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Advice on CMS customising static HTML/CSS sites


SLR Web Design

12:54 am on Jan 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hello all. I have taken a read through a lot of posts about CMS and have deduced that there is a lot of good experienced CMS designers and developers here.

What I am trying to do is to allow my client to update their current static HTML/CSS site. For example, they want to update a section of their courses page to include a new course they offer. I have been playing with Joomla and do not like it much.

I looked into LightCMS as an option. I like the idea, but don't want to sign my client up to ongoing monthly costs.

Any suggestions?


4:07 am on Jan 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Hey SLR, welcome aboard!

As I mentioned in my ModX Revolution First Look [webmasterworld.com] thread, I'm going on a testing binge and also looking for super simple CMS that end-users could maintain easily without help.

You don't say why you dislike Joomla, but I'm guessing it's because it's a lot more than you need and you're looking for something simpler. So with that in mind...

I'll be posting some other reviews soon.

For the meantime, WP is pretty easy.

Concrete5 is really easy. I haven't really tested it yet, but I'm afraid there isn't enough granularity in user permissions (can change sitewide blocks too easily). I'm still a little confused as to how to add and remove sitewide blocks (like navigation), but for page-by-page edits, it's one of the most straightforward I've seen.

I also have CMS Made Simple and Silverstripe in the testing queue, both of which I've heard are really straight-forward, but I haven't tried them yet.

So as I say, all of those are in my testing queue. If you feel moved to test one and review it, please do! We can divide and conquer that way.

SLR Web Design

6:35 am on Jan 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thx for the reply ergophobe.

Yes Joomla has more than I need. It is also very PHP heavy. I dislike PHP mostly just because I struggle with it. I have spent the last 12 years working wit HTML and more recently CSS as well.

I just need something that is easy for an HTML old school web designer to use. Something that will let me use my current HTML sites and transform them into CMS capable, allowing clients to change small sections within the current site.

Sorry I might be a bit of a CMS and PHP handicap.

I will take a look at a few of the options in your thread. Happy to test out a few and post basic reviews.


3:35 am on Jan 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Have you looked into Surreal CMS by chance? It's got a decent set of simple tools for the end user while being very simple to install into a static site (via a tiny line of css) in the areas you want to be editable. It's actually free for up to 3 sites I believe, but the pro version is pretty cheap and able to be branded. Only thing people don't seem to like is the fact that it's hosted with them and not on your server. Personally, I don't have an issue with this, but some do. Just another solution to throw into the hat if you're still looking.

Ergophobe, if you have tried this CMS out, I am curious as to your thoughts on it.

SLR Web Design

4:33 am on Jan 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


Your suggestion sounds very similar to LightCMS. This what I am after for my client, but with lightCMS its free for 3 pages, then you pay a monthly hosting fee depending how many pages you have on your site. My client already has hosting for their well established site and I am trying to keep costs down for them.
Ultimately we may decide to go with this arrangement when their current hosting comes due.




7:14 am on Jan 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

>> Surreal CMS

Not yet, but it's on the list now. Thanks!

Over the weekend, I tried Concrete 5, Silverstripe and Joomla again. All perfectly usable and mostly very nice, but nothing to get me to give up my default choices yet. I'll try Surreal though.

SLR Web Design

11:21 am on Jan 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have started on Surreal. Set it all up quite easily.
I am going to have a play over the next day or two. I will put up a review on the other thread.

So far its been really simple. Its also a great way to make regular money from what I can see, and that something that my business needs right nw to survive as I approach the 3 year mark.


6:34 pm on Feb 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Actually, if you do a review, start a new thread with Surreal CMS in the title. That way people will be able to find it easier.

Looking forward to it.


6:52 pm on Feb 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Cool! Glad it worked out for you. I am anxious to see your review of it as well. We are getting ready to start a 3 website project using it as well. They are brochure sites and Joomla is way overkill. I have a feeling even Wordpress would be overkill and Surreal looks like it will fit the bill nicely and I've ready good reviews in other places about it. Looking forward to adding my 2cents once we've used it a bit.


5:15 pm on Feb 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I don't think SurrealCMS will go on my test list in the end. Definitely interested to see what you guys think though if you get a chance.

The reasons I'm not excited about are based on a cursory look on their site. It might be more a messaging problem than an underlying problem with the CMS, but my reservations are based on

1. Their documentation is schematic. Almost nothing on how to theme pages, for example.

2. I need a pro account to even test a custom theme and logo

3. No information on the architecture or how it all works. If Surreal is my CMS, then what exactly is my "website", what data is where and what can I and can't I back up (the "backup" section in the documentation is very vague)?

I don't have a problem with the fact that it's hosted, per se, but I'm really unclear on what's hosted and what isn't. It doesn't seem to be like Wordpress.com where everything is on their server and you set your domain to resolve to their DNS and you're done. It's got this strange thing where you can be hosting at any web host and managing via their CMS via FTP (is it just generating static pages and publishing them to the site like Dreamweaver or something?)

It reminds me of a quote from Harry Potter where Mr Weasley said something like "Never trust something that thinks unless you can see where it keeps its brain."


10:48 pm on Feb 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

there's one I came across before that I don't even know if I'd consider it a CMS due to what's out there now. But it's called le.cms and is designed to be superlight weight.


11:14 pm on Feb 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi, everyone. Cory here. I stumbled across your discussion and thought I'd help clear things up so, if anyone has any questions, feel free to ask away :)

ergophobe, to respond to your concerns, you host your own website and we host the CMS. Picture it as more of a really smart FTP client that you don't have to install. It works really well with existing websites, but you can also design around it as well.

In a nutshell: you take static pages, add class="editable" to one or more HTML elements, and let the CMS do the rest.

Of course, there's a lot more to the feature set than that (webpage history, editors, permissions, page cloning, file manager, image editor, etc.), but that's probably beyond the scope of this discussion.

Again, I'll be happy to answer any questions anyone has.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify things :)


[edited by: eelixduppy at 11:48 pm (utc) on Feb. 2, 2010]
[edit reason] no self promo, see TOS [/edit]


1:32 am on Feb 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Thanks Cory. So in that case, all "data" is still on my server and if Surreal went out of business, I would only be out my expired versions and the interface I'm used to?

That's a little less worrying. Not sure it's for me, but that's a little more clear.

I'm sure that you have tons of time on your hands and nothing better to do ;-), but it might be nice to have some graphics in the documentation that illustrated the relationships.

SLR Web Design

6:16 am on Feb 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Ergophobe, its like Cory says. I have my client's site hosted as per their normal hosting plan. I sign up to Surreal CMS. I choose which sites and which pages within that site can be managed within the CMS.
I then use the editable tag to choose where my client can edit his/her site. I Surreal was unfortunate enough to go down for the count, I just have lines of code that mean nothing in my HTML.
This editable tag is also used by other similar CMS businesses, so I would then just have to choose another company to go to, but would probably have to host with the new one and pay more.

I hope to place the editable tags this week and have a play. Will let you know how it goes.


6:51 am on Feb 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

That's pretty cool actually. I have to say, I had never heard of that model before. Interesting.

Looking forward to your report/review SLR!


6:40 pm on Feb 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

The thing I liked about it also was the class="editable" tags. I know CushyCMS uses these and a few others. If I decide to switch it wouldn't (hopefully) be too hard.


11:00 pm on Feb 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Webalogic can edit any content thus also static HTML

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