of knowledge. Luckily, there's a plethora of information out there and a lot of people are using it. I've been able to use the Drupal Forums as well as Google to solve most of my issues. Now the hard part comes - I need to show it to the designer/marketing folks and teach them how to use it.
The brochure site in an hour tutorial was extremely helpful for me to get started with an About page, Contact Us page, and Press Releases. However, it says to use "books" to create pages, and I've seen others recommend "page" and "story". So which is the best one to use? Should I advocate using "page" for regular site pages, and then "story" for our articles and whitepapers? Or should we use "book page" for the main pages. I'd like to limit the number of choices if possible.
I think the major problem with using Drupal is going to be tweaking our template. Every time I see a new custom theme (like this one) I want to steal stuff. Right now, I'm using a design from oswd.org and much of the CSS from the spreadfirefox theme.
Conclusion: No CMS is perfect. You'll have to hack it on one way or another to make it fit your needs. Drupal seems to be used by many web designers w/ little to no programming skills. Most folks love it and I've received many, many positive comments about it. I've received hardly any positive comments about Joomla. Zope and Plone also seemed to inspire hatred among some users.
Lesson Learned: Listen to your readers. Other users' experience is one of the most valuable indicators of a good open source project.