Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Open-Source Content Management Systems that You can Use to build the website of your dreams

Terms and conditions (unfortunately) apply

Gone are the days when people used to turn towards developers to create content and feature rich websites for them. The developers, in turn, created large groups and used (almost religiously) different programming languages/platforms to build the web application of their choice. But specialized software have made this process largely automated today for general purpose websites.
These are called Content Management Systems (CMS), and are highly customizable web applications. To put in other words, a CMS is a fully built web application that is just waiting for you to customize it.
A CMS features a dynamic website, complete with different modules, types of users, extensibility/add-on options, exporting, tagging, commenting, etc that can be created by a web based GUI. Technically, a CMS website has a two tier architecture involving the website and the database. Generally, there is little or no support for middleware, web services and other subtleties. As most of these are written in PHP with MySql as the database, knowledge in these areas definitively help. However, for purists in other language platforms, there are CMSs written other platforms too.
However, the use of CMS doesn’t mean that there would be end of customized (conventional) websites that are created by programmers today. CMS is largely targeted towards creation of web content for individual use and by small and medium scale organizations. What you need is just a basic set of skills like knowledge of servers, etc to get it up and running. Occasionally, you might run into problems and might search from the web based resources and communities for your problem redressal. This process might also involve some hacking inside the application, but broadly speaking, one person having some, if not all, knowledge in website maintenance can easily cater to a large number of such applications.
Broadly speaking, CMSs can be categorized into the following categories:-

1. Portals or General Purpose
These are the most generic versions of CMSs and can be used by non-technical users to publish their own content. Various community websites (like, online resumes, etc can be created using these. They support plug-in architecture, which is used to add specific feature into them. The top CMS solutions for these are: - Joomla( and Drupal(
2. Blogs
Specialized versions of CMS are there that are aimed towards ease of creation and usage for weblogs or blogs. As millions of people use different kinds of blogs today, there is need for ease of creation of these blogs. Best known CMS in this category that comes into my mind is Wordpress (
3. E-Commerce
Even after the dot com burst, there is a steady demand for e-commerce as internet is the way of future. By and large, e-commerce websites provide facilities for product inspection and purchase. This involves both the buyer and seller party in different aspects. So, there exists a well defined category of expectations in this area.Magento( alongwith many others offer easy e-commerce website creation.
4. Wikis
Given the popularity of Wikipedia ( and usage of wikis, both internally and externally. It is not a surprise that wikis are an integral part of Web 2.0 technologies. For ease of creation of wikis, there are a large number of specialized CMSs like MediaWiki( and DokuWiki( alongwith others.
5. Forums
Searching for problems over internet aren’t limited to googling or yahooing (or whichever mutant you decide upon), but involves a community oriented approach. Most of the websites today offer forums and some are even dedicated towards running of these forums. One of the reason Ubuntu is so compelling to use is that for almost any Google search involving ubuntu problems, there is a link to ubuntu forums. Having said that, I'd like to point towards JForum( and MyBB(, whose implementations I use almost every other day.
6. E-Learning
This is also a facet of society that is going to be affected by internet. Usage of this avenue is still in a nascent stage. However, like BPO, this is also expected to pick up and has a large potential, especially from Indian IT Industry point of view. Some of the CMSs that came to my knowledge are Dokeos( and Moodle(
7. Collaboration
Information Systems (IS) begin inside an organization. In order to build a successful intranet, various organizations have gone on that extra mile and created/purchased an in-house solution for themselves. However, open source CMS solutions are also there for the technology and budget constrained crowd. These are also specialized versions of their counterparts and can be used to collaborate between different IS within an organization like MIS and ERP, and between different departments like production, marketing and HR. Alfresco( and Nuxeo( are some of the well-known CMSs aimed at enterprise collaborations.

Thus there are a large number of CMS that are waiting to be used (with minimal of programmer intervention) and are available free of cost. These are also open source software, so if you are interested, then you can see how they are actually coded and can tweak to your needs. Being open sourced also has the added benefit of a community driven approach that helps people to learn and help troubleshoot their problems.

After reading this, I am sure that you must be itching to get started. Wishing you the best of Luck, go add some wings (or webs ?) to your dreams.

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