Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Content Manglement, Open and Shut Cases

It’s a nice, hot, steamy summer day. A good time to sit in your well air-conditioned computer room with raised floors and play with some toys, er, tools to help you administer your church and/or charity web site. Perhaps one of the most needed tools is that of content management system (CMS) … which as you can tell from the title, can become content ‘managlement’ if the wrong tool is applied to the wrong situation.

So which CMS am I going to suggest? None of them!

I’m not trying to be a wisenheimer, but the fact is that I simply don’t have the necessary information to make such a recommendation. I’ve got no clue of what your budget is, nor do I have an idea of your organization’s goals. I can only guestimate your level of expertise from your current web site. Even then, I have nothing that tells me how competent or technically savvy your volunteers and/or church staff are … provided you even have that. Most importantly, I am sans any of the mandatory ‘marketing’ info that would give me a clue as to what features are needed for your site based upon your the needs and desires of your ‘customers.’ For example, what is their age, gender, type of Internet connection, their top three reasons for visiting your site?

So unless you hire me away from the full-time job that keeps my family fed and this site running, you’re the one who’s going to have to perform some type of needs analysis — and then based upon those results — take time to test a variety of candidate applications.

In other words, you should NEVER, NEVER, EVER, EVER select a software application until you have at least performed some form of needs analysis. Resist the urge to put the cart before the horse and instead take inventory of what you have, make of list of what your organization want versus what your users need, then make your mistakes in paper first. A process I describe in some detail in one of my very first posts entitled 1st Impressions 2. Once you’ve got an idea (or at least a smattering of a clue) of your needs, then you can think about content management systems.

A good place to start is opensourceCMS.com, a site “created with one goal in mind. To give you the opportunity to ‘try out’ some of the best php/mysql based free and open source software systems in the world.” There the site lists many of the Open ‘Sores’ CMSes I mentioned experimenting with last year in “In Search of the Perfect CMS.

Once you’ve been totally overwhelmed by the wide variety of selections at opensourceCMS.com, I would then suggest a quick read over at one of my favorite (and vastly underrated) techblogs, Gadgetopia. Specifically, read the article “Open and Closed Content Management.” There, Deane discusses some of the limitations of managing content “within proscribed guidelines” or what I like to call “content management in a can.” Limitations I found myself up against when I recently wrote several plug-ins, templates and other custom programs to make MovableType work and play like a content management system.

So, to recap, once you’ve got a grip of your needs, then you can make horrible mutated experiments with some of my favorite CMSes (in no particular order – other than alphabetical):

Okay, my 3.5 year old daughter is now standing at the top of the steps yelling at the top of her lungs “Daddy, are you ready to go swimming?” Hey, it sure beats being stuck inside of an air-conditioned computer room with raised floors shooting one’s foot off with a variety of content management systems.


  1. For the most part, using the PHPNuke variations and /code are more complicated than the basic blogCMS’s listed.

    If you have little programming knowledge, dealing with Movable Type tags, beats tooling around in a PHPNuke tempate with a mass of PHP that can easily foul up a template.

  2. Have you looked into CityDesk ( http://www.fogcreek.com/CityDesk/ )? I’m designing a church web site right now in CityDesk and it’s quite powerful. I also use it to keep my weblog on my site. I’ve been incredibly pleased with its reliability and ease of use.

    Since it runs on the desktop and publishes via ftp to your server, it is not for churches who have extremely distributed teams working on the web site. But if you’ve got a small group of people updating a site and you can all get to a shared folder on the church network, it’s very powerful.