Need Help Selecting a Suitable Content Management System

I've just had some major "internal" work done on my website (built with FrontPage), and as a result, will need to replace some code on over 100 individual pages.  My freelance coder said that it just might be time for me to consider a Content Management System. I looked at some CMS sites, and I'm starting to think he's right.

My website is www.radiogeorge.com

My coder has suggested I look at:

    WordPress  -- https://wordpress.org/
    Joomla - https://www.joomla.org/
    Drupal - https://www.drupal.org/ 

saying that the best candidate might come from this short list, considering the structure of the site.

FrontPage has given me familiarity with  tweaking pages to the extent that they look O.K. and are easy to use, but beyond that, if I am going to go with a CMS, I would like to go with one that is very easy to use, since it looks like I'll be rebuilding the while enchilada.

So, experts, I'm asking you to scope things out and give me your recommendations before I get involved with learning and implementing a whole new bunch of tools to get the job done. Key thing to keep in mind: while I'm not a rank beginner in messing around with web pages, I am far from being up on the latest tools, so simple is best. I am not ruling out paying for a CMS tool, if it is indeed easy to use.

Thanks!
RadioGeorgeOwner/ProgrammerAsked:
Who is Participating?
 
Scott Fell, EE MVEConnect With a Mentor Developer & EE ModeratorCommented:
Thank you for that great explanation!

My suggestion is to break your site in a couple parts.  

First is a custom web app that runs the "radio" portion.  

  • This would include a database of the catalog where you track and
    • link titles
    • artists
    • genres  
    • Capture to the data base analytics for number of plays and anything else you need for reporting
  • All music to be stored in a CDN (content delivery network) and only allow streaming and not download
  • Pages for the web app are generated dynamically from the database
  • Web app gets embedded to site via some type of shortcode
  • Web app can be used in a mobile app under a webview

Second is the actual site where you will have the main navigation, footer and overall template with static pages for things like about, contact, meet Radio George, home page, any blog/articles/newsletter, sign up forms (use a 3rd party like mailchimp).  This is what your CMS will be used for.  The different CMS's we have suggested will work for this.  

I would add a third section which is a database driven site to manage your web app for adding and editing your catalog and view custom reports.  

The CMS (which ever you choose) is used for generating the static content and your custom back end is for managing your radio web app which can be used inside your cms as well as a stand alone web view in a mobile app.

Best of luck on this project!
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Martin MillerConnect With a Mentor CTOCommented:
All of these are good choices, I'll lump them into 2 categories, you have no wrong choice.

WordPress is going to be the simplest to use and learn, and good for both Individual to Corporate, sites

Joomla and Drupal are liked more by developers and owners  of multiple websites

Wordpress, I feel has more universal help if you need pros to help.
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Rowby GorenConnect With a Mentor Commented:
While I am partial to Joomla, it has a bit of a learning curve. As Martin has indicated, Wordpress has many developers who can help you with it, if necessary.  If you run into a problem you can always hop onto CraigsList and find people who will charge you a reasonable fee to make adjustments and changes -- at least here in Los Angeles that is the case.  (And you could always hire someone off Experts Exchange too.)

Drupal would certainly cost you more to develop and you would most certainly need to hire a more expensive Drupal expert right from the beginning.

So from what you are telling us -- I agree with Martin that WordPress is the way to go.

One thing to keep in mind with any content management system is Security.  Because WordPress is so popular it is a target of automated bots that are swarming out there looking to cause havoc for WordPress (Joomla too) sites.  Even if you have a small site with very little traffic you can wake  up and go to your site and find it hacked.

So you need to follow these steps

1)  Keep regular backups of your wordpress site (I recommend AkeebaBackup.com for backing up Wordpress sites.  I think there is a free version and also a pro version.   What I like about Akeeba that it's a one time fee -- other popular Wordpress backup apps have monthly fees.  

2)  On my one wordpress site I subscribe to sucuri.net which has done a great job of keeping the bad guys out.  It's not cheap but I have no choice -- I found it was the only solution that worked for my site.

Any content management software, generally speaking, are targets for malware bots.  I'm not pointing finger at Wordpress.  I have 4 Jooma sites at a major university which are continually (like every minute)  being hammered by malware bots.  However by using an add-on called "admintools" (made by the Akeeba Backup developer) not one malware incident has happened in over 5 years of running those sites.  Unfortunately Akeeba does not make a WordPress version of its excellent admintools.  But Wordpess has similar anti-hacking tools -- but in my case none of them worked for me -- and I had to use sucuri.net

So regularly backup and use protection.  And download those backups -- don't just let them sit on the server.

Rowby
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Martin MillerCTOCommented:
Let me add, Rowby mentioned backups and security.... WordPress has multiple plugin-in options for backups, and keep one or more recent backup remote from your servers.

From a security perspective, the internet is an open playground, keep your systems up to date with patches :-)
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Scott Fell, EE MVEConnect With a Mentor Developer & EE ModeratorCommented:
All are good choices and have their own strengths and drawbacks.  I suggest setting up new folders on your current server and install each as a trial.  With Wordpress, you will more than likely be setting up a template from a third party and the templates have their own learning curve beyond WP.   Also, customizing any of these may not be what you think as they are all set up as their own mvc framework.  

My suggestion is to not get involved with coding your own. While it's fun to put the puzzle together, it's a waste of your time if you are really interested in content.  Instead, check out https://www.wix.com/, https://www.weebly.com/ or https://www.squarespace.com/.  In those cases, you are putting your effort where it belongs, the content and not coding.   There are ways a developer can do some custom work such as your player via an api https://developers.squarespace.com/commerce-api 

If this is an ecommerce site, then shopify https://www.shopify.com/ is also a good choice.  

The key is to put your effort into generating content and not building the structure.
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Rowby GorenConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Scott has a good point.  Whatever solution you choose be careful of building your own site.  It can take over what your real goal is -- and that is either to inform, entertain or sell your products.  

So with that in mind, what is your  website about?

 If it's an eCommerce site then consider Shopify over Wordpress because in my experience Shopify is much easier than Wordpress for the merchant themselves to update products etc.  And then bring in a Shopify expert to do the technical stuff -- while you focus on your marketing, etc.  

Rowby
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RadioGeorgeOwner/ProgrammerAuthor Commented:
I think I'm more impressed with the quality of the responses to this question posting than any others I have made since I started using Experts Exchange about 5-6 years ago!

Rowby's question "What is your website about?" deserves an answer, because I am asked that a lot, except not as directly as he worded it.

Radio George is a unique original created ten years ago. While it often comes across as a website with live streaming, it is not. It uses what I call a "file-on-demand" process using a playlist on each "channel" or page. Why call the pages "channels?" The music is primarily targeting adults over 40 (indeed, over 50!) who may have become well-adapted to digital media, but grew up "listening to the radio," with individual channels, stations, and formats of music (primarily oldies 1955-1975 and Smooth Jazz) that were structured in a specific way. So that an older audience is comfortable "tuning in" to Radio George and listening. You go to a channel and essentially just start listening! The commercials are from firms who want to reach the over-40 audience and come from my own prospecting efforts and from three national ad agencies who have clients who are happy with the results they've received.

As the site took shape (with 100% of the actual technical coding being done by a freelancer who is still on board today), I had to address some requirements that are very site-specific. Most prominent of these is the tracking of every piece of music that is played 24/7. This is so that I can file the reports to the music licensing companies, the same as traditional stations (on the air, streaming, and other digital operations) have to do, since those licensing companies must be paid for each and every time one of their licensee's songs is played!  (For the record, that's ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and Sound Exchange, each of whom also charge an annual fee).

Special attention had to be paid to an incident when hackers found the source files  of  some of the music, copied it, and made it available on pirate sites. I found out about this via a letter from a British lawyer who discovered it! Special tech work had to be done to remedy that, and the solution seems to be a solid one as close to permanent as one can be, it seems.

While the origination of the site was in part inspired by the format changes of the oldies and smooth jazz stations where I live, the early statistics (I use 4 different services to track them) showed few people listening. But just a month later, the stats exploded as the viral nature of the Internet took over and digital word-of-mouth performed its magic. Today, Radio George has listeners in over 4,000 cities in more than 120 countries/nations.

So that's what the site is all about. I intend to keep adding channels, since the maintenance is simple. I have had cron jobs built that change commercials and content that are super efficient and also easy to use. I should mention that the first major behind the scenes renovation is nearly complete, and that is switching over to a new player that has been internationally tested on computer and telephone systems (by users) to make sure that RG can be heard on as many digital devices as possible. This was a change that was dictated by advancing technology, of course, and is being implemented by my coder.

Goals: as it says on the back of my business card, "Have fun, satisfy customers, make money."

That's Radio George.
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Rowby GorenConnect With a Mentor Commented:
If you go the Joomla route check out this joomla extension. https://hwdmediashare.co.uk/. HwdMediaShare


 I am using it for my university clients and for an entertainment client. I use their video feature but they also have audio features as I recall

 They’ve been around for years, supporting Joomla  and are always at the new features
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Brandon LyonConnect With a Mentor Senior Frontend DeveloperCommented:
I rarely do this but I would highly recommend a hosted solution where you let someone else worry about servers. You're probably busy worrying about music and don't want to have to deal with platform security, hosting, updates (not just updates to a CMS but also to the server), surprise traffic influxes, uptime, etc. Some of them also make ecommerce and CRM easy. Normally I would recommend Wordpress but in this case it is going to require more maintenance than other options. If you don't mind that maintenance then Wordpress is a great tool.
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Julian HansenConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Having looked at your site I have a question. Are you generating each of those pages or do you have a database that is being used to populate a template based on parameters in the request?

If you are populating each page then your first step would be to put that data in a database and build a template that can populate the data - your site will go from 100 pages to 3 or 4. Once you have the template sorted out any one of the systems you have short listed will work for you but you will need to still do some work. You will need to find a theme for your site, and then either find a plugin that creates your template for you or build a custom template - none of those solutions is going to give you an out of the box solution - unless you want to manually create each page - which is not really a good idea.

In terms of cost and setup WordPress will probably be the best option - your requirement is quite simple but be aware that WP can be a bit over-hyped at times. If you go this route make sure you source your theme / plugins from people / companies who know what they are doing. Most WP installations I have seen are fruit salad behemoths  of badly cobbled together plugins and poorly constructed custom code with excessive page load times. This makes for difficult maintenance and bad security setups. There are many good WP devs and products out there but you have to be discerning and look for them.

With Word Press hardening is imperative - consider tools like WordFence to assist with this.
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RadioGeorgeOwner/ProgrammerAuthor Commented:
Reply to Julian (but definitely of interest to all for their reaction):

Julian, I am generating each one of the pages manually. When I first started Radio George, it used 30 pages of smooth jazz playlists and 37 pages of oldies. It was relatively easy to use a cut-and-paste approach in addition to simple modifications of coding provided by my coder to build a site like that.

Obviously, there has been a lot added since then, and I do foresee additional channels (pages) to be added in the future.

There are two other factors that come into play, in light of the many ideas expressed in this thread so far:

In doing the manual work, I use:

(1) a variety of programs from sobolsoft.com, such as:

Rename Multiple Files At Once Software
Copy Files & Folders to Another Folder
Extract Data & Text From Multiple Text Files Software
Extract Data & Text From Multiple Web Sites Software
Extract Data Between Two Strings Software
Find and Replace Multiple Items at Once
Rename Files Sequentially

As you may infer, using such utilities makes making changes on many pages very simple and fast.

(2) In using Cute FTP to upload files manually, I noticed the program option to create a macro via the recording of keys pressed, options selected, etc. I looked at one and saw that it was a file saved in Visual Basic. While I do not have a background in VB, I do have a background in DOS and QuickBasic, so it became apparent that I could create and/or tweak such files and run them directly for various functions. This is how I delete and replace commercials (using the "same name" approach) weekly.

Add to this Google Fiber's transfer speed of 1 GB per second, and the entire process is not taxing and does not demand a lot of time.  

Now, I am not saying this is the best way, I present it here for you to comment on it, compare it to the other posts, and hear your analysis of all the suggestions posted here to date.
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Julian HansenConnect With a Mentor Commented:
From what I can see of your site the pages are pretty much the same - just different data based on parameters.

If that is the case then all you need is a single script for each different template type - by this I mean every different layout option.

The script takes as parameters the path to the file so oldies/oldies3.htm gets directed to the template that renders that page and the oldies3 determines what content to display. The script queries a database and populates the template.

This way the same template can be used for multiple (like) pages and all you need is a system to capture that data in a database. In some cases you can use PHPMyAdmin - if more processing of input is required you can knock together an interface to handle the input for you.

Here is the thing though - if you go with WP, Joomla or Drupal - it is unlikely you are going to find an interface that does exactly what you want (as per your existing site) so you have two options
1. Change your requirements to fit what is available out there
2. Build a custom solution to fit your requirements.

If you go with 1 you have (in my opinion) a case of the tail wagging the dog - however, you would need to evaluate the extent to which this is an issue.

With 2 you have to do some customisation of whatever CMS you have chosen - where you might find that the work required is not that much less than it would be to knock together a simple CMS of your own to handle your specific requirements.

I can't really advise you on which option to take at this stage as I have only taken a very brief glance at your site - the point of my post was to highlight the benefits of using a database linked template to render multiple versions of the same type of page with different data - that would be the first step (in my view) of making your maintenance process more efficient.
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RadioGeorgeOwner/ProgrammerAuthor Commented:
I really wish I could give EACH of you guys 500 points for the quality replies you provided to me. I forwarded your replies to my coder and he offered several ideas I thought about for a day or two. One of his suggestions was that since:

-- the Sobolsoft programs can "cut and replace" multiple pieces of code very fast
-- the existing cron jobs in use have been working well for a year or more
-- Cute FTP's automated options for updating info (such as commercials on different channels) are fast and reliable

the best course of action might just be to continue business as usual and tweak when necessary until such time when a truly complete overhaul is needed. And, that may never come. Think about it: how many "big band" stations are there now in radioland? Maybe enough to count on the fingers of one hand? Time passes and so does the main audience. The few who remain are listening online. While I hate to admit it, this is moist likely going o be the same for Radio George and its oldies. And, there's always the unwelcome possibility that the music licensing costs will be enough to signal sign-off time.

So for the time being, the best use of time seems to be business as usual. Thanks to all your comments and the introduction of support for Wordpress from my site's hosting company I may consider giving it a shot for a smaller website I have.

Thanks all....and if you like oldies or smooth jazz, you know where to find it!
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