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Why should I build a full blown custom CMS?

2:32 pm on Jan 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

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

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After almost 13 years online, I'm still a bit perplexed when it comes to Content Management Systems and how they've evolved.

I've been using FrontPage since it was a VTI (Vermeer Technologies Inc) product, before Microsoft bought it on 1996/01/16. Ever since I got my hands on it, the original person who turned me on to it set me up with a web based login at the server (using FP Extensions) which allowed me to browse to any of my sites, click the Edit button in IE and begin editing that site live after entering my login credentials. It didn't get any simpler than that.

Over the years, I've learned the ins and outs of using FrontPage and have also moved well into the advanced features of FP and EWD (Expression Web Design). After all this time, I'm convinced that the small to medium website owner could save themselves a bunch of money and headache by using one of the popular WYSIWYG programs along with their CMS utilities.

I'm going to use FrontPage/EWD as an example as that is my stomping grounds. I know DW has a fairly robust package too called Contribute. I'm not sure how it compares to what FP offers but if it is anything similar, you don't need a custom CMS!

For me, the beginning of your CMS starts at the webpage design level. You've got to set up your templates and those will be the central focus of everything you do from that point forward. In FrontPage, you can use a method called Dynamic Web Templates. You build a master page and then associate that with all those pages that utilize it. That master page typically contains all the graphics, static navigation, etc, the shell of the site without any content.

Then you have your static pages (usually brochureware) that reference that master page (or pages). When a person browses to that page for editing, clicks the Edit button in their IE toolbar, enters their login credentials, they are now live at the server and the page they browsed to is open in their copy of FP/EWD.

You can configure everything so it is pretty much bulletproof and the user cannot mess things up. It all comes down to how much control you wish to give to those who are editing. You can put your editable regions inside elements which only allows the user to edit the text within that element. Or, you can put them outside elements which allows users to change those from a <p> to a <ul> or whatever.

I should point out that I'm leaving out a few things in regards to configuring the users copy of FP/EWD so it is intuitive and based strictly on the editing guidelines of the site. You add and remove specific buttons from the users toolbar so they can't do something they were informed not to do. ;)

DWT's are locked at the page editing level. So, anything in that "containing shell" is off limits to the user. They would have to go to the Master Page(s) and edit from there. You can keep them from touching those Master Page(s) through permissions.

I'm tellin' ya, many of you don't need all the bells and whistles of an expensive CMS, it just adds more confusion into the mix and makes what should be a simple process, a complex one. Programmers have this tendency to overcomplicate things sometimes. :)

Yes, FrontPage has a robust document management system (DMS). You can use Document Checkin and Checkout which prevents two people from editing the same page. All changes are documented within FrontPage's reporting features so you can see who did what and when. If everyone within the editing team is using the program properly, I feel your WYSIWYG environment is far superior to "most" CMS programs out there.

Is there something I'm missing? Why do I need all of that additional code, logic, etc. when I already have it in place out of the box?

10:33 am on Jan 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

Administrator from JP 

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

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The biggest problems I've run into trying to implement this have been the costs involved. Each user of the FP/EWD CMS users has to have a licenced copy of the software, and to get the most out of it you need Windows hosting. This costs more than *nix hosting and an open source alternative.