CMS for multiple "children" sites


We are working with a restaurant franchise who is expanding quickly. They have 50 franchisees as of now and are adding more in the coming months.

We will be redoing their corporate site, but need an easy solution to carry this look over to 50+ “sub-sites” that will keep the same look and feel.

The sub-sites will only have three pages, the home page, menu, and contact page. So obviously the only content that will differ will be the menu, the location, and contact info.

Also doesn’t matter if its…


Either format will work.

Any suggestions?

I think one of the major benefit of drupal is it can be customized to your need.
As you said your customer can be lost then I think you are unaware of one of the major benefit of drupal.

Drupal have a option of creating the custom menu so that you can just provide the required link to your customer so that we can work out on that you have the option for the permission where you can control each and every thing you user can do.

It’s a classic case of “get what you pay for”… and it’s a very small payment for full support.

Expression Engine, I can’t wait to upgrade to EE 2 with a sleeker, faster design and two new stores via MSM. I love ee.

I personally loathe drupal. It is my least favorite of the big three (joomla, wordpress, drupal)

To me the back end interface is an absolute nightmare to figure out, let alone to teach clients how to use it.

That being said thank you for the suggestion.

Yes I meant the client. I am pretty proficient at html/css/php etc. I want to be able to pass as much of this off to the client as possible, as it will be most cost effective for them.

Thank you for the feedback!

Probably most CMSs could do this. It’s probably easier to have the second format in terms of housing everything under one CMS, but that means one site with sub-pages (or subsections) rather than “sub sites”. Is that OK? If so, take your pick of CMSs. All the free ones like Drupal, Joomla, MODx, SilverStripe would be fine, or paid ones like ExpressionEngine.

I would go for a format like

…with that page/section containing the other pages, such as

You could just use the same template(s) throughout the entire site.

Thanks for the reply Ralph.

I basically would like to know which would be the most intuitive easiest route for someone who has little to no web programming experience. Ultimately we would like for this system to be something the customer can set up for their franchisees very easily. We want to give them as much control as possible in this situation.

EE is definitely paid with a year renewal. If you want to a continued upgrade you have to pay a yearly renewal also.

Good luck with the project and maybe if you’re able (NDA’s and contracts may prevent it), you could do a build thread to keep us posted on the project.

BTW: The secret to navigating Drupal’s back end is the Admin Menu module. Upload, activate, turn off the regular navigation in “Blocks” and you are done. I use it with all the sites I build and none of my clients are CS degree holding computer geniuses. Then create your user roles so that your editors, administrators, staff, etc… have roles with permissions suited to their needs.

All of the CMSs (including EE) take some learning, but I for one have found EE very nice to work with. Of course, you clients don’t see as much of the back end as you do (with any CMS), but they will still have a little to learn. By careful planning, you can minimise the amount they have to deal with, though.

I think Expression Engine is a paid solution isn’t it.

As awasson said Drupal is a skeleton and you need to add other organs to it so that it can be as you want.

Thanks so much for the replies everyone. I am really leaning towards EE.

I see all your points about drupal, but the problem is I want to put as much of this into the customers hands as possible, and if I (the “web guy” with a CS degree) would struggle to navigate around the back end, I could imagine the customers having issues as well.

That’s too bad… It truly would be a good choice for your project and certainly is the best performer and most capable amongst the “big three”.

I used to loath Drupal too but now I’ve been using it for about 5 years and can appreciate it for what it can do. The good and bad thing about Drupal is that it’s a blank slate… It can be whatever you want it to be but you have to install the modules and configure it to your liking and for that, you have to invest time to know the system.

I basically would like to know which would be the most intuitive easiest route for someone who has little to no web programming experience. Ultimately we would like for this system to be something the customer can set up for their franchisees very easily. We want to give them as much control as possible in this situation.
I’m not sure how you would do this with another system but with Drupal I would set up a multi-site installation and then add a new database for each franchise. You could run it all off one but that’s risky and why cheap out. Your franchises would be:

You could set up a nice franchise theme, use TinyMCE or FCKEditor with limited permissions and it would be simple enough to manage. The key with Drupal is to limit editor and staff roles to what they need to access. Then use the “Admin Menu” module and turn off the main admin navigation that shows up on the left side column so that it’s easy to get at what you need without introducing all sorts of garbage. If you do that, I garantee you’ll be much happier with Drupal’s back end.

I also make it a policy to include at least two sessions of tutorials to show clients how to use the system. Once right at launch or just before and then a few weeks later once they have used it for a while so we can fine tune it to their liking.

That is your choice to use it or not but still I want to add is I have tried it for similar case and it was one of the best solution among those three.

I chose ExpressionEngine over the others because 1) I could understand it 2) it’s easy to use and set up, and does not interfere with your HTML and CSS at all 3) has top, professional support 4) is a beautifully sleek and well-designed machine, perfect for small-medium business sites, and well documented. That doesn’t mean the others can’t do the same, but for me, EE was the standout choice.

You better look into Drupal I think this can be the idea solution for you.

I assume you mean the client here and not you?

The only CMS that I’m familiar with (of those listed above) is ExpressionEngine (EE). It would be quite easy for you to set up a site in the way I described, but you would need to understand HTML and CSS, and would have to learn how to set up EE templates, which is not hard at all.

Then your clients could just merrily add pages and sections at will–without messing much with code–although they still do have to learn how to use the system. For some people that’s easy, for others overwhelming. So it really depends on the people you are working with.

Drupal 6 with admin menu or Drupal 7 should do the trick :wink:

(read you don’t like the backend)

Expressionengine would be a good choice for this sort of site.

Depending how the site is set up, publishing a new “subsite/franchise” would be as easy as clicking “Publish”, entering all the info for that franchise and saving. From there you could automatically create a directory of franchises that are sortable/browseable by location, type or any other variable.