I’ve spent the last few weeks looking for a good, inexpensive content management system, one which could serve as a replacement for the inadequate, buggy platform on which a project I’m involved in runs. I’ve installed about two dozen of the options out there, and evaluated twice as many more , and I have to say that there’s truly nothing inspiring to speak of. Nearly every CMS is built on its own confusing, overengineered foundation, and as a result, they all build equally confusing and overengineered websites. In addition, most of the CMSes focus too much on specialized features rather than generalized content management, incorporating modules that add weblogs, shops, bookmarks, Google searches, P2P messaging, photo galleries, polls, and advertising banners, among many other things. And then, to top it all off, pretty much none of the CMS options have documentation that’s worth a damn, making it that much harder to figure out the workflow and structure of the data representing the all-important content.
After seeing so many recurrent issues, I’m starting to believe that they’re not problems with the products, but rather, problems with the entire idea of content management systems that are applicable across projects and industries. Vignette may be great for news sites, but it doesn’t hold up as a medical database; Slash works out well as an online forum, but it’s a poor fit for a photo gallery site. The site I want to move is specialized in its own way, as well, and finding a CMS that works for its purposes without forcing users to jump through unnecessary hoops is proving to be immmensely difficult. Thus, I’m now at a crossroads: keep looking and thinking about how to work around the structure of a CMS, or decide to build my own. Maybe the latter option is the best, acknowledging as it does that there’s no such thing as a content management system that can manage every single website.