Converting a static website to a CMS site – part 1

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Yet another website upgrade that is becoming more and more popular these days is giving someone the ability to edit their own content themselves. This kind of site is usually made up of: (a) an administration section for making changes to page content; (b) a database for storing the content; and (c) the live pages that the public sees after the content is grabbed from the database. It’s called a CMS, which is an acronym for Content Management System.

It’s easily understandable why someone would want to have their site changed, or even produced from the beginning, to be self-editable. For one thing, it eliminates the need of having to go to a website programmer whenever even the smallest changes need to be made. It can also give a website owner a feeling of control over his site, since he is now able to edit his own content, and add his own pages.

Giving the administrator the ability to edit the content of her own site does not come without its problems, however. If the administrator is able to make her own changes to her site, and given too much power over what can go into the content area, it can adversely affect the look and feel of the site. So, usually, we will have to impose limits on what the administrator can do, by removing buttons and functions from the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor that is typically used for writing and editing content for the pages.

Now, to get started in converting a static website to a CMS site, it’s usually a good idea to fix up the code first. There are actually some really messy, careless coders out there, so the code might be a nightmare for you to work with if you don’t fix it up first. Some things to look for:

  • Code that is not indented properly. Many programmers care a lot more about how much money they can make than about how clean their code is. You’ll often have to start from the beginning of the document, and indent everything properly, so you get a good look at the structure of the site, and make sure all the tags are opened and closed properly.
  • Attributes that are not in quotes.
  • More code is used than is necessary. Some programmers like to nest multiple tables inside each other to do something that often requires no table at all. You shouldn’t have a problem with using tables when they are needed, but often they are over-used.

It’s not necessary that you fix another programmer’s code before converting it to work with a CMS, but it will sure make things easier for you, and you’ll also end up with a cleaner looking site.

Now, you should have a nicely indented, clean looking HTML page for you to start adding your PHP code to in order to get it communicating with your CMS. But which CMS should you use? Now that is a good question. There are so many good ones out there now, it’s not an easy task to pick one out. A lot of people have their favorite one. Some of the more popular ones out there now are Drupal, Joomla, and CMS Made Simple. I recommend doing your own research, though, to find out what people are saying about them. A good site to go to for your research is Open Source CMS. At last count, they had 114 open source CMS applications listed and rated on their site.

Website BakerPersonally, my favorite CMS to use is one that is not nearly as popular as Drupal or Joomla. It’s called Website Baker. I like it, mainly, because of it’s simplicity. Compared to Drupal and Joomla, its code is much lighter, containing less bells and whistles, but still has everything that is needed for a solid CMS. My customers are also able to learn their way around the administration area of Website Baker really fast, which is quite a different experience compared to the other big CMS applications.

In part 2 of Converting a static website to a CMS site, I’ll show you how you can use Website Baker to convert your HTML page into a powerful CMS site that you and/or your customers will be happy with.

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