02 Dec Website Foundations: Which CMS?
Alright, your Local Spiritual Assembly finally decided to take the leap and build a website for your Baha’i community — and they’ve asked YOU to be in charge of the project. What did you do to be so lucky? Assuming they didn’t hire a web designer directly to go about doing it (*cough*), where do you even start?
Whether you are building it yourself or giving guidance to hired web designer, there are several ways to go about constructing a great website. First, you could do a few stretches, slide your chair underneath your desk, and get to coding HTML for a week or two. Until about 6 or 7 seven years ago, that’s how most people did it, and it wasn’t a lot of fun (unless you were a pro web designer or just liked that kind of thing). More recently, however, most websites have been built using a content management system, or CMS.
What’s a CMS?
A content management system helps you to build and maintain a website without having to worry about a lot of coding and general geekery. Instead of writing the code yourself (think back to using a command line on your home computer before they came out with Microsoft Windows), you’re working on something that more closely resembles any website you’d interact with. It’s more Facebook than the Matrix, if that helps. A good illustration is below:
How is this different than a static HTML site?
Simpler — First, it’s a ton easier to work with. Knowledge of coding is always a plus, but with a CMS you don’t have to really know any coding at all, if you’re good at following instructions. It’s also much, much easier to update. I can’t emphasize that last part enough.
Faster — Now that you can install a CMS almost immediately after you purchase your domain name (such as examplebahai.com), you can really hit the ground running. In addition, because you’re not coding every line yourself, it should take a fraction of the time. Think days instead of weeks.
Cheaper — Since it takes less time and effort, you don’t have to pay as much. Also, all of the 3 major CMS options are free.
What are the main options?
As I’ve hinted above, there are three main choices — and they’re called WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. Which is best? They all have their pluses and minuses, as I’ll show in a popular infographic being shared around the web these days. I’ll meet you at the bottom.
Honestly, if you’re not 100% sure, just use WordPress. It’s easier, it works great, and it can look as beautiful as you want it to. It also has an enormous developer community that you can lean on for help. Drupal is probably a bit more powerful, but it’s super-complicated in comparison — it’s just not worth it unless the local Baha’i website you’re working on is getting traffic on the order of hundreds of thousands of visitors a day. If you’re getting that much website traffic in a day, call me — because something is either going really wrong or really right — and I want to know.
Coming soon in this series, we’ll talk about how to choose a theme template for your CMS. While choosing a CMS is like choosing what kind of engine you want inside of your car, selecting a theme is more like choosing what you want the car to look like on the outside.