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  1. #26
    SitePoint Mentor silver trophybronze trophy

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    Quote Originally Posted by TomB View Post
    Exactly, so wordpress set up may take 6 hours including theme installation and a few bits of misc config, then implementation of a non-trivial feature into it may take 16 hours. I don't think some client's would appreciate why the "whole site" costed 6 hours while a comparability smaller feature costs 16.
    We had this problem too. Tell him that it's open source and the features are available online. Other feature will be custom to your site and therefore will have to be charged extra on an hourly rate.

    What you could do, is maybe charge him less, and give him non-exclusive rights to it, so that it can be resold to another client. This way you will be covered. However, if you think the feature is pretty confined to the client's website, you are better off charging him extra and seeing what he says.

    In either case, CMS or not, you will still have to program your own code if the client demands it.

    Don't try to give the impression for each CMS feature is hand coded by yourselves. With this kind of deception you are only asking for trouble.

    PS: Everybody has to make money, it's just the way it goes. Just because it's freely available online does not mean it's free to them. You have to calculate your labor and time spend, otherwise you charity will surely go under.
    follow me on ayyelo, Easy WordPress; specializing in setting up themes!

  2. #27
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    I am not really a fan or wordpress because I am a crotchety programmer who can do his own designs as well. For someone who just want's a blog/mind-dump website and wants to use a basic theme WP is fine.

    But I find it highly suspect when people use WP to power their business website. Indeed, you could spend more time trying to shoehorn a new plugin into the WP ideology, or find hacks around things that don't fit. But then you are asking for profiling and debugging issues when you start to scale out.

    So...

    I personally would rather I build my own CMSs directly for the needs of the client. You could in fact use a MVC framework like CodeIgniter or Kohana and build a really fast Php5 based CMS. Add in modular libraries ( for CI ) or the native HMVC of Kohana, tie in some custom code like a Base Controller that handles CRUD functionality for all database-enabled pages.

    This way you can build pages by metadata ( Ruby on Rails anyone? ) that wraps around your custom database schema.

    I have made such a CRUD library you can check out my bitbucket repo for it:

    http://bitbucket.org/michaelhowell/crudform

    Anyhoo... I like this much better than a community driven project. If a company needed 'support' then I'd probably go with ExpressionEngine, made by the folks who put out CodeIgniter. Everything WP does and probably more ( like forums and CC processing ) natively.

  3. #28
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy Cups's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by allspiritseve
    ...Or should I start trying to market myself to higher end clients who really need custom work (and actually have a budget for it)?

    How do you justify your custom work in an age when there are plenty of free, "good enough" apps out there that do virtually the same thing?
    If you are making a CMS for a single client, you can get to know an awful lot about how their business works.

    Once you start to discover what is important to their business then you can try and deliver solutions for them which offer savings in terms of say workflow, or make it easier to win new customers.

    You'd probably term this "application development", when you need to be able to fiddle with the underlying architecture, and is when you'd wave goodbye to every pre-built CMS I've looked at.

    From a development point of view, this type of custom work is usually very costly of course, and your client probably would not stump up for your dev time - but you could swallow some or all of those costs, after all you have a captive audience of testers in your CMS client.

    The way to think about it is that you are learning about how their business works and in return providing them with added value.

    If you can slowly develop unique solutions that apply across that industry, well you might then be able to reproduce your CMS for other clients in the same channel, the same niche.

    So, a single CMS but more than one client.

    I think a CMS for a single client is not only wasteful, it is probably largely un-affordable these days.

    So if you do want to continue creating quality custom code, stuff that solves a problem, then pick a market niche and concentrate on that full time, 100% and get yourself a mile ahead of the competition.

    ps I came across this yesterday which sums up my thinking too:

    http://www.drawar.com/posts/How-we-look-at-things-
    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_b...d-markets.html

    Go through some of the websites in your target niche, and if you see loads of DruJooWP sites then you can be assured they are collectively lowering the bar, not raising it.
    Last edited by Cups; Sep 26, 2010 at 13:19. Reason: forgot the punchline

  4. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cups View Post
    So, a single CMS but more than one client.

    I think a CMS for a single client is not only wasteful, it is probably largely un-affordable these days.
    That is a pretty wasteful idea and really slaps Object Oriented coding right in the face. If you cannot figure out how to write a CMS framework that can bend to any number of clients then why would one even be in the programming market?

    MVC pattern is probably the single best pattern you can have for a CMS.

    If you build an Administrator Controller that extends a framework's basic Controller class and offers CRUD features then you can then build a CMS by an associative array that wraps the table fields you specify + helper key-values that help along the Model/View and dataflow problems.

    Build a friggin' Form Generation Library or 'helper function' for some frameworks then you can in fact build an entire CMS every time from the code out and never have to build it from a CMS canned product.

    Now I understand there is a market for canned products that offer custom fields and also a market for WP and its brethren. But an agile programmer who DRY's out their code can have the best of both worlds.

  5. #30
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy Cups's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iackay View Post
    That is a pretty wasteful idea and really slaps Object Oriented coding right in the face. If you cannot figure out how to write a CMS framework that can bend to any number of clients then why would one even be in the programming market?
    If you are in the business of making money, then having as many paying customers as possible use a single code base is just good sense, and you can't get much DRYer than that.

    Sometimes you have to think like a businessman not a ninja if you want to make money.

  6. #31
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by allspiritseve View Post
    I've done custom PHP apps with a company for the last couple of years. However, lately I have become frustrated because I feel that many of the clients we work for would be better served with an open source application like Wordpress. It's free, it's packed with features, and it has great community support. Contrast that with our CMS which is custom, extra features are charged at an hourly rate, and nobody at our company seems to want to maintain it besides me.
    About 5 years ago, I was in the same boat.... I had a great in-house CMS that offered rich text editing and the ability to customize the design, navigation, etc... but maintenance was a pain. I switched gears and started using Drupal. Like Wordpress or any Open Source software, there is an army of developers maintaining and improving the product and if I have the opportunity, I can help out too.

    Quote Originally Posted by allspiritseve View Post
    I'm currently taking a break from this company, so I'm looking to do some freelance PHP work on my own. However, I'm at a crossroads. Should I embrace the open source apps (even though I feel they are coded poorly) and start offering my services as a Wordpress developer? Or should I start trying to market myself to higher end clients who really need custom work (and actually have a budget for it)?
    If WP is coded poorly, pick another that you do like... There are quite a few out there and I understand WP3 is supposed to be a great improvement (but I can't say from experience).

    Quote Originally Posted by allspiritseve View Post
    How do you justify your custom work in an age when there are plenty of free, "good enough" apps out there that do virtually the same thing?
    Custom work is custom work. In my experience with the WP, Joomla & Drupal installations, you get a blank (empty) slate to build upon. Everything after the basic install is custom.

    We've been busier this year than any previous year because of Drupal development. None of our clients want basic sites, they want eCommerce, Events Management, CRM, scheduling, self server job/resume posting, Wiki's, back office document management areas, etc... All of that is custom and even if the solution can be achieved through installing and configuring a few modules, it requires some developer finesse to do it right.

    I say embrace one or two of the top dogs in Open Source and get ready to be really busy
    Andrew Wasson | www.lunadesign.org
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  7. #32
    SitePoint Zealot ChrisWiegman's Avatar
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    I've been in your shoes. I had developed a custom CMS for almost 12 years for my current employer and others. I have since migrated to WP and Drupal for a number of reasons.

    In the end while there are valid reasons to go either direction for me it comes down to how I can best serve my customers in the long term. In this case when they are no longer a client they will still have a website that can serve their needs for years rather than months.

  8. #33
    I Use MODx kenquad's Avatar
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    This article I read some time ago makes a pretty good case against custom built CMS's. Some of his 6 points don't apply if you're using a framework of course.

  9. #34
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    I know this is an older article, but I just stumbled across it. I think websites built these days really need to be using a CMS, as opposed to custom code or even a framework. Here's a more detailed blog post on this:

    http://www.metaltoad.com/blog/framew...-long-live-cms

  10. #35
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisWiegman View Post
    In the end while there are valid reasons to go either direction for me it comes down to how I can best serve my customers in the long term. In this case when they are no longer a client they will still have a website that can serve their needs for years rather than months.
    Absolutely! I bring that up with my clients when we discuss technology directions emphasizing, that if we follow the path of a well supported Open Source project, there is no vendor lock-in and should they choose to part ways with me sometime down the road, all they need is another developer who is fluent with the framework to support and/or extend it.
    Andrew Wasson | www.lunadesign.org
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  11. #36
    SitePoint Addict Shaydez's Avatar
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    We've been busier this year than any previous year because of Drupal development. None of our clients want basic sites, they want eCommerce, Events Management, CRM, scheduling, self server job/resume posting, Wiki's, back office document management areas, etc... All of that is custom and even if the solution can be achieved through installing and configuring a few modules, it requires some developer finesse to do it right.
    I don't consider that custom.. Its more of installations specialist lol

    I'm not sure how many of you are into Sportbikes and Cars... You have your Installations and You have your custom specialists. Using open source application is having a sportbike that's already all done out for you and you're just installing additional modules install it nothing custom about that. But getting into CUSTOM programming and mechanics you're working from the inside out and customizing an application that is specific to your client. I believe that's where the money really is, definitely residual. I wouldn't base my business on a Drupal / Joomla client they come and go.

    yes you make money based on bulk and watching clients come and go but i don't really think that helps your portfolio at all. Sure i'll install a Joomla site and add a few modules here and there pay me $500 10 clients like that seems profitable at first but that money burns fast. compared to custom coding an application that helps you build a relationship with a client. you can end up bringing in $2000 a month for next 5 yrs.

    So that brings me back to the custom cars and sportbikes. If you have a trusted mechanic that worked on your bike or car and did alot of real custom stuff to it, i'm sure you're going to stick with that guy for years to come.
    Sr. Website Developer and Internet Marketing
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    my site. Apparently i missed quite a few private messages.

  12. #37
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    Funny - I literally just had an enquiry from someone who wanted some updates doing to their site. They're using a custom build CMS and their web company has gone bust - as a result they're locked into that system and haven't got access to the core files.

    Time for a migration to a decent commercial CMS methinks

  13. #38
    Jewish Juggernaut mkoenig's Avatar
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    Yeah i understand. Many projects will do just fine with wordpress or similar.

    Rather than being frustrated I'm actually glad that all these plug n play cms systems are coming out. Most webmasters i meet today don't know how to do anything but plain html and wordpress or some other cms. These webmasters are limited wordpress. Yes it makes it easy, but someone hasn't already developed it...they can't do it.

    It's easier to find a niche that isn't dominated this way. I see more and more and more blogs, and less and less and less custom sites.

    Sell your customers a cms, they won't know the difference. Just be sure to charge real money for custom work, and explain to them why.

  14. #39
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaydez View Post
    I don't consider that custom.. Its more of installations specialist lol
    Yeah I suppose if that's all you know but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt

    Besides that's only a small part of the equation when building sophisticated web apps on a CMS foundation. What I'm seeing more and more is mashups featuring various technologies like CRM's, data warehouses, etc...

    More and more people in our area want streamline their businesses and move traditional business processes online. This requires a little more finesse that clicking some checkboxes in a wizard.... You need to know the CMS core so you can write modules or in more extreme cases, you need to modify some of the code in the applications (and document the changes) so that they play nicely together.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shaydez View Post
    I'm not sure how many of you are into Sportbikes and Cars... You have your Installations and You have your custom specialists. Using open source application is having a sportbike that's already all done out for you and you're just installing additional modules install it nothing custom about that.
    1985 GSXR750: Wiseco 907 kit with lightened pistons, 38mm Mikuni Flatslides, ported 88 (slingshot) head, stainless header with carbon fibre yosh can, Dyna (green) coils, pods, 94 GSXR USD front end, EBC pro-lite discs, 17" rims, Íhlins rear shock... And I think that covers it.

    1986 GSXR750R Limited Edition: Pretty much bone stock except for a K&N filtercharger and Dyna mini-coils.



    Quote Originally Posted by Shaydez View Post
    yes you make money based on bulk and watching clients come and go but i don't really think that helps your portfolio at all. Sure i'll install a Joomla site and add a few modules here and there pay me $500 10 clients like that seems profitable at first but that money burns fast. compared to custom coding an application that helps you build a relationship with a client. you can end up bringing in $2000 a month for next 5 yrs.
    I think you're misunderstanding my position. We've never done a base Drupal install (not even our first). Rather we use Drupal as the foundation and develop the project as an extension to Drupal, building modules as the connecting blocks and in some (extreme) cases customizing the code of the applications to make them play nicely with each other.

    Our clients for the most part don't come and go. Some have been with us for the last 10 years and a few who've been with us since we started some 15 or 16 years ago. Most of them are corporate with boards of directors and others who don't know us and they have to do their due diligence to ensure that their investment can live on beyond our relationship should something occur to cut it short. It's just business sense so we emphasize that they are not locked in to us or the technology. If something should happen and we aren't available to them, they can find another tech who knows 'X' and they can carry on. This was not possible with the custom CMS we developed and used earlier.

    On the custom side, we still have one major custom application in the wild that manages the online membership profiles of an organization, Everything from membership types, to exams, work experience, continuing education, resumes, job postings and events are managed through a custom web app. It was initially started about 10 years ago and has been extended through various projects to become a full blown CRM on steroids. Unfortunately at the time nothing was available to build it with the capabilities of todays CMS platforms however with todays CMS, given the chance I'll port it over as quickly as I can. I've even gone to the trouble of putting together a requirements doc and map to move it over when I have the chance. It will be much easier to maintain if it's built on a CMS that leverages a community of developers and bug testers.


    Quote Originally Posted by bluedreamer View Post
    Funny - I literally just had an enquiry from someone who wanted some updates doing to their site. They're using a custom build CMS and their web company has gone bust - as a result they're locked into that system and haven't got access to the core files.

    Time for a migration to a decent commercial CMS methinks
    Absolutely... We landed two new websites for the same reason... The existing sites run on a proprietary CMS and the host doesn't get around to supporting their customer base. We'll be moving them to well supported Open Source solutions.
    Andrew Wasson | www.lunadesign.org
    Principal / Internet Development

  15. #40
    Non-Member algozone's Avatar
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    Open source is the way to go. In many cases open source will not have 100% of your requirements covered. The trick to find good code base and well organized open source project and extended to your own needs.
    After that, be ready to maintain it and continue to improve

  16. #41
    SitePoint Member onlineindex's Avatar
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    Yes i think you can use the available open source cms like Joomla and its very easy and convenient as it provides thousands of plug-ins that will do your work easily. And for which you not found any plug in you can try writing your own in PHP and implement in joomla cms.

  17. #42
    SitePoint Addict webaddictz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by allspiritseve View Post
    How do you justify your custom work in an age when there are plenty of free, "good enough" apps out there that do virtually the same thing?

    Any advice would be very much appreciated.
    A little late to the party, but here's my two cents: it all depends on the project you're going to do. I've had quite a few projects over the last couple of years which were simply impossible to do with any open source project: the requirements were very custom, and the customer wanted applications rather than "a website". The open source CMS's are very specific at what they do. If a customer wants an application which simply can't be done based on an open source CMS: then don't.

    That said; writing those custom applications means that I now have "modules" for stuff like authentication, authorisation, generating PDF files, sending e-mails, and generating forms for an optional backend. Starting to write an application for me means selecting the appropriate modules, and do the coupling.

    I'm also in the market of "simple websites", and it appears that's what your question is about. In that case, I've selected wordpress as the base, and I simply install or write plugins for extra functionality the customer may want to see. I wouldn't write a custom CMS for those websites; that's an investment me and my accountant wouldn't be all too happy about. Why bother? Wordpress is pretty flexible, although the code quality isn't what I'd want it to be. Programmers tend to be purists and shoot down an open source project only because the code doesn't look like the way they work. If you want to make money and deliver simple websites on time and in budget: use an open source CMS.

    So, it's what the customer wants and how well it maps to the possibilities of existing open source projects, I think.
    Yes, I blog, too.

  18. #43
    SitePoint Member onlineindex's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Am totally agree with what webaddictz said, it will depend on what type of project you are doing,
    And the open source will be beneficial when in case of low budget small websites and to be delivered in small span of time, then you can go for an open source cms package like wordpress or joomla.

  19. #44
    SitePoint Addict Newviewit's Avatar
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    Amount of time required to test and optimize custom code is often not worth it unless the client has a massive budget. By starting off with an existing CMS framework and customizing you will be giving the customer something that is easier to expand onto in the future (tons of other programmers contributing to the code). Also many additional features are already built into the system and are proven. Sometimes it's not in the customers best interest to start from scratch.
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  20. #45
    SitePoint Guru rageh's Avatar
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    Building from scratch a custom CMS is not profitable in the face of the increasingly and improving open source CMS offerings. That is an obvious point. However, if the client does not appreciate the goodness in open source CMS, then offering to one built from scratch with a price tag to match is inevitable. So code custom CSM if someone asks for it. Otherwise work with one of the many freely available ones and customise for their needs.

    As regards what route you take, that is a business choice that you have to make. If I were you, I would be doing both.
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  21. #46
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    This is a very interesting thread.

    Open source is the way to go.
    Open source what? Frameworks, CMS, plugins, etc.. Trying out plugins for hours that don't quite work can be a huge time waster. I agree that it is definitely worthwhile to use Open-Source where its applicable, its not always the most appropriate solution. Sometimes it can be a very helpful part of the solution.

    Exactly, so wordpress set up may take 6 hours including theme installation and a few bits of misc config, then implementation of a non-trivial feature into it may take 16 hours. I don't think some client's would appreciate why the "whole site" costed 6 hours while a comparability smaller feature costs 16.
    If you reuse a custom code-base it doesn't need to take more time. In fact it can take less if your CMS is designed to handle certain tasks.

    Simple Websites
    Its amazing how many curve balls a client can throw you. With open source products, it can be very difficult to nimbly handle requests in an elegant way.

    Versions
    One thing that concerns me with Open source CMS systems is I would want to fine tune anything I used. Optimize it for SEO, get the toolbars right, clean up the dashboard, etc..
    Prepare an optimized package. Every time a new version comes out the package would need to be re-optimized. What happens when a key plugin doesn't work with the upgrade.
    Etc..

    While the concepts of Open-Source sound compelling, there are many hitches that can end up creating an awkward product and pitfalls that can be huge time-wasters.

  22. #47
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Interesting... It seems that a major point has become lost in translation and it could be that not everyone is aware of what can be achieved with today's CMS frameworks...

    Today's popular CMS's (Drupal, Joomla, WP, EE, etc...) are built to aid and enable custom development. The CMS is the foundation which provides the basics of content management, PDF/CSV generation, emailing, contact forms, members/roles, etc... You, the developer can write as much or little code as you like for your custom app.


    • You want to do something specific like authenticate users against a custom remote authentication system that's fine... Just write a web service on the remote system and write a module to consume it on your CMS.
    • You want to build a specific type of ordering system without all the bells & whistles of an off the shelf solution, develop it and integrate it with the CMS.
    • You want to consume some XML data and produce a graphical representation... Write the code and integrate it.
    • You want to allow visitor generated content, create the interface and expose it to the public. Today's CMS's have built in methods for moderating content.
    • Custom search, build your own and add it.
    • Online auction, build it on top of the CMS
    • etc... etc... etc...

    My point is that the CMS becomes a blank canvas and instead of starting from scratch you leverage the basics of the CMS and build your custom application on top of it.

    Note: If you are going to use a CMS as described above, you have to learn it... Skimming the readme files won't cut it... You have to actually choose one and dedicate yourself to learning it inside and out. The good ones are built in such a way that they have internal standardization of how things work. Hooks to the core are standardized and the internals are protected via a layer of abstraction that simplify repetitive task like database calls, object retrieval and data handling but... You have to know what your doing, otherwise you'll do things the hard way (I'm speaking from experience about doing things the hard way).
    Andrew Wasson | www.lunadesign.org
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  23. #48
    SitePoint Enthusiast erangalp's Avatar
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    I saw the same discussion over at devnetworks, and there are many interesting comments here.

    My company deals mainly with custom development. We build web services that are not CMS oriented. For that purpose, we mainly use the Zend Framework and an assortment of modules we accumulated over the years, such as a basic CMS (not a blogging system though), administration modules for users and other project-specific entities, some client-side plugins and ZF view helpers.

    Lately, we've been thinking that there might a middle road. Custom development could use a boost by having a library of pluggable components, similar to what the big CMS systems have, that can save time and cost for specific recurring or unique features. This would allow developers to concentrate on the unique domain logic of their project, instead of reinventing the wheel for features that are very common.

    For this purpose we created a platform for commercial open-source components, where developers can publish tested and proven code for sale for a fraction of the cost it would take for custom development. I hope this does not come up as an advertisement - though I am looking to increase exposure to our platform - and I truly believe many of the developers in this thread doing custom development could benefit from such a platform - both by having a stock of production-ready code for their chosen environment (be it a framework or an application CMS such as Joomla), and also by publishing their code and generating passive income.

    If you are interested, you are welcome to check it out at http://www.binpress.com . We just launched it quietly this week, and are just now starting to look for developers to build up the library of components. I'd appreciate any feedback / input / critic you might have. If you want to join and publish components, that would be great. I hope I'm not breaking forum etiquette by publishing this here, but I thought it would be relevant.

  24. #49
    SitePoint Addict Shaydez's Avatar
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    I do have to say i'm a extremely biased with the different programming structures out there. (If its not coded by me, why should i look at it?)

    I forced my self to learn wordpress only because it was a $6k project; i can custom code that baby inside and out; however its a freakn hack job.

    Interesting... It seems that a major point has become lost in translation and it could be that not everyone is aware of what can be achieved with today's CMS frameworks...

    Today's popular CMS's (Drupal, Joomla, WP, EE, etc...) are built to aid and enable custom development. The CMS is the foundation which provides the basics of content management, PDF/CSV generation, emailing, contact forms, members/roles, etc... You, the developer can write as much or little code as you like for your custom app.
    I agree; maybe we did lose some focus as to why we have the open-source community; however if that's the case we should be coding in a framework all programmers are familiar with, MVC (Zend,Igniter, CakePHP) atleast we'll know how its structured and the libraries...

    When i work on Drupal to Joomla to WordPress its one chaotic mess after another.

    I'll have to say Magento is probably the smartest Open-Source out there because they use MVC (Zend Framework) when i look at the code atleast i have some idea of what is going on.


    Clients... one thing i learned about them is they go with what other people or business are doing they don't know what the hell they're asking for but the ABC company that is bigger than them is using Joomla so they want it too. In the end they don't want to use it nor care about it; here at my job we handle all the edit to the websites, basic text changes to adding users and removing them stuff the client can do easily.
    Sr. Website Developer and Internet Marketing
    www.CarlosJa.com Note: If anyone
    needs to get ahold of me please feel free to email me through
    my site. Apparently i missed quite a few private messages.

  25. #50
    SitePoint Enthusiast erangalp's Avatar
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    Magento, while originally built on the ZF, almost complete rebuilt their framework. The structure is similar but it's very annoying you can't rely on stuff that would be automatic for you on the ZF. So in the end it's another completely new system to learn...


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