Easy website construction and maintenance.
April 12, 2007 5:58 AM   Subscribe

I need to help 10 small nonprofit organizations set up websites. The main criteria is that these groups have to be able to maintain the sites themselves, without needing to learn HTML. Custom-CMS'es are too expensive. Does anyone have experience with good hosts that offer basic CMS-type interfaces? What's the best client-side site builder? I still use notepad for my web work(!), so am kind of in the dark as to what's available.
posted by Framer to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Drupal. It's all kind of awesome. Free, Open Source Software.
posted by unixrat at 6:08 AM on April 12, 2007

Not really a CMS client, but Nvu seems like a good choice for nonprofits to edit pages without having to know too much HTML.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:08 AM on April 12, 2007

What kind of CMS are you looking for? Are they going to be updating their sites frequently, e.g. running a blog?
A lot of blogging CMS' are not only good at the frequent updating stuff, but they also provide an easy and elegant way to maintain static pages. I use TextPattern for my own blog; WordPress is also easy to use. They are a cinch to set up.
posted by Menomena at 6:45 AM on April 12, 2007

Drupal and Joomla are the standards these days, depending on what you want to do with them.

Even then, you will have to design a template that works for them. THere are many out there, but there's still an html/css factor in using a CMS. The good news is that you could outsource it.
posted by Greebie at 7:09 AM on April 12, 2007

Second vote for Wordpress, which also has the benefit of some truly gorgeous out-of-the-box templates. Very simple to use.
posted by jbickers at 7:12 AM on April 12, 2007

If you're looking for more of a static page editor and less of a blog SilverStripe might be the way to go... I haven't tried it out myself, but if I ever had a need for this sort of thing, it would be my first choice.
posted by toomuchpete at 7:24 AM on April 12, 2007

My current favorite is Wordpress. Quick to setup a simple site (good defaults), easy to customize and lots of templates available.

It comes with a WYSIWYG editor for those who don't want to look at angle brackets, it supports images out-of-the-box, and your clients can easily update content using a browser.

Yes, it's a blogging tool, but just create "Pages" if you don't want to blog.

Uses PHP and mysql, which is standard with most webhosts.

Drupal: Complicated, clunky, slow and generally not so awesome from my experience.
posted by kamelhoecker at 7:25 AM on April 12, 2007

Fourth vote for Wordpress, for all the reasons kamelhoecker stated.
posted by jmnugent at 7:36 AM on April 12, 2007

CitySoft's Community Enterprise modules.
posted by ericb at 7:49 AM on April 12, 2007

Personal experience regarding WordPress:

I love WP. I use it for every single blog and blog-like site that I'm a part of. That said, it takes a lot of work to make it look like anything but a blog and while you can use "pages" to fake a more generic CMS, it lacks a lot of organizational components that you would need to setup a decent site.

I was the IT Manager for a small city and we had a commercial setup much like SilverStripe that allowed our country-bumpkin employees to update their own pages while giving me some semblance of control over the architecture of the site... it's all about having the right tool for the job.
posted by toomuchpete at 8:21 AM on April 12, 2007

Yet another vote for WordPress; you just need to think of the blog bit as being the news articles rather than the site's focal point. The non-blog pages then make up the bulk of the site, and if you enable 'pretty' permalinks then URLs are user- and search-engine-friendly.

Pull apart a few themes to get an understanding of WP's rather-poorly-thought-out templating approach, then build from scratch instead of adapting an existing theme (otherwise it'll all look a bit clunky and blog-like).

CMSs are constantly being patched to fix numerous bugs and security holes, so make sure whatever you choose is easy to upgrade, otherwise it could become a significant burden.
posted by malevolent at 8:32 AM on April 12, 2007

I'm looking into this myself to set up a website for a local elementary school. I just checked out SilverStripe and CitySoft's Community Enterprise Modules based on the suggestions above.

Neither one seems to work well with Safari, which is a big turn-off for me. CitySoft requires IE just to view a demo(!)
posted by designbot at 9:05 AM on April 12, 2007

CMSs are constantly being patched to fix numerous bugs and security holes, so make sure whatever you choose is easy to upgrade, otherwise it could become a significant burden.

Currently, this is the biggest downfall of Wordpress, IMO. Upgrades are time-consuming and tedious. However, on the "requested features" forum at wordpress.org, one of the most requested features is a one-click upgrade, so I'm optimistic that that will arrive someday.
posted by jbickers at 9:07 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I use Movable Type for pretty much all the reasons folks are recommending Wordpress here, with the added benefits that:
* MT templating is well thought out and doesn't require PHP.
* MT does not require constant security patches.
* MT-backed sites don't need to talk to a database for each pageview.
* MT will build flat HTML sites which can be zipped up and moved anywhere without needing to deploy a CMS. (This is especially nice when rapid recovery from backup is needed.)
posted by sudama at 9:40 AM on April 12, 2007

I use Movable Type as well. But as several people above have intimated, using either MT or WordPress, which can be used as CMSes but out of the box are blogging tools, will require some customization if you want to use them to manage a non-blog site.

You could also look into Google Page Creator.
posted by staggernation at 11:50 AM on April 12, 2007

Another Wordpress vote. We've set up a few internal sites at work and it took about 30 minutes to explain the backend (and front-end for those who had never seen a blog). A few questions after that, but people got into the simplicity.

With a little HTML knowledge you can customize a theme you like into whatever. It doesn't need to look like a blog. Also there's loads of tutorials, plug-ins, themes and support forums.
posted by dripdripdrop at 12:55 PM on April 12, 2007

To give you some more non-WordPress options... you might have a look at OpenSourceCMS.com which seems to have a ton of options and the ability to try them before you go to the trouble of installing them.

Also, if you choose to go with a blogging platform (MT, WordPress, Expression Engine, etc...) make sure you're 100% clear on what's involved in turning it from a blogging platform into a generic website CMS... a lot of the steps become easy after you've done them a few times but the first time can be confounding and frustrating.
posted by toomuchpete at 1:15 PM on April 12, 2007

Second the OpenSourceCms link, try befor you buy er load. My latest favorite id DoopCMS, lite and easy to work with, easy on the server.
posted by raildr at 1:50 PM on April 12, 2007

Framer, here's an example of a site I built for a non-profit I'm involved with, using Wordpress. It came together really quickly, and as you can see it's definitely not a blog. Each branch can easily change their information, add upcoming events, etc. You're welcome to email me (in my profile) if you would like some more guidance.
posted by jbickers at 5:13 PM on April 12, 2007

As a professional web developer and programmer I'd highly suggest CMSMadeSimple. We've integrated this with a few sites and have had good success with it. Open source as well. PHP/mysql.
posted by ITistic at 7:06 PM on April 12, 2007

You might take a gander at the free WebsiteBaker. (It's one of those found on opensourcecms, also). Like most of these solutions, it will require a MySQL DB and PHP.

And you didn't ask, but its time you graduated from Notepad. Take a look at Aptana (free & for all platforms).
posted by spock at 6:27 AM on April 13, 2007

Webgui. Plain black. Agency hosting.
posted by baylink at 11:02 AM on April 13, 2007

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