Guidance for CMS newbie

Hello there

New to the forums, so hello all. I am after some guidance, perhaps you could help.

I have a customer that is a garden landscaper, I need to be able to allow him to add the following content to a portfolio page:

  • Main photo, which would link to a lightbox style gallery of up to 8 photos
  • Title of the Job
  • Date
  • Description of the job undertaken (approx 400 char)

These would be displayed in the contents of a webpage showing all of the entries.

It is such a simple job I think most CMS are going to be over complex. I have been teaching myself the fundamentals of PHP but don’t feel quite ready to take the task on myself.

Any links or CMS names would be great.

Thanks again.


Hi JohnC-. Welcome to SitePoint. :slight_smile:

As you recognize, if the need is simple, it’s overkill to get your head around a fully-fledged CMS. There are some little CMSes around that sound just right to me. My favorite is Perch, with is a brilliant little CMS that plugs in to your otherwise static site. It’s a great piece of work and has a great community around it.

Another option worth checking out is MojoMotor, the baby sister of ExpressionEngine. The advantage here is that it’s easy to upgrade to the latter if the site expands.

Those above options have a small cost associated with them, though, so another option is a free service like CushyCMS, which interfaces with your static website and allows a site owner to update content. Similar offerings are [URL=“”]SurrealCMS and [URL=“”]PageLime.

Hope that helps.


Thanks for your reply. I just googled the offerings you gave me. I think Cushy may be the most viable option for me, their demo doesnt show a way you can add multiple entries, just shows how to edit/replace existing content. But I am sure they must offer this as well.

For others reading this. I have also followed this tutorial ( It is nearly what I want but I just need to add a username / password controlled access to the CMS, and need to know how to add multiple photos to one entry.

If I learn how I will post back, else I will just use a existing framework.

Thanks again ralph.m


Hm, that CSS Tricks post looks interesting. I think I’ve seen it before, but I’ll revisit that.

John, I’m not sure CushyCMS would support multiple entries, to be honest, so probably Perch would be a better option.


I am just going to man up and get this PHP MySQL CMS designed. It is such a simple CMS it’s the perfect starting block.

I will let you guys know my findings.

Thanks ralph.m

Hi John,
Welcome aboard.

If you’re going to make a habit of designing/building CMS sites (which i do recommend), have a look around and see what is available in the CMS marketplace (do some R&D). Find something very, very good and then learn it well. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Cushy, Perch, WordPress, Joomla ExpressionEngine or Drupal. Once you know the system, you should be able to strip it down for a minimal install on little sites or ramp it up for enterprise level apps and sites.

Several years ago I was using Drupal for big websites and my own CMS for small stuff. Then it dawned on me (a colleague told me) that I should just build everything in Drupal to begin then as an organization’s website needs grow, I can add features/modules, etc… rather than have to rethink the whole site if a client outgrows the existing one. Now we build about a dozen Drupal websites a year. Some will always be small boutique sites with a slideshow portfolio and some informational pages whereas others start out with all the bells & whistles. You should be able to do this with any full featured CMS platform.

Good luck on the project!



Thanks for your response. After sleeping on the idea, I have to agree with you; that knowing a fully customisable CMS in and out would be a real asset, especially as I grow as a business. I have installed it on my local server and am just getting to grips with the idea, I presume I have to now create my own theme, based on the current design.

Investigations continue…


Hi John,
Yes, it’s a bit of a time investment but as your business grows with your CMS expertise, it’ll be worth it.

I look at development with a CMS as basically a three pronged approach:

  1. CMS setup and configuration. Getting the basics up and running, installing the appropriate modules and figuring out whether it’s basic static type content or image galleries, news sections, events, blogs etc… Knock out a bunch of blank pages if you’re still waiting for content and get the navigation fleshed out. Sometimes there’s some custom code writing in this stage, sometimes not.

  2. Theming. Applying the design to your CMS. Often times I’ll have to write custom code in this stage so it’s good to know the CMS API well here.

  3. Customizing and fine tuning. Once you have the design applied and hopefully the content has arrived. Now you get to see how it really looks and you’ll have to fine tune it so that everything works in concert.

It’s more involved than that but that’s the gist of it.



Thanks for the game plan, I would follow a similar logic to you I’m sure. The problem I have at this time is that the learning curve associated with such comprehensive CMS like joomla & drupal may be a little too much to ask for in the relatively short time I have to get this site up and running. But is something I intend to learn.

The question this leaves me with is;

Is there a basic framework that allows me to add content / portfolio items that anyone could reccommend?

It would just need to embed within a div, or even an iframe, of an existing static site and display the information outlined in the OP.

Cheers John.

Excuse my poor search facility skills, I found a thread pretty much summarising my problem and possible solutions:

Site Point Forum Link

I do agree with Dyalekt on some points, I haven’t reached their levels of frustration yet. The templating system does put me off but I think it is just ignorance holding me back, its just a case of learning. I will look at MODx and ExpressionEngine.

Investigations continue…

Yeah, I forgot about that discussion. ModX looked pretty promising and I’ve heard great things about EE as well.

  • If the only thing holding you back from Drupal or Joomla is the templating part, I would recommend getting a handle on that and learning how they work. Maybe not for the project you’re on right now because of time constraints but once you figure out how templates work in Drupal, things really fall into place.

There’s a book called Drupal Pro Development which is IMO pretty heavy reading but it has a section on Theming that takes you step by step through the process of writing a basic custom theme. Once you master that, it’s easy to understand how to divide your design into regions for content, navigation, sub-navigation, etc… Well worth the reading if you decide to go down that path. The other Drupal book I thought was quite good was “Using Drupal”. I don’t recall if it goes through templating and theming but it does take you through a bunch of examples of how to work with image galleries, eCommerce, Blogs, Publishing workflows for multiple authors, Job postings and applications and that sort of thing.

BTW and again going down a Drupal path because it is my area of interest, I would look at the Media Gallery project over at Drupal for image galleries. It’s new and runs on Drupal 7 only at this time. I have a copy of it running on a test site to see what it does and it is very similar to FaceBook in how you create an album of photos and drag them around to arrange them. It also lets you upload a whole bunch of images at once rather than one at a time like most uploading modules.

Anyway, good luck with your project!


i suggest you to try wordpress, It’s fairly easy to maintain and very SEO friendly(with some SEO plugins)

Hi All,

Just an update to let you know how I got on.

I tried using a couple of different CMS, namely Drupal, Joomla!, and MODX. I ended up managing to get the results I wanted by using MODX but it isn’t particularly well supported and I found it slightly cumbersome.

I ended up using MODX and a plugin called Gallery. The gallery has little documentation and not much of a community. I have outlined how to make the gallery do what i wanted here at my newly established web design and computer repair blog. Cheers.

If you know how to use PHP, I suggest you digging into Wordpress Codex and Create a template on your own. Wordpress is not just a CMS, it is a whole framework. You can virtually create anything with it, from simple blog, to web application. If you know how to do the above task in PHP, you will know how to make a template for it in Wordpress. It just take a week for me to learn how to create wordpress template from scratch.