Not long ago, I decided to create a Web development product reviews site. With the limited (actually, "limited" would be giving me credit — let’s say non-existent) programming knowledge that I have, I decided to take a look at some of the paid article content management system (CMS) scripts that were available. One that caught my eye was SiteWorks Professional (we’ll refer to it as SWP from this point forward), by SiteCubed.
SWP is a PHP- and MySQL-based script that has many of the features you’d expect from an article CMS. There are some ominous omissions, such as the lack of an "email article to a friend" script, but these omissions are generally small and shouldn’t prevent you from checking out and even using SWP.
Besides the actual articles and categories (the bulk of the script), SWP also features a "News" section, where you can denote news articles at other sites and link to them, a polls function, newsletter subscription script, and some content blocks and pages right out of the box. It also allows you some basic vBulletin/phpBB integration in the form of a "Recent Topics" block on the index page.
Intrigued by the product’s potential, I got my hands on a copy and went to work.
Setup and Installation
Installation of the script was fairly straightforward and just about what you would expect. SWP has the following system requirements:
- Operating System: Windows NT/2000, Linux or Unix
- Web Server: Apache or IIS, depending on your operating system
- PHP Engine: PHP 4.1 or above
- MySQL: MySQL 3.23 or above
- Browser: To manage your site, you must be using Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE) 5.5 or above. Note that you only need MSIE 5.5 or above to edit your Website, not to view it. An SWP-backed site can be viewed in any browser.
If you have installed phpBB or any similar script, you shouldn’t have any problems; the SWP documentation helps by walking you through this process. After you’ve successfully installed the script, you will undoubtedly find your way to the administration section.
You can manage pretty much every aspect of the default SWP distribution from the Admin section. Remember those content blocks I mentioned a minute ago? These include an "Affiliates" block and a "Handy Tip" block. You can edit the content of these in the admin section, but I decided that I’d prefer to have elements of that nature hard-coded into the site. Similarly, SWP comes with "About Us," "Contact Us," etc. pages that are editable through the admin area. Again, I opted for a hard-coded version. I opened a template file, ripped the "Affiliates" section out, and was ready to keep going — without any errors or other problems.
This was one of the things that I liked about SWP. Virtually any feature that I didn’t like, or didn’t apply to the type of site I was making, was easily removed in a matter of minutes. I had trouble removing some features, but I was ultimately able to extract them with help from the SWP support team.
SWP has a very good author/user management system that allows you to create as many users as you like. The fields for each author include First Name, Last Name, Email, User Id, Password, Picture, Bio (which is represented by a handy WYSIWYG editor) and Permissions. However, if you want users to login to the admin area to submit an article, you will need to have the appropriate license — more on that later.
You can add as many "article topics" (or categories) to the database as you like, and within these categories, you can add your articles. You are able to associate the following with each article:
- Article Type (Tutorial, Review, Summary, Tip or Interview)
- Summary (the short bit of text that is shown as the article teaser)
- Topics (or categories — you can select as many topics as you like for each article)
- Related Articles (you can select as many as you like from the articles currently in your database)
- Related Books (this utilizes the built-in "Books" area of SWP)
- Forum Link (a hard-coded link)
- up to 3 related links
- a .zip support file (for use if a download is related to the article)
- the publishing date
- whether the article should be visible
One quick note about the article types — you cannot add to, edit, or remove types with anything that could be described as "ease." If you want to delete an article type altogether (as I did) this is easily achieved by removing it from the template files. I am told that article types will be editable in the next version of SWP.
Articles can be broken into as many as twenty pages. All pages are editable quickly and easily from one screen in a WYSIWYG editor, and you can give each page its own title. This functionality is definitely one of the big advantages of SWP.
Finally, SWP features a Comments system, which allows your site’s visitors to make comments on articles. It isn’t all that powerful, however. Besides being able to manually approve comments and remove them, the moderation system is rather unremarkable.
Templates and Customization
If you choose to run SWP as it comes right out of the box, you’ll have a reasonably decent-looking site on your hands. It comes with 3 pre-made templates, each of which is satisfactory, but not outstanding. All the same, I see no reason why you wouldn’t want to customize them at least slightly, so the default appearance of the templates shouldn’t make or break the deal.
If you’ve worked with a template system like phpBB, DRAMS, or something of that nature, you should be able to customize your SWP template. I recommend choosing the template you like best, then customizing it to your requirements. You may run into some problems (as did I), at which point it’s advisable to post in the SWP support forums.
One problem I had with the script is that it does not come with what most would call "search engine friendly" URLs. By default, article URLs look like this: http://www.url.com/articles.php?articleId=1. However, with much help from the SWP support people, even a programming novice like me was able to enable prettier URLs, such as: http://www.url.com/articles/1.
The limited modification community that exists is contained in the SWP support forums.
For the most part, I was very pleased with the support provided for the product. Some responses lacked timeliness, but responses were made to all my questions, and I was able to accomplish everything I wanted to, which is the main thing.
License Confusion and the Next Version
The SWP license structure is a little confusing. It starts with the US$99 version for a single user, and goes all the way up to US$299 for a version for eleven or more users.
So, what exactly is a qualified "user"? You can create as many user accounts/authors as you like for association with articles. But, when a user actually logs in to your admin area and does anything — submits an article, changes their own info, or has every single permission granted to them (you can set permissions when creating or editing accounts) — they are considered an "administrator," and that’s what counts on the license. When the creators refer to "a single user license," they mean a single administrator — and an administrator is further qualified as any person who logs into the administration section of your SWP.
Most content sites that I know of accept email submissions, anyway, so this probably isn’t a big deal. The editor of your site (probably yourself) is the only one that needs to login in cases like that, so the single user license will be suitable.
An odd quirk is that SWP does not enforce the pricing. That is to say, you can allow a million people to be "administrators" on the US$99 version and no one will ever know. Of course, you will know — and that should be more than enough to prompt you to act legally. If you buy the single user license, you should be the only person that you allow to login to the admin area. Not because you have to — because it is right.
I have been assured by the SiteCubed folks that in the next version of SWP, this quirk will be disappearing and SWP will switch from a per-user license to a per-domain license, which makes more sense. The price of the next version is expected to be higher, but actual pricing is yet to be revealed.
SWP has its problems and lacks some features, there’s no doubt. But, all in all, the price of the single user license makes this a solid solution. SWP is definitely worth consideration if you’re looking for an article CMS that will allow you to create a site similar to SitePoint (though it will be less feature rich, obviously).