CMS For Newbies
December 16, 2005 9:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for CMS options for an alumni community site I'm building - one that has the features we want and yet still user-friendly to relative beginners. I've got a few options (Xoops, PhpNuke, Drupal, CivicSpace) but I don't know what to choose.

I'm building a crew website for our UWP crew to get together and share information. Part of the website should also be public, with resources for potential and future UWP students.

I've been looking at Xoops, PHPNuke, Drupal, and Civicspace and I'm not entirely sure which one would be the best. I've experimented a little with Xoops and PHPNuke but have heard a lot about Drupal and Civicspace.

My main concern is that it should be user-friendly - the majority of our crew aren't exactly techy, and I don't want to give them too much of a headache just to post an article or a poll question.

These are the features we're considering:

* Some way to designate certain content as "public" (for all visitors) and "private" (for the group only). Right now other alumni sites tend to have a generic password/login thing but that seems a bit archaic (and also blocks the entire site).

* A way to post articles, with categories (and maybe tags)

* A membership system (people can join, have profiles, read group-only content, make content, etc) - perhaps with approval

* Blogs per user (if the member wants them, they can create one)

* Photo/Multimedia gallery

* File repository

* Some form of an updatable contact list

* Calendar of events/birthdates

* Random quote boxes

* The ability to make databases for whatever purpose

* A world map (we come from all over)

* Forums

* Polls

* Donations collection system

* Some way to put adverts (e.g. Adsense)

Which CMS is best for our needs? Which one has easy-to-install modules that provide us with what we want? And, most of all, which is easy for complete newbies?

Thank you!
posted by divabat to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Drupal will do almost everything you list here. You need to take a look at the Drupal module respoitory and map each module to the functionality you desire.

The key is that you want a community site, which means whatever CMS you choose will require a robust and flexible user management system. Drupal's powerful flexinode module and customizable taxonomy wll allow you to assign different levels of permissions to different kinds of users.

And should you need a module to handle a piece of functionality that Drupal can't handle yet, then there is a robust and vibrant develoepr community ready to help -- as well as numerous developers who do nothing but hack on Drupal all day long for clients.
posted by camworld at 9:55 AM on December 16, 2005

Yeah, I highly recommend taking a look at Drupal. We've just started using it after ditching Mambo and it's very nice... modules for just about anything, and it's easy to customize to your liking.
posted by selfnoise at 10:00 AM on December 16, 2005

The only caveat is that you'll need to know some basic PHP syntax if you want to hack Drupal themes, of which there are many to choose from. You won't need to code any new PHP but you'll need to know how Drupal's PHP-based template system holds and renders the HTML for each theme.

Drupal also supports the Smarty Template Engine as well as the PHPtemplate Engine.
posted by camworld at 10:14 AM on December 16, 2005

(btw, does does UWP mean what I think it does? If it does, I'm an alum as well, C '92).
posted by o2b at 10:36 AM on December 16, 2005

Response by poster: o2b: Indeed it does! I'm from the newer WorldSmart program, August 05. Just got elected Crew Rep. (Was there a Rob Prytherch in your cast by any chance?)

camworld: Thanks for the headsup regarding the templates - I suppose we can live on a general template but we do need to customize stuff like the banner and such.

Those of you using Drupal - does it allow for user profiles with extra fields? (i.e. Staff/Student, Internship, etc)
posted by divabat at 11:27 AM on December 16, 2005

Yes, it does. Actually, the module for that, profile, works very nicely. I just finished setting it up on our site.
posted by selfnoise at 11:33 AM on December 16, 2005

I also recommend Drupal. It takes a while to wrap your head around the way it works (e.g. the whole "vocabulary" thing, the different theme engines, etc.) but this is only an issue for the person doing the installing/setup.

I have used both Drupal and Xoops and, in my experience, Drupal is a lot more flexible and a lot easier to use than Xoops.
posted by sanitycheck at 12:57 PM on December 16, 2005

how about: has anyone tried it?
posted by specialk420 at 7:15 PM on December 16, 2005

OpenSourceCMS has rankings and demo installs. You can login as admin and tinker with all sorts of CMS's.

I use wordpress and webcalendar and get most of what I need. I also like plogger for galleries. Wordpress isn't a full blown cms yet, but its getting there and it is really easy to install and customize.

I've been tinkering with mambo, joomla, and xoops, but they're a bit more complicated and harder (for me) to customize.
posted by laptop_lizard at 7:46 PM on December 16, 2005

I'm probably going to use Drupal for something similar (though not as extensive as you are describing). I think that Civicspace (which is a distribution of Drupal, for those that don't know), has most or all of the optional modules you'd need already bundled, plus it comes with an install script.

I'd suggest downloading it and playing with it. It's pretty easy to get up and running.

I agree that the vocabulary thing can be a bit confusing, especially since Drupal refers to it using 3 different terms. It's very powerful though to be able to slap together pages simply by packing multiple "category" IDs into a URL.

For example, say you wanted to create a page listing the latest events related to Bicycling in Seattle (and assuming that you already had content properly categorized), you could just link to htp://yoursite/taxonomy/term/2,7, where 2 and 7 are the ID's of the Seattle and Bicycle categories. Even cooler, there are automatically RSS feeds for any ad hoc category you construct.

There are also modules to help create better human readable URLs, though I can't really remember how they interact with multi-category URLs.
posted by Good Brain at 7:48 PM on December 16, 2005

Response by poster: I've got Drupal installed and running on my server for testing.

It seems OK - for me. However, I can see how potentially confusing it would be for my crew mates. "What's the difference between a story and a page?!" "I just want to add a photo!" "What's going on?!"

PHPNuke seems to be 100 times easier, but I hear there are security problems. True?

Any tips? Thanks for the help :)
posted by divabat at 11:34 AM on December 17, 2005

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