Open Source CMSs – What the?

I’ve never looked into CMSs all that much. Being the geek that I am, I’ve always written ones from scratch for any sites I’ve worked on. But this time around, I decided to take a look at some of the open source CMS products that are out there, figuring I’d save myself some time. Boy was I wrong.

My first step was to go to to try out the demo sites they have set up. For those unfamiliar, sets up a bunch of popular open source Web management systems, from blogs to CMSs, and allows you to play around with them. It resets each demo to its default installation every two hours, so even if something gets messed up, it’s fixed again fairly soon. In any event, I tried all of the CMSs listed on their and came to the conclusion that most of them are written for geeks, not real users.

When I’m setting up a Web site, I’m doing it for someone who doesn’t know anything about Web development and therefore needs a simple system to manage it. All of the ones I tried were all way too complex for the average user (i.e., my mom) to even begin to use without my help. This completely defeats the purpose of setting up a CMS in the first place! If they have to bug me every time they need a site update, the CMS isn’t doing it’s job. I completely agree with Jeffrey Veen’s take on open source CMSs: what are the developers thinking? (Read it over, he hits every nail on the head.)

So in the end, it looks like I’m going to end up setting up my own CMS yet again just to be sure it’s easy enough for the people who need to use it. Maybe someday there will be an open source CMS that gets it; until then, I guess I have a lot of work ahead of me.


  1. Julian Turner

    A friend of a friend was recently made redundant, and so decided to try his luck in the web page field. He had little or no experience, but a lot of stamina, and has managed to set up a business providing simple pages using the Mambo CMS. He has no interest in learning the technology, and he seems to have got away with this using that CMS. He concentrates on just making simple offerings with good content and graphic design. Perhaps that is the approach you need to use CMSs.

  2. Nicholas C. Zakas

    Mambo was one of the ones I looked at. It took me a while to figure out where to go to do what, and there&#039s definitely no way that my users would understand it. If it were just up to me to set something up for my own updating, it would be fine, but giving it to people who have little or no technical expertise just won&#039t work.

  3. Julian Turner

    Fair point. I speculate that some CMS&#039s are targeted at the sort of developer who has enough technical expertise to implement the CMS (enabling him or her to offer a certain level of web page design and hosting to small businesses/organisations), but not enough expertise or perhaps time to write something equivalent or better.

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