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To use or not to use a CMS - I need careful advice





Da Rossa
Hey guys & girls,
I have this site http://notasdeaula.org.
I've been working on it alone since 2008. Would mean, in Portuguese, "classnotes.org". I typed virtually everything the professors told us in the Law School classes. So the site aims to harbor all information pertaining to the Law subject. Only I couldn't do 100%, but I was close. My peers use it and find very useful till the present day.

As you can see, the site is basic html and css. The design is old fashioned an doesn't look good either on large screens or in portable devices (it's not responsive). So despite me being away from the Law School for a while now, the site is still online and I intend to keep it on forever, even if the information gets outdated.

Since there are semesters, subjects and classes, I was thinking about migrating it to WordPress to take advantage of its database capabilities. But WordPress is not that flexible; and does have its security issues (minor, I understand). Every semester has its subjects, every subject has approx 25-30 classes per semester, each discussing one topic, and, inside, many subtopics and keywords to be noted, since they're words of interest for the students to search.

For instance: one of the major subjects is the Civil Law, something we study for as much as seven semesters. In the fourth semester we study Civil Law III, which is the general theory of obligations. Every class we discuss a different type of obligation, and every type of obligation has their own keywords associated with. I could use something like the tags and categories in WordPress to build a structure, but maybe things would be too cluttered.

So I heard that, if I want something that is really MINE, then I would not use a CMS, instead I would code myself and create a database from scratch.

Only I don't know anything about MySQL to begin with, nor PHP. What should I do?
badai
wordpress! wordpress! wordpress!
Da Rossa
badai wrote:
wordpress! wordpress! wordpress!


Calm down. Did you take a loot at my site? Doesn't need to know Portuguese. And could you (please) elaborate a little more on that? Why WordPress?
SonLight
I don't know what would work best in the long run, and perhaps no one can. What I would suggest is experimenting with a few pages in a new format, perhaps even more than one, before committing to convert the whole site. The present format looks quite useful. I would recommend keeping it as the "legacy" version -- of course any new version would initially be a beta version. Some people will doubtless prefer the original format, and it should cost almost nothing to keep it.

Initially, you might try providing a site search to find things by keyword and possibly an index for the old site. I would suggest you not consider custom programming unless you are very committed to learning both php and mysql.

Wordpress is a simple solution for your next step forward. After applying some indexing to the old version, hopefully automating the process, you should be able to use that data to add tags. Try the features and find the limitations of wordpress. If you find it easy to automate the conversion, you can try it with the whole site, otherwise just try a few pages to get the idea.

If you don't like the result in wordpress, you can get advice for extensions that might help, or ask about doing the features the way you want them with different cms codes. It shouldn't take a lot of effort to try stuff, although the cms's will likely have more of a learning curve.

One other possibility is using fancier css coding. You can produce any appearance with css; I just don't know how much effort it would take. You would probably need to hand code a few pages to try it, but it would be important to thoroughly automate the conversion of the whole site. You would probably want to finish with just a site search and one or more auto-generated indexes for finding keywords, in order to avoid a lot of database and php coding. it would probably make sense to use a little php and/or javascript, as long as you could use standard pre-programmed scripts.
Da Rossa
Quote:
I don't know what would work best in the long run, and perhaps no one can. What I would suggest is experimenting with a few pages in a new format, perhaps even more than one, before committing to convert the whole site. The present format looks quite useful. I would recommend keeping it as the "legacy" version -- of course any new version would initially be a beta version. Some people will doubtless prefer the original format, and it should cost almost nothing to keep it.


Tip noted, SonLight.

Quote:
Initially, you might try providing a site search to find things by keyword and possibly an index for the old site. I would suggest you not consider custom programming unless you are very committed to learning both php and mysql.


The thing is that I don't think I'll "have time in time", but I'm looking forward to learn PHP and MySQL. Actually, I heard MySQL has been acquired by Microsoft and changed name, is that right? Should I be worried about anything?

Quote:
Wordpress is a simple solution for your next step forward. After applying some indexing to the old version, hopefully automating the process, you should be able to use that data to add tags. Try the features and find the limitations of wordpress. If you find it easy to automate the conversion, you can try it with the whole site, otherwise just try a few pages to get the idea.


That was what I was intending to do. But I didn't get how exactly I would 'apply indexing to the old version'; the old site will stay there, and I really would like to re-read the entire thing to make corrections in it, but there are over 8000 pages. So from your last paragraph I take it that you mean a automated indexing process, a bot. But which one, which method?

Thanks a lot SonLight!
SonLight
Google custom search would be a useful and almost trivial addition. Making an index page is much harder. You can scan the text for keywords, manually exclude and include words according to your judgment of their usefulness, add phrases, etc. What you then have might be a slight impovement on the google search -- and is helpful for people who cannot think of the right word to search on. I question the wisdom of doing much of this.

Perhaps you might want to get a list of a few hundred keywords that are important to the law and index on those only. You can find existing software or even word procesors that will build indexes for you. You probably will need to do some custom programming to format the result the way you want it. My guess is it would be better to wait and do it in the wordpress version, which should have tools for it.

To really do a proper index requires choosing topics and classifying each lecture accordingly. You have already begun that with some categories, etc.
codegeek
To me, it seems like yours would be an ideal case for using a CMS. You have a lot of content on the site that you would like to manage without much hassle, without having to worry about manual coding, security and stuff like that. Moreover, you might also want a commenting system in place or perhaps a review system. All these can be done easiest by using a CMS. Why reinvent the wheel when you don't have to? Why code a website based on content from scratch and not use a CMS? So, I'd suggest you at least give it a try. Please post your experiences here as I'm curious what, if any, functionality you'd lose having once shifted to a CMS.
amagard
Found that great web site to list and compare CMS: cmsmatrix.org

About Wordpress they say:
Quote:
WordPress is web software you can use to create beautiful websites and blogs. We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.


Wordpress is mainly a blogging platform and thus supports commenting, but might lack many other features provided by other CMS like versioning. However it comes with many plugins - and features like versioning, or wikis or newsletter or graphs and charts can be implemented thru plugins. Just look at the feature list of any of the CMS to figure out whether it fulfills your needs.
To create a simple web page with a consistent look and feel Wordpress might be more than sufficient, I also use it here and then to quickly come up with a web site. It is certainly easy to use, which to me is one of the most important features.
Da Rossa
Thanks again, SonLight. Sorry you all for the late response.

Quote:
To me, it seems like yours would be an ideal case for using a CMS. You have a lot of content on the site that you would like to manage without much hassle, without having to worry about manual coding, security and stuff like that. Moreover, you might also want a commenting system in place or perhaps a review system. All these can be done easiest by using a CMS. Why reinvent the wheel when you don't have to? Why code a website based on content from scratch and not use a CMS? So, I'd suggest you at least give it a try. Please post your experiences here as I'm curious what, if any, functionality you'd lose having once shifted to a CMS.


I was thinking about that. WordPress has already a decent platform. The only thing is the difficulty to create a new theme. But you're right about reinventing the wheel.

Quote:

Wordpress is mainly a blogging platform and thus supports commenting, but might lack many other features provided by other CMS like versioning. However it comes with many plugins - and features like versioning, or wikis or newsletter or graphs and charts can be implemented thru plugins. Just look at the feature list of any of the CMS to figure out whether it fulfills your needs.
To create a simple web page with a consistent look and feel Wordpress might be more than sufficient, I also use it here and then to quickly come up with a web site. It is certainly easy to use, which to me is one of the most important features.


Are you saying WordPress doesn't exactly have the best flexibility? Is that level of flexibility needed for the purpose I described?

Thanks for your answers so far people!
shumicpi
Dont use Joomla, it has lots of bug and also not SEO friendly. Instead use wordpress.
Da Rossa
What about Drupal and Concrete5? WordPress has its own shortcommings they say..
Marcuzzo
Da Rossa wrote:
What about Drupal and Concrete5? WordPress has its own shortcommings they say..


Drupal is also a good CMS but it is much more then just that. Wordpress ( while never having used it) is known to be a good blogging platform whereas Drupal is expandable with plugins and the like.
dubiousa
security vise i would advise you to look into python based cms.
for example plone seems to be a good solution.

im also working on a community site with various user rights and an "frontend" open to anybody, and am now looking at plone(python) and ametys(java) as possible solutions.

my hosting is not supporting python, so i will have to find another way to try it out Smile

from the php CMS's i know DRUPAL is nice and stable, you can do a lot with it, but the learning curve of some modules may be steep.
Da Rossa
Thanks for your feedback dubiousa, and sorry for the long time to post again.
I'll take a look at plone.

Thanks again!
zacky
I know there are plenty of advice going around here but I'd still like to share my opinion.

I also studied basic Law as part of my Curriculum such as Obligations and Contract, Taxation, Civil, Labor Code and etc., so this gives me a way to understand the need for the site.

Since this will deal with different articles, the most important feature of your site should be search engine and readability plus portability. However the technology will only gives you the way of being handy and ease of use but still the owner of the site should still manage to categorize the principal, sub-topics and its children (tree view).

Going to the question, CMS is good nor any web platform. However you need to consider the lifespan of this technology. Wordpress, Drupal and related cannot live forever and becomes obsolete. Maintenance should also need to put into consideration which includes the security. So with being said, regardless of choice, you will still deal with it.

Doing things on your own is good, you have this full control and you know what are things happening on your site in case it went wrong. However its pain in the head when it comes to site maintenance, optimization and enhancement as you need to do this on your own giving dedicated time.

So where am I now? If your planning to have this site forever just like you said, and you have enough income to support it, why not purchase an online CMS platform that hosts, maintain and improve for you over the years? Data migration will be easy as well in case the company decided to go off as long as you will ride on the same boat (platform technology).

Cheers and good luck!
cps31
Without any doubt it should wordpress and it is very much SEO friendly.
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