CMS for a resource website
February 12, 2008 1:59 AM   Subscribe

What would be the best CMS solution for a blog that I'm trying to expand as a resource/community site?

I'm expanding one of my blogs (link in profile) into being more of a resource and community site (since most of my visitors show up Googling for information on certain things).

I'm looking for a CMS that would allow for the following:

* A blog with content contributed by the visitors. Anyone can make a post, which is then held in moderation. The moderators look through it, edit for spelling/clarity, delete spam entries, and post. So similar to the Communities on LJ, except moderators can't edit posts on LJ.

* A directory, with the following subsections:
- Programs
- Organizations
- Grants/Funding
- Volunteering
- People
(this list can grow)
Each sub-section would have different form fields - for example, the Grants would have a close date, while the People listings would have a phone number. There should be an ability to add tags that can be searched across the listings (so any searches for "travel", for example, brings up all the organizations and people and grants related to travel).
The directory should also have a rating system, where people can leave comments.

* A reviews section, for books/websites/other media. A lot of my entries right now are reviews, so I would like my review to be the core information in the entry, followed by people's ratings. I realize I could do a blog entry like this, but I would like a way to integrate title/ISBN/author/purchase link/etc easily.

* Forums

* An events listing, which links back to related blog entries (I was thinking that any entry tagged as "event" would allow for me to enter certain dates and then they'll show up on the events listing by date).

* A file uploads/downloads section.

* Great search capabilities across the site.

* Allowances for monetization (ad space, ecommerce, etc)

There are further ideas, but these are the basics for now.

I've looked at a few CMSes and Joomla seems to be the best bet since it's easier to understand (Drupal's terminology is a bit confusing). I do NOT want to use Wordpress as I am frustrated with their "support". I love Textpattern, but I don't think they allow for this level of flexibility. I'm fine with addons, but would rather not have to code anything myself.

Is this doable? Which CMS would allow me to painlessly do this? Would it be better off for me to hire a web developer to do this? I'm just a sole young person so I don't have the $5000 that's usually the price for these things, and I would rather hire a young person anyway (but I don't know where to find good help.)

Also, because my boyfriend is being a pain about this and insisting that me asking for "CMSes" is somehow limiting my options - what other integrated solutions can I look at? :P
posted by divabat to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: ExpressionEngine, if you've got a budget under $500.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:13 AM on February 12, 2008

I haven't used Joomla enough to really be able to compare the two, but I am using Drupal a lot and it will do everything you ask. Yes, there's a learning curve, but it's worth it.
posted by bricoleur at 3:25 AM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: I would run screaming from Drupal, not bother with Joomla and take Brandon Blatcher's suggestion of ExpressionEngine.
posted by gomichild at 3:48 AM on February 12, 2008

"Run screaming from Drupal"? Why? Don't like the fact that it's free, open-source, extensible, and has a large, active community?
posted by bricoleur at 4:35 AM on February 12, 2008

I have recently tried out Joomla and Drupal and would say Joomla is your choise. It would do all you require with som extra modules. Myself I choose to go with drupal since I need high configurability and community functions but joomla seems easier and better at content management.

Also support and documentation for Joomla seems much better.
posted by ilike at 4:44 AM on February 12, 2008

Don't like the fact that it's free, open-source, extensible, and has a large, active community?

Yes that would definitely be my issues with it. <>

Having built several sites on different platforms I've found Drupal is a confining CMS which is frequently inaccessible to both developers and users. It uses it's own confusing language to describe things whereas the others tend to use a more shared vocabulary. I'm currently converting over a couple of Drupal sites to EE because apart from the sites falling apart at the seams, the users themselves find it too confusing to update.

I much prefer the flexibility and transparency of EE and have had much success with teaching people who consider themselves very non-techie into using it. Also the support people are pretty good and there is a lot of progression and development with the software itself.
posted by gomichild at 5:41 AM on February 12, 2008

What Gomichild said about Drupal sounds right to me, too. It's a geek-heaven sort of disorganized mess, which is charming in some ways... but definitely not for everyone.
posted by rokusan at 5:50 AM on February 12, 2008

Aw, so much Drupal non-love.

Drupal can do all this. Drupal loves you. Drupal wants you to be happy.


(Install CCK to create custom node types, enable tagging, define a bunch of user roles for different levels of users, set all story types to 'not published' by default to put things in a review queue.)
posted by unixrat at 6:45 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also: modify the search to emphasize tagging as most important item, start with blue marine as the theme - modify style.css to get a look you like, install the spam and tinymce modules.
posted by unixrat at 6:50 AM on February 12, 2008

Another vote for Drupal. I don't consider myself overly technical and I've had great success using it.
posted by thedanimal at 7:11 AM on February 12, 2008

Also: Your boyfriend is totally wrong re: terminology. A CMS is exactly what you want.

To find (Drupal) help, hit up Craigslist for your area. Lots of freelancers for this type of thing. Set a clear budget up front, agree on a rate and work to be performed.
posted by unixrat at 7:56 AM on February 12, 2008

I've found Drupal to be an absolute pleasure to work with, though it's a bit more 'hands dirty' than Joomla, the results are worth it.

Also worth bearing in mind is the fact that Drupal is built with community websites in mind, so if that's what you're after, it's worth a go.

And it's free, you might as well have a play with it for a weekend or something and if you find it's not for you, move onto something else.
posted by markturner at 8:05 AM on February 12, 2008

We just moved a major newspaper website to Drupal, one of only eight or so in the US that has done so. The process has been challenging at best and painful at worst. There is no single way to do anything in Drupal. It's overly complex, exhaustingly confining, and even one of its lead developers couldn't answer some of our questions regarding implementation. Our devs have resorted in many cases to a lot of hacking, some of it in core modules, to implement even basic blogging and comment moderating ability.

Having dumped on it thusly, you should know it's not *all* bad. Drupal does have strong points, an open source derivation being one of them—meaning there are tons of nerds making it better all the time. It's also totally buzz word compliant (with modules for tag clouds and other "web 2.0" stuff), and when used "as shipped" it can really help a business redefine its publishing goals. But unless you've got a fairly large team, and a really good IT/backend person to optimize the heck out of query-happy Drupal (like we do), you'd do better to go with Joomla or Django. Heck, if you're up for a little "creative repurposing", I think Wordpress is effing fantastic, and theming it is a walk in the park.
posted by littlerobothead at 9:40 AM on February 12, 2008

I've used Joomla, am currently using ExpressionEngine, and tried out about every other CMS on the market for my own needs -- Drupal easily has all the functionality you need, but I prefer ExpressionEngine for ease of use and templating. Everyone else has given some great EE links, for a more in-depth perspective on Drupal, Jon at Dooce wrote a great post detailing why they chose Drupal for the new site.

I wouldn't recommend Joomla - the CMS itself is okay once you get how it works, but for any real functionality you need extra components. With a few exceptions, these components are poorly documented, incompatible with each other, or just don't work. I love open source, but in the case of that particular product, you get what you pay for.
posted by ukdanae at 11:26 AM on February 12, 2008

I've built a pretty extensive community site on top of Drupal, and I think littlerobothead's analysis is spot-on -- I have the same sort of love-hate relationship with it.

if you're not a developer, and drupal doesn't do what you want out of the box (or close to out-of-the-box), forget about it. Here's what drupal does out of the box: multi-user blog with comments. That's pretty much it.

Now, Drupal *can* be a base for a lot more, and I actually find some bits of it very elegant -- as I've said previously, the core modules are mostly pretty good; I like the form api, the menu/path system is reasonably workable -- but you really need to be familiar with PHP AND the drupal framework in order to get anything done. IMO the third party modules are almost completely worthless. While I may be susceptible to 'not-invented-here' syndrome, I found it necessarily to completely rewrite functionality that purportedly existed as a Drupal plugin, either because the author made (incomprehensibly) poor choices about presentation and functionality or because the module just plain-out was never finished appropriately. CCK and Views, which everyone seems to love, is a cute idea but basically churns out terrible data structures and (because of this, and other problems with query generation) creates the most retarded-monkey queries you will ever see, particularly in the hands of most end-users. Unfortunately, for most people it is not possible to get stuff done WITHOUT resorting to CCK and Views, and everyone in the community seems to answer questions with "OH YOU CAN DO THAT WITH CCK". If I had to do it over again, I would've used a lighter framework and rolled much more on my own. That said, Drupal probably ended up saving us 3 months of work -- but probably at a greater cost that we've yet to pay.

Oh, and FYI:
Would it be better off for me to hire a web developer to do this? I'm just a sole young person so I don't have the $5000 that's usually the price for these things, and I would rather hire a young person anyway (but I don't know where to find good help.)

$5k worth of work from most developers would not even get you CLOSE to the feature set you are requesting. Most people would take your money and install a stock-version of one of the CMSes mentioned above. If they know what they're doing, they might install a template for you or set a couple variables. $5k spent on a graphic designer might get you some nice ideas for site layout but you won't get an install-ready template. Since you don't have $5k, plan on DIY: pick the CMS that makes most sense to you and, more importantly, gets as close to what you want with as few modifications as possible, because it's the last 10% that takes the most time. This is a great opportunity for you to pick up some highly marketable skills.
posted by fishfucker at 12:58 PM on February 12, 2008

nthing Drupal, and I can't add a heck of a lot that other people haven't already said here. I work with nothing but Drupal these days after finding other CMSes lacking. A lot of high profile websites are using Drupal for some incredible sites -- I just did the theming for Amnesty International's new site, which is build in Drupal.

Joomla has much more limited user permissions, and its forums are even worse than Drupal's (which aren't as robust as something like vBulletin or phpbb, but most of the lack of polish is in the theme, not the back end).

Drupal is very DIY friendly, but you need to get your head around the basics first. My recommendation, if you're on a limited budget, is to spend whatever money you're going to spend on getting some consultation on how you should implement the features you're looking for, so you can work from that as a set of instructions. Spec it out as thoroughly as you can, hire a good Drupal developer/site builder and get them to lay out how those specs should translate to Drupal modules and configurations. Then set up the modules and tinker with it yourself and use resources like the forums and IRC for specific questions. There are indeed a dozen ways to do any one thing and someone with experience can give you the right recipe.

The theme will give you the most difficulty. A lot of functionality really comes from what you expose in the theme, which is more complex than creating a Joomla skin or Wordpress template. If you can keep the design simple and work off a theme that's already available, it shouldn't be too bad though.
posted by stephthegeek at 10:08 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I went to check out ExpressionEngine and it had almost all the features I was after. I also found a developer via their Pro network that is willing to work on my website with me for free. Yay!
posted by divabat at 6:13 PM on February 14, 2008

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