Whether you’re a startup creating your first website or an established business looking for a redesign, choosing a Content Management System (CMS) will be one of your first, and most important, steps.
A CMS allows you to publish, modify, and edit content on your website. One of the most popular examples is WordPress, the CMS for more than 60 million websites, but there are plenty of other CMS options out there. Depending on your needs, these options may better suit your site than the limitations of WordPress.
Crystal Flash, a Michigan-based commercial and residential propane provider, recently decided to overhaul their website with a fresh look and improved user experience. They were frustrated with their current CMS because it was difficult for multiple users to update and edit content. They were looking for something open source and customizable with an easy admin portal for changing content.
They chose Orchard CMS because it not only met their requirements but also is a .NET CMS that can easily be supported. This means that as a business you are able to get a large community of developers to customize the Orchard CMS.
Orchard is really easy to use for .NET developers and thus is easy to customize. Our team at CQL has found that the power you get with Orchard is something they haven’t found with other CMS systems.
Using a CMS like WordPress, if you want to make a site do something specific or customize it in some way, you need to find a module someone else built or implement one yourself. Not only can it be difficult to find these modules, but if they don’t exist it could throw a wrench in development. WordPress modules for some kinds of functionality can also be difficult to develop fully without needing to alter the core WordPress source code, which creates maintenance issues going forward.
The Crystal Flash site required a lot of customization, and much of the simple work was already implemented in Orchard modules. The team was able to use these modules in order to keep focused exclusively on the more complex customized content. Orchard is designed to be easily extensible, so the developers focused on the public user interface without having to modify the underlying Orchard framework or worry about things like content entry, permissions, and storage.
Orchard is also very dynamic. Rather than having to create the same parts for multiple different pages, you can create one definition and insert instances of it anywhere you want on the site. For example, Crystal Flash wanted to display different pieces of content that offered discounts and promotions on several different pages. We were able to create those pieces and add the same piece to whichever pages needed them, and it won’t require a developer to change the content later.
It’s not just the front end you are able to customize in Orchard, but also the administration section. It was very important to make the site easy to change and update over time because Crystal Flash has seasonal promotions and information they want to share with customers.
Because Orchard is so flexible out of the box, CQL didn’t need to spend much time customizing the admin to deliver an easy-to-use experience. Anyone, even those without any technical knowledge, can edit text, add or change photos, swap content between pages or create new content using templates (“Content Definitions”) that are defined directly through the admin tool.
Personally speaking, as a non-technical team member I found the customized Orchard admin simple to use. After a two-minute tutorial from one of our developers I was able to create and add pages, upload photos, create new modules, etc. Now, anyone at Crystal Flash can modify any page as necessary, no code needed.
We recommend considering Orchard as a CMS if you’re looking for a site that is highly customizable, open source, and where a user-friendly admin is important. Also, because it is .NET you will be able to very easily make updates, changes, or revisions to the site as necessary in the future.
Photo via Flickr