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Archive for March, 2008

CMS or Web Application Framework?

March 24th, 2008 No comments

What’s the difference between a successful CMS and a Web Application Framework? Not a big one, I think, for the reasons I’m going to explain in this post.

Let’s start with the definitions. A content management system (CMS) is a web application used to manage and deliver the content of a web site. A web application framework, on the other hand, is a reusable set of code libraries and tools designed to support the development of web applications.

So one might think that a CMS could, or could not, be developed using a framework, and that’s perfectly true, but it’s only part of the whole story.

Things start to get more interesting when we look at a cornerstone feature of successful content management systems, that is their ease of customization and extension. Very often designers and developers need to tailor their CMS, so they tend to prefer those exposing a clear structure and a documented API, in much the same way as an application framework.

The resulting system could well be a content management framework that, out of the box, behaves like a blog platform or a basic CMS but, under the hood, retains the full capabilities of a framework ready to be used.

Real life examples abound. Many systems already advertise themselves as being a content management framework, rather than simply a CMS, from Drupal to PostNuke to eZ publish to SilverStripe to Joomla! to MODx. Even blog platforms, like b2evolution, offer an embedded framework for their users to build upon.

The next logical step is a CMS built using an independently available application framework; both systems, the CMS and the framework, would greatly benefit from the sinergy and the added visibility. Today Plone is probably the only CMS built upon an independent framework (Zope CMF), but that is changing.

A few months ago the Mambo team announced their decision to build Mambo 5.0 using the CakePHP framework. Lately Typo3 announced they are developing an independent framework, Flow3, to build their next 5.0 release. And EllisLab has just announced that ExpressionEngine 2.0 will be based on CodeIgniter, their application framework already available as an independent product.

In my opinion, this trend is going to accelerate, and the most successful Content Management Systems will be strongly tied to a successful Web Application Framework, in a mutually beneficial relationship, and to the best advantage of designers, developers, and final users.

Categories: Articles

Managing eZ publish projects

March 1st, 2008 No comments

[Managing eZ publish projects]

Are you responsible for the implementation and management of eZ publish projects, or are you building sites for medium to large clients? If your answer is yes, then this book will give you a better understanding of all the elements involved in eZ publish Content Management projects.

This is what we can read on the back cover of Managing eZ Publish Web Content Management Projects, and I think this is what we can actually get from this rather unusual book.

I say unusual because this is not a book to learn eZ publish, it’s a project management book for delivering eZ publish solutions. It’s also unusual because, while there are many project management books for software development projects, Content Management (CM) is still a young discipline, and no defined methodologies are currently available to cover the full scope of CM projects.

This book, published by Packt, is then an attempt to define a set of practices to help project managers deal with CM projects until suitable methodologies emerge. The author, Martin Bauer, is the Managing Director of designIT, an Australian based CM specialist practice, and has ten years experience in web development and web based content management.

You can find a general description of this book contents on the publisher’s site (Managing eZ Publish Web Content Management Projects), so I am not going to duplicate that information here. I prefer to report my own experience while going through the information packed chapters of this book.

I might group the thirteen chapters, according to their content, in:

a) Chapters mostly related to software development projects in general, containing sound advice for both “traditional” and CM projects: chapters 4, 7, 8, 9 and 12 fall in this category, covering Project Definition, Planning and Pricing, Risk Management, Open Project Management, and User Training;

b) A chapter mostly related to the eZ publish Content Management System (CMS), giving an overview of this powerful CMS: chapter 3 explains Content Classes, Nodes and Locations, Sections, Templates, Access Control, Workflow and Extensions;

c) Chapters mostly related to content management projects, containing specific practices tailored to this young discipline, like chapters 1, 2, 5, 6, 10, 11 and 13, covering Content Modeling, Implementation, Testing and Support of eZ publish sites.

I enjoyed reading the whole book, but the chapters in the last group are the ones I like the best, because they bring so many insights into the fascinating world of content management projects.

Categories: Articles