Monday, 7 December 2009

Content Management Systems for Dummies

This subject could well bore most people, but here goes anyway.

I finally managed to do some major stuff today, backing up Live in and downloading/uploading a newer version of drupal. It is a huge relief to have that done - every time I went into the site I saw the red signs around the place reminding me of the necessary updates and the security alerts.

Until a couple of years ago I was clueless about web sites and once I decided to start Live in I had to work out how to build one. Sure I could get someone to build it for me, there are plenty of solo site designers around offering to do it for a cheap price, but I needed something I could make changes to myself and it had to have a whole lot more features than the standard flat website. One friend suggested going and doing an html course, but somehome I discovered content management systems - don't remember now how but I think it was a chain of events and I was without doubt influenced by this blog, I have learned a lot from the blogger tool.

Once I decided it should be a content management system I then needed to decide if it should be one I buy or one that is open source, which ultimately means it's free. I met with web companies and decided I didn't want to be dependent on one for their CMS - I mean what if I didn't like the results or working with them or if they went bust?? So that left open source and I contemplated three of the big ones, Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal. A number of people told me not to get too worked up about which one I chose, I could make a change at a later date and that they were really all much of the same. On the other hand I wanted something I could grow into and the idea of changing everything from one system to the other was mind-boggling. I found that the best way to compare is to go to CMS Matrix and check the boxes of the ones you are interested in. Assuming you have a clue about what you are after (this too is a long process for the novice!) and know all the necessary jargon, the results are really helpful. I'm guessing that if these people don't have a CMS listed, its either too new or not worth knowing about.

There are a ton of pros and cons for each system and for all the research I did it ultimately depended on whose opinion you asked and what their personal preference was. At the end of the day I was influenced by a couple of web companies that suggested Drupal was the better option for my site.
After having two web companies go bust on me (luckily I had not parted with any money) I finally found someone who was willing, able, and affordable. Buying services is tough when you are a novice, it is hard to envisage everything you need, especially fairly "technical" services. It was far from the easiest thing I have done.

Eventually, after many, many months of decisions, discussion and designing, I had the frame of my website, looking just the way I wanted it to. Then it was time to learn how Drupal works and start filling the site with content. It was pretty easy to navigate around and despite some minor frustrations that have led to changes, it hasn't been too hard to learn.

As with most projects, they change along the way and factors became evident that we hadn't discussed, hadn't solved or hadn't been obvious. All in all I felt I wanted more control over the site and decided I want to learn more about Drupal. I went along to the Geek Girl Meetup recently and listend to Annika Lidne share her thoughts, knowledge and experience of this CMS. It was enough to ignite a lot of enthusiasm and I was hoping the WPGirls or the WPFika group would be converted enough to start up a Drupal gang. Alas, that has not yet been the case. I'd be the first to sign up to learn more....

Annika did make it seem easy and I have decided to build a new site in Drupal. Myself. From scratch. More about that another time......

So while things have been going along relatively smoothly I have been getting increasingly nervous about the big version changes that are being made to the system and my need to update Drupal as well as do something about the security alerts!! I can't help but feel like I am way out of my depth. My manual from the web guy was far from complete but luckily a friend had a much better manual for her site. Still it was overwhelming and I hardly dared open it and look at it....

Today I managed to corner my darling other-half and force him to draw on his old IT skills by putting himself into the workings of Drupal. It took a while, and we worked through both my friend's manual and the accompanying Drupal instructions. We did it. Everything is finally, newly backed up and the latest version of Drupal has been uploaded - no more security warnings from the administration side!!

Thank heavens for that. Now it is on the the next task!


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