Picking a Content Management System and learning PHP
August 26, 2005 3:16 AM   Subscribe

Thanks to your answers to this question, I'm going to spend the next month redeveloping our website. But now I'm faced with choosing the right tools for the job.

So for this project - a simple website for this organisation incorporating news, articles, upcoming events - I was all set to learn and use Textpattern and anticipated a smooth ride, until the goalposts got moved.

Now the boss has pulled a new feature out of his ass: he wants the site to be a community, which could be a really good thing for the organisation, but it makes the job much harder. We now need a membership database, which would allow members (around 400, all professors at member universities, by invite only) to edit a profile of their own, and participate in forum discussions. The profiles need to be searchable and viewable, like the faculty biographies on most university sites.

So to cut to the chase, I don't think Textpattern will handle this, at least not without extensive modification. I'm now looking at Drupal, and in particular a version of Drupal called Civicspace.

So, could anyone share experiences of using these programs for similar applications? They look complicated, so is there anything simpler that could accomplish the same thing, perhaps Xoops or something?

And finally, someone mentioned that if I choose Drupal, I would have to learn PHP to modify the look beyond standard templates. How hard would this be inside a month? 2 months? I'm not afraid of learning some programming, but I need to give an accurate idea of the timescale to the boss.
posted by godawful to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I haven't tried those other programs but just as a quick idea, couldn't you use Textpattern for the news and articles section, and another specific forum application for the discussion boards? There's very simple ones that don't need you to know PHP to install and use. If the members of the forums are not going to be the same ones posting articles, then that could be a much easier solution.
posted by funambulist at 3:28 AM on August 26, 2005

ExpressionEngine has user profile management; "Each member has their own profile management page, in which they can set preferences and update their personal information." There's also an add-on forum module.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:37 AM on August 26, 2005

I don't see a reason you need one tool for the job -- have a Textpattern-driven portion, and another section of the site driven by PHPBB or Vanilla.

Vanilla would be my preference because it's much easier to style, but it may not have all the features you need, being so new. Plus, there are plenty of free PHPBB skins if you don't need full customization.
posted by o2b at 9:45 AM on August 26, 2005

I agree with what others have said, to often people try to find one web solution to fit all their needs, when it would be much easier to just combine a couple different solutions.

Your on the right track with textpattern IMO it is a great cms. Just find a forum that you like the look of and tie it in.

Good luck!
posted by meta87 at 11:17 AM on August 26, 2005

I'd suggest installing Civicspace, its pretty damn easy if you have LAMP running somewhere already.

I've not tried noodling with the look yet, but my understanding is that some of the newer themes are pretty amenable to CSS customization without ever touching the theme templates.

Also, most of the themes use one or another PHP templating engine which are, at least in theory, supposed to make it easier to do UI tweaks without getting deep into PHP.

The advantage of one tool for the job is that you can have a single user database for all features without worrying about having to do the integration between two tools. With drupal/civicspace that would mean that people could contribute content, comment on that content, keep personal blogs, contribute event announcements to a community calendar and participate in traditional forums without anyone worrying about integrating multiple packages.
posted by Good Brain at 11:34 AM on August 26, 2005

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