Small businesses often don’t have the budget to hire web designers and coders to create a company website that offers enough functionality and features to compete in our web-centric world. These shops don’t necessarily need to farm out their work — they can do it themselves using tools that range from full-blown database-driven website builders to helpful HTML editors. In my opinion, these are the best tools for the job when budget is a chief concern.
For this column, I highlight free CMS feature-rich tools that can have your web site up and running in no time. All of the tools are available on Linux, Windows, and OS X platforms.
Drupal is an open source content management system (CMS), driven by MySQL, that can do just about anything required for your company website. It is one of my favorite tools for building database-driven, dynamic websites.
With a huge repository of modules, Drupal offers so much functionality beyond content management, including creating your online e-commerce presence and offering numerous social networking functions and features. Of all the CMSs I have tried, Drupal is one of the easiest to install and manage.
Related resource: Book review: Teach yourself Drupal with this text.
Joomla! is a dynamic, open source CMS that focuses on power and features. Like Drupal, Joomla! has a large repository of addons that greatly extend the functionality of a Joomla!-powered site. Even with its near-overkill feature list, Joomla! still manages to maintain a fairly simple installation process.
The one catch with Joomla! (as with any of the more complex user-management tools) is that it requires careful consideration when dealing with permissions. This stems from the vast amount of power and features Joomla! offers. The granular user permissions that go along with users allows the Joomla! administrator to carefully control what users and groups can and cannot do on the site.
Related resource: DIY: Installing the Joomla! CMS.
eXtensible Object Oriented Portal System (XOOPS) is similar to Drupal and Joomla! in many ways. It is a database-driven CMS that is powerful, extendable, easy to install and administer, themeable, and more. XOOPS is different from Drupal and Joomla! in that it offers a great templating system (allowing the site to maintain a uniform look and feel) and the ability to import entire HTML-based sites. XOOPS has a built-in backup system and an outstanding built-in email notification system.
WebsiteBaker isn’t as well-known as Drupal, Xoomla!, and XOOPS, but the open source CMS does not fall far behind those tools in terms of usability, functionality, and power. WebsiteBaker offers one attractive option that the other tools do not: a portable edition. This edition, powered by Server2Go, allows for the testing and running of a WebsiteBaker installation on the local machine from a USB drive. You can get to the heart of the portable version by extracting the contents of the .exe file and navigating into htdocs to see the .php and .css files used by WebsiteBaker Portable.
WebsiteBaker really excels with its easy installation. I verify that the claim on its site that the tool can have your site up and running in minutes is true.
Related resource: Cook up a quick and rich Web site with Website Baker.
Concrete5 is a CMS tool built for marketing, which makes it perfect for small companies with little to no budget for a marketing-based web presence. Concrete5 has plenty of modules and themes to help extend the site even further.
Out of the box, a Concrete5 site is light-years beyond what other CMS tools offer; in fact, I have never been so impressed with an out-of-the-box experience in the CMS category. Concrete5 might be the future of the CMS.
Add to my list
There are so many CMS web development tools available for the DIY set that it could make your head spin. Now that I’ve listed my favorite web development tools, I’d like to hear from you: What are your favorite web development tools that you think would be best suited for DIYers? Let us know in the discussion.