CMS Crash Course!


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Is your current nonprofit website and Content Management System (CMS) clunky, outdated and hard to navigate? Are you considering a website redesign? Or maybe you heard of WordPress, Joomla and Drupal but would like to learn more? If so, this is the presentation for you.

Andy McIlwain (SIDEKICK) discusses how nonprofits can benefit from using a CMS and covers popular CMS options and how they compare side-to-side.

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CMS Crash Course!

  1. 1. CMS CRASH COURSE Andy McIlwain @ Net Tuesday Toronto July 8, 2014
  2. 2. Agenda 1. Introductions 2. What’s a CMS? Why should you care? 3. Choosing a CMS 4. Comparing Popular Platforms 5. Discussion
  3. 3. Who is this guy? Andy McIlwain • Content @ SIDEKICK ( • Organizer, WordCamp Toronto 2014 • Web “Generalist” Connect • The Twitter: @andymci • Email:
  4. 4. What’s a CMS? • Content Management System • Layer between code and user. • Manage sites without being a developer. Website that Visitors See Underlying Code & Technology Your CMS
  5. 5. Why should you care? • Reduce IT/developer involvement. • Be responsive. Get things done faster. e.g. Breaking news and you need to update the site quickly. • Easier training & onboarding.
  6. 6. Choosing a CMS Shopping for a CMS is like shopping for groceries. It’s better when you have a list of what to look for. Image Credit: Situ Herrera
  7. 7. Remember: Your CMS is a tool. It’s just means to an end. • Don’t get distracted by features. • Some CMSes better suited to certain tasks. • There’s always a learning curve.
  8. 8. Define your requirements first. Image credit: Freepik
  9. 9. Functional Requirements • What should users be able to do? • E.g. Make a purchase, create an account, submit a contact form, make a donation. • Create a functional requirements list.
  10. 10. Design Requirements • The “Look and Feel” of your site. • Usually handled by CMS themes (a.k.a. templates, styles, skins…) • Create a design requirements list.
  11. 11. Content Requirements • The type of content (written, media) that will be managed by the CMS. • Blogging? Press releases? Restricted content? • Create a sitemap that outlines all major pages or sections of your site.
  12. 12. Time & Money Requirements • What’s the timeline? What’re the milestones? • What needs to be done now vs. later? • What’s the available budget? – Encompasses setup, customization, training, support, etc.
  13. 13. People / Stakeholders Image Credit: Freepik
  14. 14. Who is leading the project? • What’s their understanding of the project? – Technical? Non-technical? • What’s their experience with CMSes? • Are they comfortable coordinating between stakeholders? – Developers, Administration, Executives, Constituents, etc…
  15. 15. Who is implementing the CMS? • Who’s putting the pieces together, and what knowledge do they have? – What’s their experience? Are they comfortable to deliver on the requirements? • In-house isn’t always the right solution. • Look at your requirements, consider all the options available.
  16. 16. Who will be working with the CMS? • Primary, day-to-day users. • Have they used a system like this before? • Will they need additional support? • Will you need to train people quickly?
  17. 17. Things To Investigate Before You Commit Image credit: Icomoon
  18. 18. Learning Curve • How complex is the tool? – Look for discussions and reviews. • Are there lessons online? • How usable is the software? – Can you play with a demo? – Useful site:
  19. 19. Documentation • What’s available from the vendor? • What’s available from 3rd parties? • Is it understandable? Up-to-date? • How well-written is it? Any visual examples?
  20. 20. System Requirements • Do you host yourself or with the vendor? • Are there specific environment requirements? – E.g. PHP, Rails, Node, ASP.NET …
  21. 21. Licensing • Open Source vs. Proprietary – Are you “locked in” with a sole-source product? • What’s the cost? • What are your rights as a user?
  22. 22. Market • Are there developers already? What’s their going rate? – Less Popular = More Specialization = More Lock- In – More Popular = Greater variance in rates, but also a variance in quality. • Are extensions (plugins) or themes available? What’s the average cost? – E.g. WordPress has 1000s of themes available, whereas Drupal does not.
  23. 23. Comparing CMS Options Image Credit: Icons8
  24. 24. Pros • Relatively easy to learn. • Ample documentation. • Works on vast majority of hosting providers. • 100% GPL license. • Large market of themes, plugins, and developers. • Actively updated, lots of custom functionality through plugins. Cons • User experience geared towards publishing content. Experience is lacking in other areas. • Not well suited (IMO) to more complex functionality. WordPress Download @
  25. 25. Drupal Pros • Free & open source. • Works on most hosting providers. • Built with complex sites in mind, e.g. • Active community of developers. • Good-sized market of themes and extensions. • Very stable. Cons • Steep learning curve. • More intensive hosting requirements. • Projects typically longer, more expensive. Download @
  26. 26. Joomla! Pros • Free, open source. • Works on majority of hosting providers. • Themes and extensions available. Cons • Development is relatively inactive compared to other CMS platforms. • Small market of developers, extensions. Download @
  27. 27. Tendenci Pros • Catered specifically to non- profit organizations. • Free & open source. (Need to use “Developers” link on the home page.) Cons • Requires hosting provider that supports Python. • Smaller CMS means small market of experts. • Written in Python. Popular, but less popular than PHP. More information @
  28. 28. GetSimple CMS Pros • Free & Open Source • Lightweight – Very small installation, no database. • Works on majority of hosting providers. Cons • Limited plugins to add more functionality. • Limited support. Download @
  29. 29. ExpressionEngine Pros • Free version available to experiment with. • Active community of developers + backed by an established company. • Works with most hosting providers. Cons • Costs! • Per-Site License ($299++) • Support ($49/mo++) • No Refunds Info/Purchase @
  30. 30. To Recap… • Start with your requirements. • Identify your stakeholders. • Research each platform before you decide.
  31. 31. Thank You! (Discussion)