Setting up a new business venture - CMS advice welcomed!

Hi guys,

First of all hello (:, I’m relatively new to this forum.

I’m a student with some experience in web design and i’m currently in the process of setting up a business venture that will include primarily deals (exclusive offers + some affiliate links) and jobs sections, along with music, film and sport articles aimed at a specific target audience.

Ideally I would like to create the website myself from scratch and refine some skills along the way but i’m finding myself increasingly bogged down with fundraising, promotion and the day-to-day stresses of a start-up, so with some reluctance me and my business partner decided to get a man/men in.

I’ve approached several professional designers about having a bespoke system made and i’m getting offers of about £15k+/$24k+, which is more than I initially thought but not a complete shock as it’s quite a comprehensive system we’re looking for, luckily we have raised a fair bit in fundraising but we need to put as much as we can into promotion to really get our vision off the ground.

Now what i’m interested in is advice as to whether you think I could spend less money on a CMS + Plugins + Template’s combination without sacrificing too much in terms of functionality, professionalism and credibility - that would be okay until we can afford a tailor-made option without breaking the bank. We wouldn’t need a job system and we are having that done separately, but to be more specific we would need a members-system, deals/affiliate page as well as blog style sections for the article’s (with featured section) and a main page that contain widgets such as hot 20 deals, top news, articles + videos etc.

This website is a close example of what we are trying to acheive.

Would using a CMS be a viable option? I have done some research, I’ve heard wordpress decribed as “state-of-the-art” but my first impressions are that is seems a bit “too bloggy”. I’ve also heard Joomla! and Drupal are very good and that ExpressionEngine is quite powerful, what’s you guys opinions for a website of this magnitude?

Any constructive advice welcomed!


If I were to go with a CMS for your purpose it would be Drupal for me. I find it more secure (bad coded WP plugins is the reason why many WP sites gets hacked), more developer friendly and easy to build on top of it.

Thanks, i’ve been messing about with Drupal today and i’m hoping It can fit the bill

I would second PromptSpace’s recommendation of using Drupal for this project. It is the engine used most for larger projects and has the ability to scale with your needs. This comes with a cost of server resources and a pretty hefty learning curve. Based on the little I know of your project, those estimates seem to be in the right range.

I just wanted to touch on this part here… I would build everything within Drupal Careers/Jobs, Content, User profiles, music, articles, etc… That way the CMS has influence and availability of all content rather than piecing it together with bits that can’t necessarily access each other on a one-on-one basis. This is the most valuable part of having a complete CMS.

Thanks for your help guys! I’m going to seriously look into Drupal over the next few weeks.

Awasson, What do you mean when you say learning curve, as it developing modules for Drupal? Sorry if i’m being ignorant.

Do think I would be able to cut design costs by creating the first iteration of the website myself using Drupal and getting a professional to increase functional once the website starts making income? Obviously it would be better if I had the whole thing done by a pro but we need to find a bit more cash to go into promotion.

Hey Brendan,

There are three or four areas of expertise in Drupal development and it’s probably the same with WordPress, Joomla, EE, etc… They are:

1) Configuration: Knowing the way the CMS works and what combination of modules, features and settings will provide the most efficient use of the system. I inherit one or two Drupal sites a year that have been developed by some poor soul who hasn’t taken the time to learn the ins-and-outs of the system and just stats throwing heaps of modules at it hoping something sticks. Often the site sort of works but it’s sluggish from module bloat and inefficient design. If you know your way around Drupal, you’ll come to recognize certain swiss-army-knife like modules that can satisfy a multitude of your website’s needs. These are modules like: views, ctools, token, pathauto, and context.

2) Theming: This is the part where your design is applied to the site and this is so often overlooked by developers. You can Theme in Drupal several ways; get a free theme, sub-theme (extend a parent theme), build a theme from scratch. I tend to build themes from scratch because I know it produces the least amount of markup and server-side code and I can control exactly what gets sent to the browser. I’m a bit of a theming nerd and I would have to say about 99% of the custom themes I run across (including the first ones I built) suck.

A theme should be concise and specific to the site you’re building. Last year I inherited a website for a large national organization and it was obviously put together by someone who was learning Drupal on the job (working for a flashy big ad agency). The theme has no less than 30 CSS files and some of those span into the thousands of lines. It also contains 20 template files, plus the usual file. The thing is that the design isn’t that tricky and I could rebuild it with a fraction of that number of files and templates. It’s a subtheme of another theme so it has a bunch of bloat right from the get-go. If I were to create it from scratch it would consist of perhaps two page template files and two or three concise CSS files, plus the info file. That would make maintenance and extending it a breeze compared to the existing situation.

3) Coding: Often when you’re developing in Drupal, you need to write some code to introduce some UI magic via jQuery or on the server with PHP to manipulate the page’s output. This is not module building, this is just a little tweaking with the Blocks area or in a custom views field, header or footer. It requires some knowledge of the API and how to effectively use it within the various levels. The Devel module comes in really handy at this point.

4) Module building: Module building is the next step up from coding tweaks. It’s not all that complicated once you wrap your head around the API and what you want to do. I have a half dozen simple helper modules I use for modifying the login or user profile forms as well as a couple of wysiwyg helper modules I use to refine things. Once you’ve made a simple module it gets much easier to do something a bit more complex.

A good book for getting started is Using Drupal:
A more advanced book is Drupal Pro Development:


Edit: [I]To answer your question, I think you will save time/money in the long run if you find someone very good to develop your site, make sure they understand exactly what you want right down to the fine details and then have them develop the site. Get references and have a look at as many sites that they’ve built to ensure you have the right people. If you want to manage the entire site in-house make sure thy understand that and have them customize the admin pages to suit the way you’ll need them to be set up. Also get them to have you involved in inputting the content early on in the project. That way you’ll be able to become familiar with the system while the project is evolving and you’ll cut costs by doing that part of the work.

Any large site will require maintenance so make sure that you either have your developer on retainer to do the typical updates or have them show you how to do them. For Drupal Core update, you might want them to do that. It isn’t a huge deal but it can be nerve wracking if you haven’t done that sort of thing before. Also for a safety net, get the Backup And Migrate module setup to do nightly database backups. I set all of my sites to do that and they keep a 7 day cache of backups. [/I]

Wow, loads of great info there, thanks man!

I’m going to get stuck in to a few of those area’s, probably leaving theming to a pro - I have designed the pages I want by hand and although I am flexible on some of the elements a lot of the pre-made templates i’ve looked at seemed to be either really tame or just not the right fit, plus the design is important for the audience we are trying to capture.

I do have some experience in programming so hopefully i’ll be able to pick up some of the area’s, Ideally I want to learn how to operate the site myself as I like to be as involved as I can be. I understand where you are coming from with the bloatware and I’m definitely going to avoid stacking tons of modules onto my page. I’m just going to have to do a lot of research to find out what modules are suitable or can be made suitable for the widgets and functions i’m after.

Thanks again for your generous advice!

Well, Brendan, It seems that you’re all sorted.

I don’t see a problem with using a CMS for your project and most of the time it may download the programming/coding time and the costs. And in business keeping the costs low is everyrhing.

There are many CMSs that can do the job and that have plenty of plugins that you need. Drupal is a solid choice but if the plugins you need to add functionality you require don’t adapt to your needs as expected, you may take Joomla into consideration. Joomla is easier to learn but it’s been around longer and there are more plugins for it than for Drupal.

As much as I love WP, I would probably stay away from it for this project. Of course, there are plenty of great CMSs out there, but I don’t know them well enough to have a well formed opinion.

Still, whatever you choose, also take your time to learn how to secure well, specially if you use plugins (which you will). Most of the security issues in any CMS don’t come from a poor built CMS, but from a poor build plug-in that opens security holes.

That is a good break down of things in the Drupal realm. I would second what is being said about Drupal being a good fit if your not going to program it from the ground up. The Drupal community offers enough to probably achieve many goals without a single line of custom code. So it is a good option if you are not familiar with programming nor have a budget for it.