Consider SilverStripe for your Content Management

Posted by John Learn on 6 August 2010

You may already be familiar with the open source content management systems Joomla and Drupal. These platforms allow content authors to easily update a website without a in-depth knowledge of HTML, CSS or other web technologies. Often the first decision in a new website project comes down to a choice between the two, but there's one more you might want to throw into the mix that offers some unique advantages.

Unrestricted Flexibility in Site Design

Have you ever been to a website that "feels" like Joomla? The layout of the login form, those familiar little download icons — it's enough to make the site feel just a tad bit "recycled". Even with third-party components, aside from a few font and color changes, a JEvents installation on one site looks just like a JEvents installation on another site.

The reason for this is simple: the degree to which you can customize a module in Joomla depends on what the original developer allows.  If they don't give you an option to change the text on the "Login" button, you can't change the text. Yes, it's open source, so you can always dive into the PHP, hack up the code and, hopefully, get it to do what you want. However, when you do that you're diverging from the original codebase, so you have to reapply your changes with every patch or security update you install.  That's rife with error and gets tiresome very quickly.

With SilverStripe, component behavior is kept separate from presentation by means of a well-designed templating system.  You can "skin" any component — core, third-party, custom-developed — by writing your own ".ss" template file to change the way it is displayed.  Your template files are kept separate from the component's, so upgrading is no longer an issue.

Intuitive Administrative Interface

The Site Tree

Joomla takes great pains to separate content (articles) from navigation (menus). Whether this is a good thing or not is debatable, but often I find that it is a source of confusion for the site administrators and authors. Frequently, a writer will post an article, publish it and then spend hours trying to figure out why it's not showing up where they intended. You can argue that that is a training issue, but I would propose that it needn't be that difficult in the first place.

SilverStripe's uses a site tree-based model for organization of content. The menu structure and the organization of pages are the same; if you add a page under "Services", that's where it will show up on the front-end. Yes, this is less flexible than with Joomla, but 95% of the time, you don't need that additional flexibility.

Easily Extensible to fit Any Need

Drupal is customizable, certainly; that is one of it's main selling points. Unfortunately, with that customizability comes a degree of complexity that's intimidating for developers and content managers alike. For this reason, Drupal is usually used only for large sites that require a level of custom functionality that's not easily attainable with Joomla.

Look, I added Blogging functionality!

SilverStripe's development platform enables the addition of functionality to a site quickly, and in a manner that seamlessly integrates administrative functions into the existing back end.  With only a few lines of code, a developer can add a custom page type, add a new configuration panel to the administration interface for it, and generate the database structure required to support it.

Conclusion

This has been just a quick summary of a few of the features that have made SilverStripe a very serviceable alternative to Joomla and Drupal for my organization. We plan on using it a lot more on our upcoming projects. I invite you to visit www.silverstripe.org and read more about this promising CMS for yourself.