View Full Version : CMS Fundamental Info Needed

02-04-2008, 09:17 AM
Help! Can any kind soul provide a link to a totally fundamental explanation of CMS programs? Ideally this would be suitable for someone (like me) who can create simple HTML files in Notepad and upload them to the server but finds CMS programs totally mysterious.

TIA, John

02-04-2008, 11:06 AM
There really isn't a fundamental explanation for all CMS programs. They all work in very different ways. The best advice I can give you is to visit the sites of each CMS you may be interested in and explore their documentation. Also you may want to simply install and play with the program some. They can be confusing at first but if you take a week or two to reading the documentation and exploring the CMS you can normally figure out how it works.

Many of them are built around PHP so you might want to do some reading on that program language. Just do a search for PHP tutorials on your favorite SE and you should come up with tons of articles to read. :) While as a basic user you do not normally need to have a knowledge of PHP it often helps if you want to expand the base program to do more. Even plugins, mods or modules often require that you alter the PHP code although good programs try to keep this to a minimum.

P.S. Although I do not use it I know many folks like Dragonfly ( http://dragonflycms.org/ ) as a CMS and say it is really easy to use. I have installed it manually on a WH account in the past so it well work on your account.

02-04-2008, 11:15 AM
Thanks yet again Shawn you are the source of all knowledge around here!

A common problem with all CMS programs seems to be that what little documentation they offer is written by experts who are totally familiar for the program and its jargon for experts who are totally familiar with the program and its jargon :(

I'll check out Dragonfly, sounds hopeful.

Can I ask a really elementary question please? Am I right in guessing that CMS programs don't output HTM files but PHP files? Or is that the wrong way to start to understand them?


02-04-2008, 04:38 PM

You are correct to assume that most popular CMS programs are written in PHP but also remember that PHP is the "brains" behind the scene and that it still has to output HTML so the browser can understand what to display on the screen.

In fact the simplest of PHP programs would be a file named with the extension of php and would actually look just like your regular .html page except for the bits of php code. Give this a try, take one of your html pages as it is and rename it with the .php extension. The some where in between the HTML body tags place this bit of code on a line.

<?php echo "Hello World!"; ?>
Upload the file and have a look at it in the browser. "Hello World!" well now show up where ever you placed it in the body of the page. Congratulations you are now a PHP programer. ;)

Now most CMS programs don't work that simple but they are still some how at the very end simply outputting HTML.

After I posted last time I got to thinking that many times there is some terminology that crosses over on different CMS's. I did a search on Google for "CMS Terminology" and came up with the following sites that may help you out.

This first link is community project called "CMS Wiki" that seems to be ongoing. I am linking to Intro to CMS (http://www.cmswiki.com/tiki-index.php?page=introtocms) but they do have a Glossary of terms that may be helpful although since this is a Wiki not all terms are defined yet.

CMS Terminology (http://www.a3webtech.com/index.php/cms-terms.html) is a smaller list of terms but may help also and all the terms are defined.

02-05-2008, 12:38 AM

Thanks for the explanation and the links, I'll explore them.

Understanding check please: here's what I think is happening but am I right? When a web site maintainer creates or edits a page in the CMS, the CMS updates the contents of the MySQL database. When a site visitor's web browser asks the web server for a URL, the web server asks the CMS for the relevant data (the CMS installation process having previously configured the web server to do this, somehow). The CMS gets the relevant data from the MySQL database, formats it, and gives it to the web server for display to the end user's browser, presumably in HTML. But the output from the CMS isn't stored in files on the server (or anywhere else), it's always supplied "on the fly" to the web server. In most cases the CMS is programmed in PHP but the site visitor doesn't need to know that, and only an adanced site maintainer needs to.

If I can get a fairly accurate model of what's happening into my thick head then I can try to move on and understand some of the terminology.

BTW, I had a quick look at Dragonfly. They've got a very useful elementary FAQ and glossary but they seem weak on other documentation. However, I need to look round their site further I think.


02-05-2008, 12:24 PM
Yes you are correct in your assumptions. The only correction I would add is that it is possible that the CMS does not use a MYSQL database to store the information. About everything you find out there now well use MYSQL but the data could be stored in a "flat" file. I believe the Counter that WestHost provides still uses a flat file database to store the page view counts but this is not the optimal way to store data so like I said most well store it in a MYSQL database.

Most CMS programs use some type of Template system. These will normally be actual files that you can find on your account and well contain bits and pieces of HTML that make up what the site and pages look like. Often they well have one "template" file that is the main one that well have a header, body and footer. Many template systems use a tag system to insert the data from the database. For example if you are working with the main template and have a user database for your site it may be that you enter something like {USER_NAME} in the template. Then no matter who is logged it that tag would be replaced with the persons user name that is in the database. Not all systems use the same tag system and many well even use regular php variables instead but normally this part is well documented.

02-05-2008, 01:20 PM
Thanks for your time Shawn, I greatly appreciate you checking that for me, it was extremely helpful.


02-26-2008, 03:30 AM
I agree - very helpful! I was looking around on my own for this same information. I use html and css, and find php a little daunting. But it seems more and more necessary to know.

Thanks for the simple explanations here of CMS and php!

Capt. Mike
03-24-2008, 03:27 PM
Hey Shawn,
Good to see you are alive and kickin'. :D I have been researching CMS's for a very long time. For me it has come down to 2 that you may want to check out.

Free but it can be a little resource intensive (memory for php). See http://doc.silverstripe.com/doku.php?id=server-requirements
Not sure if Westhost could run it.

My fav, free download and a version to buy which I hope to do one day soon.

With regard to dynamically(sp) served pages and search engine positioning most of the good CMSs will use mod-rewrite to rewrite dynamic URLs so they appear as static or appear to be static pages and therefore are search engine friendly.

CMS...once setup you have content seperated from design (look and feel). You can add new pages with a click, then add or update content by typing or using an interface like you see here when you add a post. Once done, in most cases navigation is automatically updated throughout the site.

Depending on the CMS you can do this stuff locally on a locally installed version of the CMS then login to the CMS on the server and update or log in directly to the CMS on the server and do your work.

Hope that helps.

Take care Shawn and I want to thank you for all the contributions you have made to this forum! :)
Kind regards, Capt. Mike

03-24-2008, 03:45 PM
Good to hear you are still around Capt. Mike! :) Thanks for the suggestions. Not sure that a CMS that is high in resource use is going to work here since WH is now tracking CPU usage pretty close. I'll have to check out the other one soon.

I have actually been working on building a simple CMS that is designed to work with WH accounts. I am trying to strip out all the extra "stuff" that normal CM'S add in to be compatible with different hosting environments and optimize things for WH. It is slow going but hopefully one day I can offer it to other WH users.

08-21-2008, 02:06 PM
I know this post is old but why not spend $80 or so on PHPMaker and create your OWN CMS? I never found one(CMS) that really worked for me and believe me I downloaded and installed so many it made me irritable.

You don't have to know php to use PHPMaker because it generates your scripts for you with a great user interface. You DO need to know how to create a database(phpMyAdmin which is in your Manager's Panel) and the related tables to make it all work which I have a background in. You then use the built in WYSIWYG to design your pages, stored in the database instead of on your webspace, and yes you can see the actual HTML code in the Source View if you like. It has all kinds of security for you to create your own Admin Panel for your site and lots of other neat little features. I've been a PHPMaker user for over almost 4 years and I knew absolutely no php when I started. Heck, I barely knew HTML, lol.

http://www.hkvstore.com/phpmaker/ tell them Barb Barker sent cha, lol
You can check out the Demo and download it for free for a period of time. It is a fully functional version of the program.

08-21-2008, 02:17 PM
It looks interesting Barb but the info on the site and the demo seems to indicate that this is for creating a web store. Are there other examples of what it can do anywhere?

08-21-2008, 02:34 PM
Yes, everything on my websites were done using this program. It's extremely flexible. I designed a database from scratch and used PHPMaker to generate the needed php scripts. I modified the template to suit my needs and the designs the clubs wanted and also put my own code in some of the scripts after they were generated.

You can see examples of what the program can create in action at my subdomains....


These are all online Tournament Clubs, NOT web stores as you will see. So PHPMaker scripts are only as good as your database design. My main website needs some repair from the last major upgrade which I have a support ticket on right now so it's not a real good showing in and of itself at this time :-(

08-21-2008, 05:15 PM
Thanks Barb for the examples. It looks like it may be well suited for community sites where you want to offer your users their own sub domain or even for the individual who wants to be able to update their site easily. I'll have to explore it more. :)

08-21-2008, 05:48 PM
PHPMaker keeps me from being a complete php idiot, LOL. If it was not for this program, I would have an all HTML/CSS/FRAMES built website, lol. Heck, I wouldn't even HAVE a domain, smile.

I have turned that template every which way but loose and it never fails me. I can make a site look any way I want it to. I got the idea of storing my actual page content in a field in a table in the database from another CMS. I picked that CMS apart at the seams trying to figure out how it was working. Once I realized it was using the database and a WYSIWYG, then PHPMaker absolutely made since to me because it includes fckeditor and a couple of other WYSIWYG programs to choose from.

When you upgrade from one version of PHPMaker to the next one you get it for basically 1/2 the price. And they are always improving it, adding user requested features and functionality, etc. I stand by this program for sure!

I hope this information helps someone out. I bet you downloaded it Shawn, LOL.