Off-the-shelf CMSs etc

November 5, 2007

Sometimes I wonder whether the time and effort I’ve put into learning how to bend these things to my will is worth it. I’ve used osCommerce, joomla, CMS made simple and MODx and almost every time I’ve wondered whether I wouldn’t have been better off writing the system from scratch. Especially if there’s a lot of skinning involved.

Currently I’m trying to get MODx to serve fairly simple mobile content and so far I’ve found it to be far more flexible than, say, joomla, but nowhere near as easy to use as plain php. A simple search page that would have taken me a short time to write if I’d rolled my own CMS took me ages to implement using the MODx HyperFlexSearchForm snippet – partly because I had to figure out how snippets work in MODx and partly because it was a bit buggy (see my forum post on,5867.60.html). Even within the MODx framework I probably could have written my own search snippet in less time than it took me to figure out the supplied one.

The real rationale for using a CMS/CMF is that someone else (especially a non-expert coder) can come along afterwards and easily make modifications … but it never is easy is it? Perhaps they’re good at preventing the seemingly inevitable spaghetti-ising of code that passes through many developers’ hands – I don’t know, osCommerce certainly isn’t, but maybe the CMF approach of MODx will be better, too early to tell. I make such a meal out of figuring these systems out though that I expect other people will too, and they might have an easier time just figuring out well-written straight php code.

And the admin interface in the off-the-shelf CMSs is always so cluttered, but that’s a whole other issue.


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