I thought this would make an interesting article since most — if not all — websites are built using content management systems (CMS) these days. The content management system allows anyone to configure a website with no need for experience with markup languages or style sheets. They make Web building and Web design somewhat easier for most involved. However, I do think that they can make things a little too easy. The developers of such CMS as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and others probably don’t have an easy job, but they are skilled enough to make our lives easier.
I have been around the Web and Web design since they early 2000s with FrontPage as my original port of call. I was only 13 or so at the time, so I think I can be forgiven for using such a WYSIWYG (pronounced wiziwig, it stands for What You See Is What You Get) designer. In 2004/2005, I moved from FrontPage to Notepad and Dreamweaver via a college course for multimedia computing with Web development. We were taught about HTML 4.01 transitional and how to make websites within tables. We were told soon after that the website we were to build would have no tables and we would have to find a way around that.
Most of my classmates moaned, groaned, and whined — almost incessantly — about how unfair and stupid it was for our teacher to go through everything before whipping the rug from underneath us. I, however, didn’t have a problem with this because I like a challenge and I like troubleshooting. Although things did get a little heated when I had to tell two of my classmates to either “man up to the challenge or quit the course” because the point of it being fair or otherwise didn’t matter. Life is unfair; what separates geeks from the rest of the world is how we deal with it.
2005/2006 – Joomla
I decided that, as much as I loved the graphical design and coding a website in clean HTML, I’d like to try upping the game and trying one of these content management systems. I looked at many different ones like PHP-nuke, Mambo, and eventually settled on Joomla. I did use another content management system after my stint with Joomla in 2006, and then I went back to Joomla in 2007. I liked Joomla, although I really did hate its convoluted way of working. The cartoon-like interface still does seem a little bit childlike in my opinion, but I did enjoy working with Joomla up until I tried WordPress.
I know that everyone hates Joomla — except the people who still use it — but I did rather like its simplicity in some aspects. Unfortunately, its convoluted way of working really does no favors for that sense of simplicity. I do like the ease with which you can make very basic themes for Joomla in Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and even Macromedia FreeHand, and I still do love messing around with Joomla themes both free and payware. I love to take apart these themes to see how they operate and then tweak them to fit my needs. I haven’t done that in a long time, but I still certainly enjoy it when I have time and energy to spare a few days tweaking a theme.
2008 – Drupal
In 2008, I tried to install Drupal onto my Web host and it didn’t work. I went through every forum and every troubleshooting step only to find out that my Web host at the time was not going to allow Drupal to function. It was the second last nail in the coffin for this Web host. I had been with it since 2004 and had no problems with it up until the end when its servers were running so slowly that I was losing a lot of traffic because of it. I am purposefully not naming names, because all advertising is good advertising.
2009 – WordPress
WordPress was a revelation for me. The interface is clean and simple, but not in a patronising way. The only time WordPress becomes convoluted is when a plugin or a theme developer makes things more difficult than they need to be. I know many theme developers who tend to make things too complicated just to prove that they can — or that’s how it feels to me as a user. There are some absolute must haves in the world of WordPress plugins; one is SEO by Yoast, and the other is W3 Total Cache.
I’m not going to tell you what to install on your WordPress site, but I will tell you to be careful with what plugins you install. Some plugins aren’t well coded and will leave your WordPress site open to attack from anyone who wants to cause problems or damage your reputation. My advice — take it or leave it — is to only install what you need and make sure that the plugin was updated within the last month or so. You will never be completely safe or completely secure, but you can take steps to lessen the effect if anything does go wrong and someone manages to do something.
It really is typical and almost cliché advice to keep a backup of everything valuable to you. I am quite pedantic in that aspect with taking notes and screenshots of configurations, articles, and images. I hope that you guys will appreciate my story of how I got here from using Microsoft FrontPage. What’s your story?
CC licensed Flickr photo of CMS label (“The wine to drink while working with Drupal.”) by quinn.anya