Enterprise Software

Designing websites without code

You don't necessarily have to know how to code to produce a website these days. Ryan Boudreaux looks at some of the platforms that allow for easy, rapid website development.

A trend toward creating websites for the masses without knowing a line of code seems to be catching on. I will briefly highlight the three platforms that many organizations are using, and without going into too much detail, I will describe some of their attributes and inroads they have made in the web development community.

Several content management systems (CMS) have amassed a large following in the past several years, including WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. These three are at the top of the list, but there are plenty of others out there to choose from. Each of these systems utilizes a graphical user interface that bridges the gap between coding your own and getting content into production. If you are creating customizations of themes and templating, this still requires coding, but many folks use these platforms straight out of the box.

There are benefits to these systems and while some of them do require a longer and steeper learning curve, with little skill, you can have a decent website up in hours or days.

WordPress

WordPress, the semantic personal publishing platform, for example, is probably one of the easiest for the novice web designer. Many hosting providers will automatically install WordPress and set up the MySQL database for the backend -- all you have to do is assign an administrator, a few passwords, and you are all set. Adding content is easy with the dashboard; type or copy text or code by hand, and you are done. WordPress also features an import and export utility that is helpful. And now that WordPress is into version 3.01 it has moved from the "best blogging platform" and into a full-fledged content management system. Examples of organizations that currently utilize WordPress for their web development platform are Reuters, Flickr, Harvard Law School, OpenID, and 2Advanced Studios.

Drupal

Several United States Federal government agencies are using Drupal as their web development platform today, including the White House website. The EPA is currently looking into using it for its public website. Drupal is currently used by many other well known sites such as Grammy.com, Intel, AT&T, and CNNGo.com, to name a few.

Joomla

Joomla is a more advanced CMS, and its functionality requires a bit more expertise than, say, a WordPress installation, but it still offers an easy interface to quickly build inventory control systems, data reporting tools, reservation systems, integration for e-commerce systems, and custom product catalogs. Joomla CMS platform is currently utilized for powering these sites: Deep Purple (that's right, the rock band), Epson R&D, and Porsche Brazil just to name a few.

A few questions

Are these open source rapid development CMS platforms taking over from traditional systems and previous coding practices? It sure seems that they are catching on with many government, business, and non-profit organizations. With many of them being free and open source platforms, it makes sense for organizations that are looking to pinch pennies; not having to pay thousands in licensing is a boon to the bottom line.

  • Do you think CMS platforms will become the mainstream development tools for organizations web development, web masters, designers, and developers?
  • Does your organization currently use any of these platforms?
  • If so, how has this affected the workload and coding that your developers did before the CMS implementation?

About

Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

14 comments
cutting
cutting

I have used NVU for years and have never had any serious problems with it. With some playing around and learning the options that will be useful for the site being maintained, this program is OUTSTANDING.

jlgordon
jlgordon

Oracle Application Express is more of a no (or minimal) code application framework for secure, scalable db driven web apps that I have grown to appreciate... and it is free. SQL and PL/SQL knowledge is beneficial but not required. I have used this to develop some very complex applications with an intuitive UI, enforced workflow, audit trail, field validations, charts, declarative ajax and much more.

Justin James
Justin James

I've set up Drupal sites and I've set up WordPress sites, WP can be used pretty easily. But Drupal is a bloody nightmare. You might not be writing code, but it sure helps to know how to read it to get stuff done. For a site that doesn't need people doing things like commenting or posting to forums, you are better off with a system like HomeSite or Expression Web which lets you define templates and generate static pages than Drupal. J.Ja

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

their comfort zone, they produce absolute garbage. Write a website without code might be a laudable idea, write one without any knowledge of how the web works is feeble minded drivel encouraged by incompetents who merely want to create yet another artificial abundance of "qualified" developers. Try scaling the rubbish these things come out with....

dogknees
dogknees

If these were mature tools, they would optimise all code and behaviour in the same way modern compilers do. If they don't perhaps they aren't as mature as their vendors/spruikers think they are.

Jaqui
Jaqui

but yeah, these bloated cms systems are being abused, just as jquery is, tables and frames were. and yup, they fill the site with bad generated code that is excessive in it's data transfer requirements. and QUALITY website developer would never choose to use such bloated scripts, they are the refuge of the INCOMPETENT.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

One of the most annoying things about web sites designed by other applications is that they usually end up overloaded with excess code, scripts calling other scripts calling other scripts, propriety software required to view, lots of bells and whistles that aren't needed, and all that requires a hell of a lot more bandwidth and time to download than a well written site does. I know an experienced person can go back in and tighten the code etc., but the average person using these programs doesn't know how to make them tighter. It's applications like this that encourage graphics artists to design pretty web sites without any knowledge or understanding of coding - and often end up with bloated web sites or ones that will only work in something like flash, etc. Personally, I think anyone who does not learn the basics of coding and doesn't check the finished product for tight code should NEVER be allowed to design a web page or site.

spearson@8herons.com
spearson@8herons.com

I quit using NVU years back when it crashed and took all my SAVED work with it. Wiped out everything in the whole directory.

lesterBricks
lesterBricks

that may more speak to the programming languages choice, though I'm not sure what Joomla and Drupal are (I can only assume they're PHP as well as wordpress) PHP is an interpreted language a variable can be anything. Also at the same time you get what you pay for if you don't care about speed, security and stability over time then yes by all means use one of these. Its all about the right tool for the job. I work at Burton and we've recently done a couple wordpress sites: theliftline.tv & thestash.com, granted we did a bit more coding and expanding.

lesterBricks
lesterBricks

Right tool for the job everything has its place, so what do you use when you need to build a CMS site?

Slayer_
Slayer_

Just look at the crap word attaches when you save a document as a web page.

Justin James
Justin James

MODx CMS is incredibly un-bloated, simple to install and maintain, and an overall great CMS. It's not as clean/polished in terms of feature set (at least, the version I'm running isn't) but I like it quite a bit all the same. J.Ja

Jaqui
Jaqui

use the tools that fit the need of the site owner. have yet to see a site that absolutely required Joomla or Drupal. there are far more cms scripts than those 2 bloated pigs.