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  1. #1
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    CMS or code it your self?

    Hi

    Im in a bit of a dilemma?

    I want to build my online portfolio, I like to hand code everything, but as I am a newbie to the freelancing/web designer world its taking me ages to do so.
    However I found a excellent cms and was interested in using that.

    But would that be classed as cheating as I will using yjeir ready made template but customizing it to what i want.......

    any views?

  2. #2
    Mouse catcher silver trophy Stevie D's Avatar
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    I've never been worried about a CMS being considered as 'cheating' (although if you're using it to showcase your web design skills then there might be a bit of a conflict of interests there), the main reason I shy away from using a CMS is because, unless you are willing and able to pay a lot of money, they are pretty uniformly awful.

    No, that isn't fair - they aren't uniformly awful - some are awful, some are bad, some are dreadful, some are dire, and some sap you of the will to live.

    If you're genuinely using the content management aspect of it, in a way that would require a heck of a lot of back-end work if you wrote it yourself, that's fair enough. But most of the CMS-built sites don't - they are essentially just formatting/layout templates that absolve the author from any design or coding work. That's not something I could ever recommend to anyone who has the skills to code it themselves.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Guru kish's Avatar
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    My advice: find a CMS that fits in with what you want to display and use that. You can better spend your time serving your customers and winning new work, rather than tinkering about with your own website :-)
    Fast Fwd Multimedia
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  4. #4
    SitePoint Enthusiast Madeira's Avatar
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    I've used both cms and html/css hard coding.

    Using a cms will get you up and running quickly. But, as soon as you want to do anything slightly out of the ordinary you will find yourself searching for add-ons and plug-ins - some of which are ten times more complicated to implement and understand than html/css. Also, if something goes wrong with your cms, without a background in html/css you will be totally lost - unless you can find someone who is willing to sort out your problems for free.

    Using html/css will involve a steep learning curve and on-going learning as both html and css evolve. But, when you have mastered the basics, you will be able to sort out yourself many of the problems that you are bound to encounter. You will also find that you have more flexibility to make your website look and perform exactly how you want it to. However, you will need to spend a good deal of time and effort up front before you actually start creating your website.

    Personally, I wouldn't touch any cms with a dead flash stick. In the long run, I found them to be too much like "a solution dictating the original question", or, "the tail wagging the dog".

    For instance, embedding a YouTube video into a raw html file is a simple copy and paste job - all done in 30 seconds.

    Getting that same YouTube video into a cms can involve a major project. How do you decide which plug-in/add-on to use? Are they compatible with the other plug-ins/add-ons you are using? Do they actually work? Are they compatible with your cms version? Are they still supported by the author? Are they free? etc. etc. etc.

    Unfortunately, I have worked for clients that have used Joomla, modx and Wordpress. Out of these, I prefer Wordpress as the best of a very poor bunch.

    Having said all that, if you're not really bothered the form your final website takes, how it performs its functions, and you are willing to abandon any feature or function that really isn't suited to the underlying platform, then you might just possibly make a case for using a cms...

  5. #5
    It's all Geek to me silver trophybronze trophy
    ralph.m's Avatar
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    You can use a CMS just to handle complex functionality, while keeping control over the design and feel (HTML/CSS) of the site, so you don't have to use someone else's template. I prefer to use ExpressionEngine as a CMS, as it doesn't dictate what should be in your templates (you start with a blank sheet). And adding a YouTube video is as simple as copying the code from YouTube and pasting it into your template or into an entry field. Very flexible and simple.

    As others have said, building your own CMS is a big task, requiring a fair bit of knowhow. The advantage is that the CMS does just what you need—as long as you can figure out how to build it. Kevin Yank's book gives a good introduction to how to do it: Build*Your*Own Database*Driven*Web*Site Using*PHP*&*MySQL, 4th Edition - SitePoint Books

  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Black Max's Avatar
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    Boxers or briefs?

    Each has its advantages and drawbacks. For an individual portfolio site, I think the disadvantages of a CMS far outweigh the advantages. There are a LOT of instances where a CMS is just what you need, but a portfolio site isn't one of them.

  7. #7
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    thanks guys really appreciate the feedback.

    Im thinking might just hand code it.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Member soft124's Avatar
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    Just code it by your own needs, Do Not use any CMS since most of CMS will slow down your website with its useless features beyond your own requirements

  9. #9
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    I prefer coding, you can include whatever you want and do whatever you want with it, perfect

  10. #10
    SitePoint Enthusiast Ryo-ohki's Avatar
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    I'm an advocate of either one, handcoding or using a cms. There is one simple thing that should dictate which route you take. Are you in no particular hurry to get your site visible and are taking the time to learn the language of the web in the process or do you want it 'out there' asap? If you want your site out there you should use a cms.

    You don't have to go with something as robust as Drupal or Joomla if you aren't thinking of really having a community driven website or a ton of different functions (blog, forum, eshops, etc). I would go with WordPress in your case. Its the most popular blogging software for a reason. It doesn't have such a steep learning curve and it is easy to deploy. You can get zipping along in 5 minutes or less - seriously I do manual installs all the time. Upload the files and a few clicks and BAM your site is up and running and waiting for you to add content.

    The cost (in effort and time) in adding additional features like image galleries etc is minimal. Anyone who says it takes a lot of time and frustration to add other features can't follow instructions properly. It is always a good idea to make large changes such as layouts and new features on a development version of your site first. That's even if you are handcoding the site yourself so as to not accidentally kill your live site by mistake.

    With all that said I believe there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. If you want to be a web developer handcoding is all well and good (that's how i started out) but if you want to focus on putting your content out there you are not utilizing your time properly by handcoding. You can slowly change the look of your site as you get more familiar with the lingo and you can make more advanced changes as necessary. To say cms is slow is very misleading. It is all a matter of you optimizing your website. I've visited websites made of static html pages that completely bogged my laptop down. Its all about what you are doing and how you are doing it.

  11. #11
    SitePoint Zealot ChrisWiegman's Avatar
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    Get a good base CMS and add to it. Coding a whole system from scratch is fun in practice, but can cause all sorts of security and other problems if done wrong.

  12. #12
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    As a freelancer, you are going to need to be able to build both kinds of sites. If you want to build something complex for a client, you just won't have the time to build security by hand, and then continually update to keep out the hackers. It's a full time job!

    I really recommend learning a top CMS like Drupal that will allow you to expand your services to clients and take on more "high margin" work. Clients have high expectations these days, and suddenly near the end of a project will throw in "so how do I update this myself", or "now I need a gallery/invoicing system/e-commerce site" without realising what they are asking for in terms of complexity.

    Get at least one good CMS system under your belt, plus Wordpress or Joomla for simple sites. When you are your own client you have the time to build in all the whistles and bells and get to grips with advanced templating and which modules really work well.

  13. #13
    SitePoint Member Moshe_SWD's Avatar
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    I would not just use a CMS, but I would use a CMS that you can find a good starting template to work with for the type of site that you are trying to build. As someone mentioned above, spend your time getting and satisfying clients, not dealing with the technicalities of building and/or managing your site.

  14. #14
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    I've used content management systems for instances where I need to get information out quickly. As what others pointed out, without a background in html/css if something gets messed up in your cms, you are going to need to know how to fix it. I've even come across where knowing basic php would have been helpful.

    As an aspiring website designer, myself, I would say start off with a cms(it'll help when you are ready to build), showing examples of your work, etc . (Over time put in enough changes done to show that you have the ability to design and develop). The first proofs that I find people tend to look for when looking for web designers are what their site looks like and is it w3c validated and for e-commerce related sites security is key.

    There seems to be a hot market for CMS though so you'll need to be able to handle both I guess.

  15. #15
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    But would that be classed as cheating as I will using yjeir ready made template but customizing it to what i want.......
    WHAT? Are you talking about Web Design or Web Development portfolio?
    If you don't plan to add information on a weekly basis, or make daily tweaks to content... a CMS is overkill.

    As far as CHEATING... knowledge of using a CMS is never a detriment, knowledge of coding in one is sometimes an asset. What would seem as cheating , would be pre-made template design ( think about it... hire a web designer who bought his website design?) On the coding end.. many clients want their work done in standard CMS... Joomla, Drupal, Wordpress?!? As far as coding or skinning , that could be an advantage... I warn you tho.. it will NOT be any faster than hand coding, if you don't already know how to code for the cms, and handle it's dashboard for data entry.

  16. #16
    SitePoint Member Moshe_SWD's Avatar
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    I personally don't agree that using a pre-made template is 'cheating' IF you significantly modify and improve the design of the template. A template can be seen as a nice skeleton for a site with certain aspects of the html, css, javascript/jquery and php code already taken care of. A designer can then rework this skeleton to create a far more aesthetically interesting and appealing site.

    There are other advantages - one of which is that you can actually charge your client less and produce the site quicker while still producing a high quality product. Of course, just like you need to find the right CMS you also need to find the right templates, but as a concept I think in general it is a better way to build websites.

  17. #17
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    So far, of the CMSs that I've used, I prefer Expression Engine. Its extremely flexible and has a great community and support surrounding it.

    I've used Joomla, Mambo, Wordpress, Drupal, and a few others as well, but EE is my CMS of choice. Its beautifully crafted and where the other CMSs fail, EE shines.

    I find the other CMSs hard to sometimes to get it to bend to make it do what you want it to do...NOT EE, its extremely flexible and if you can code HTML/CSS -- you will love it.

    It does have a small price tag, but its worth it.
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  18. #18
    SitePoint Enthusiast Ryo-ohki's Avatar
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    I haven't seen anything EE could do that Drupal couldn't do better and for free. Also you aren't slapped with restrictions on using it commercially or not. EE makes you shell out even more money if you want a commercial license and you have to pay for something that is basic for any free cms such as the ability to have multi-site capabilities and even the forum module. Pretty ridiculous if you ask me.

  19. #19
    SitePoint Zealot AirFor's Avatar
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    I would hand code it yourself, that way you know everything regarding the site.

  20. #20
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    The choice is yours.If you have time in your hand then you can go for coding.Its a time taking process.Now a days lots of CMS like Magento and Joomla are available i the market which made the web design very easy and time saving.Within few hours you can get your site ready.They are open source. So you can also down load any module when ever required from the Internet.They are free.We are working on both Magento and Joomla.So, I really enjoy by working with it.

  21. #21
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    The difference between Drupal and EE is that EE is way easier to use. EE is great for anyone that wants to build websites quickly and the template system can't be matched by anyone. EE is amazing. You basically just drop you HTML into a template, put some EE tags in the template, and you have a working blog in a matter of minutes.

    Sure, you can install Drupal and you have a default look and you have a blog as well, but what you don't have is the look and feel that you want. That part from what i recall from using Drupal is painful.

    I'm not sure what you mean by shell out more money if you want to use it commercially -- if you are going to use it commercially, then just buy a commercial license which is only $300 and the more licenses you buy the cheaper EE is, I think i have 3 licenses and the last version i bought cost $260, which in the big scheme of things is pretty cheap.

    I've used Wordpress (which is great), but the page system is a little odd and making pages look completely different is not as straight forward as EE is.

    Its just my preference and is my first choice.


    Quote Originally Posted by Ryo-ohki
    I haven't seen anything EE could do that Drupal couldn't do better and for free. Also you aren't slapped with restrictions on using it commercially or not. EE makes you shell out even more money if you want a commercial license and you have to pay for something that is basic for any free cms such as the ability to have multi-site capabilities and even the forum module. Pretty ridiculous if you ask me.
    Last edited by Paul O'B; May 16, 2011 at 04:48. Reason: quote tags added
    MYCFMX (Under Construction)
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  22. #22
    SitePoint Enthusiast PixelStyles's Avatar
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    I think it comes down to if you are a trying to showcase being a designer or a coder. A CMS template that you tear down and make your own design around would only be a bad thing if you were hired to program a CMS for someone

  23. #23
    SitePoint Enthusiast Ryo-ohki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobbieGoD View Post
    I'm not sure what you mean by shell out more money if you want to use it commercially -- if you are going to use it commercially, then just buy a commercial license which is only $300 and the more licenses you buy the cheaper EE is, I think i have 3 licenses and the last version i bought cost $260, which in the big scheme of things is pretty cheap.

    If you want to have the full capability that EE is offering it is 299.95 for the commercial license, 99.95 for the forum module, 199.95 for the multi site manager and lastly 49.95 for what is listed as msm add. site which seems to me they are charging you to use the multi site manager on a different url (essentially charging you extra just because). I don't know about you but the casual blogger or beginning web developer most likely does not have or want to throw around $650 on top of what they are paying for their domain(s) and hosting. To me it seems like it would be a waste of money considering pretty much every other open source cms solution has everything EE has for free. Learning how to create or modify existing templates seems the better option vs paying so much with little real value above the other systems available.

  24. #24
    It's all Geek to me silver trophybronze trophy
    ralph.m's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryo-ohki View Post
    If you want to have the full capability that EE is offering it is 299.95
    All versions have the same capacity (pretty much). It just depends on what you are using it for which license you get. If it's a personal blog, it's cheaper.

    199.95 for the multi site manager and lastly 49.95 for what is listed as msm add. site which seems to me they are charging you to use the multi site manager on a different url (essentially charging you extra just because).
    Those are one and the same. The multi site manager (msm) allows you to run multiple sites on one license. You can have up to three, and add additional ones for the the 49.95.

    the casual blogger or beginning web developer most likely does not have or want to throw around $650 on top of what they are paying for their domain(s) and hosting.
    Would a casual blogger need a forum and multiple sites? You are inflating things a bit there.

    To me it seems like it would be a waste of money considering pretty much every other open source cms solution has everything EE has for free. Learning how to create or modify existing templates seems the better option vs paying so much with little real value above the other systems available.
    That's fair enough, but it is a well-designed system that's user-friendly and is well supported. As they say, you get what you pay for, and for professionals, it can be quite good to know that there's a support team that will back you all the way when you're in difficulty. There's also a great community around this CMS.

  25. #25
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    CMS hands down - purely for the fact that it's such a time saver.

    But at the end of the day, you need to figure out what your goal is:
    Is it to show off your coding skills?
    Or do you need to have a functioning website up and running asap?

    If time is important, CMS is the way to go. If the site is for your portfolio, then code it.


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