I test out a lot of content management/publishing systems. A lot.
As someone who runs a couple of websites, I make it my business to check out different publishing systems and see how they’re cobbled together. Some systems are pretty straightforward to set up and conducive to publishing straight out of the box.
WordPress, for example, is a wonderful publishing tool and more flexible than you might give it credit for: photoblogs, text blogs, magazine style sites are all possible. Bolt on BuddyPress and you’ve got a basic social network with some of the best elements of Twitter and Facebook. Themeing is a snap, and it’s notoriously good for SEO benefits. What it lacks out of the box can be filled in by some extremely well-written plugins.
We run Unreality TV and a sister site off WordPress, and have done since 2005. The improvements to the platform since then have been breathtaking, especially the one-click upgrades and the very slick administration pages.
But I love Drupal. I saw the promise of Drupal quite a few years ago. I hate to criticise, but Drupal is an incredibly cumbersome beast. I’ve used it to build Unreality Shout (and a couple of other sites that were intended as community sites). For all its flexibility, Drupal still hasn’t got basic out-of-the-box functionality right: media uploading is a minefield and still horrible. Drafts aren’t autosaved, so when things crash, people lose everything. That might be OK for my personal blog, but when it’s members of the site, they get incredibly pissed off.
Anyway, it’s not my point to list reasons why I’m slightly disillusioned with Drupal. The contrast that I’m aiming for is that WordPress is more or less ready straight out of the box. With Drupal, once you’ve finished tinkering with content types, getting a WYSIWYG editor up and running and making sure Pathauto is properly configured, you’re almost too tired to create content. I’m serious.
The other point of this post was to mention Tumblr. I’ve had a Tumblr account for ages. It aggregates stuff I’ve published on my RSS feeds here and on Shout. It pulls in my tweets from my personal Twitter account. And now, I’ve decided to use it for minutae: pics I’ve found, links to other blogs about pop culture, web design, Drupal! and whatever else tickles my fancy.
I’ve been surprised at the features that come with Tumblr, perhaps surprised at how straighforward it was to set up the account, select a theme and pull in content or create new content. There’s a bookmarklet to make sharing even easier, and within the Tumblr dashboard, you can follow other users and reblog things you find interesting. Oh, and you can email posts to a private email address if you like that sort of thing.
As a lifeblogging platform, I love it. And you know the best bit? No worrying about performance, disk limits or scalability – it’s all hosted on Tumblr’s platform, so those problems are someone else’s. You just use it.
I’ve checked out a ton of other services – I’ve been a FriendFeed user for ages now. Still haven’t got a clue what the point of that site is – but then among my friends, most aren’t that web-savvy, so there’s no personal investment there. Most of the people I know personally are on Facebook, the professional types are on Twitter.
I’ve also tried out the beta version of Drupal Gardens (Drupal’s hosted version, something like WordPress.com, but with Drupal as the underlying system). It seems to be based on the forthcoming Drupal 7 and features some of the so-called UI improvements for users. It’s nice, but a long way off what I’d consider to be essential usability features my users would appreciate. But it’s nice to see they’ve got a WYSIWYG editor bundled there. Now, what about those workflow improvements, like drafts, scheduling posts and autosave?
Apologies for the rather inexplicable post today – it’s more of a scattergun missive featuring various thoughts I’ve had on content management systems recently.