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Picking a CMS for True Extensibility

Picking a CMS for True Extensibility

Content management systems began as rudimentary frameworks built for bloggers and do-it-yourself web designers, but they’re now the backbone of websites supporting thousands of individuals, companies, and community groups. Since their purpose is to provide an intuitive, non-technical user interface through which anyone can generate, curate, and share content on the web, one of the most important criteria when considering a CMS for your organization is its extensibility. Even if your company has a dedicated IT or web design team, utilizing the power of extensibility within a CMS will allow your site to stay up to date on the latest aesthetic trends and backend improvements while still saving money by avoiding expensive custom development projects.

What is Extensibility?

Extensibility refers to software that has the ability to allow for additional modules, extensions, and changes in technology that might need to be added expanded upon after the initial installation. Ultimately, the number and type of extensions that a CMS can accommodate will depend on its underlying system architecture. Not only does this mean that you should consider what types of changes you want to be able to make to your site, but you should also be aware of how the addition of extensions will affect the CMS’s overall performance. An ideal CMS solution will be able to integrate a wide variety of proprietary or third party extensions that allow for changes in style, functionality, integration, and content without detracting from the site’s speed, visibility on search engines, or essential processes.

The benefits of designing software for extensibility are myriad, and it has become a common trend for developers to keep extensibility in mind when releasing new platforms. The lifespan of a given product depends heavily on its community of users and developers; if nobody uses a platform, it usually doesn’t receive much attention in terms of major updates, fixes, and added features. By allowing for extensions, a platform is much more likely to gain a following amongst developers, and may even see greater use as a result of desirable third party applications. A healthy community of developers making extensions not only means that the software is likely to have a longer lifespan, but also means that less experienced users can feel safe making changes to their sites without worrying about damaging the core functionality of the platform.

Why We Need Extensibility in CMS

When it comes to the extensibility of CMS, it’s a necessary and extremely valuable part of a platform’s functionality. The first advantage that CMS solutions offer over building your own site from scratch is what is known as the “Build vs. Buy” dilemma. Any time a company wants to add a feature to a custom-built site, it requires that a developer build a custom solution to suit the site’s architecture. With a CMS, you have thousands of extensions to choose from that can be installed by anyone with a simple click of a button. Furthermore, as time goes on, a custom solution will need to be patched by its creator, or an equally capable developer, to ensure security and performance; whereas a CMS extension will likely be updated by its creator for free. If your site requires multiple extensions, using a CMS quickly becomes the more cost-effective solution, while also allowing your company to change focus quickly by adding or removing extensions at a moment’s notice.

Another advantage of extensible CMS over custom solutions is that using extension points on a larger platform ensures that you’re already on track to upgrade along with the rest of your CMS system. Customized solutions are usually built for the present, meaning that they will work with a site’s current architecture, but have little to no adaptability moving forward. Even slightly outdated software can cause your site’s performance to decline and presents a number of security concerns, not to mention bounce rates when load times become too long for the end user. With an extensible CMS, outdated extensions can easily be upgraded or removed to ensure your site’s safety and stability.

Changes don’t always happen because of software, though. Imagine your industry is following a new trend in style or service and your company wants to update its website. Redesigning a custom site for an enterprise client can take weeks or months of planning, development, implementation, and iteration. Most companies don’t have that kind of time to catch up with the latest in market trends–you need to be ready to change with the market as close to real-time as possible. With CMS extensions, new features and style elements can be introduced immediately so your company is always on the cutting edge.

Choosing a CMS for Extensibility

Top 10 Content Management SoftwareOf course, each CMS offers its own suite of extensions and comes along with its own community of developers. Begin by identifying what functionality your site will need to have, then research using resources like the CMS resource page or a Top 10 CMS to compare the features of different CMS platforms. The extensions available will depend both on an individual CMS’s system architecture and library of applications. Generally speaking, if most of what your company needs can be accomplished with a CMS’s standard installation, you can fill the remaining gaps using extensions. By using a reliable CMS platform as the framework for your website, you are investing in the future by giving your site the benefit of automatic updates to security, performance, and functionality. No matter if you’re looking to support an online store, blog, forum, or your own original design, using an extensible CMS offers the most cutting edge web technology available at a fraction of the price of custom development.

DotNetNuke Provides True WCMS Extensibility

DotNetNuke™ (DNN) is a web content management system built using the platform model so it can easily extend to provide the functionality that customers need as well as the ability to scale as the business changes and grows. DNN has thousands of modules available in the DNN Store that fulfill the needs of most if not all organizations.

The DNN platform model empowers everyone, including non-technical users, to be able to choose new modules, update content, and easily keep websites up to date.

An increasingly large portion of WCMS users are looking for turnkey functionality because they are not developers. With DNN, business users can visit the DNN store, search for a module – for instance, a photo viewer — and download, install, and deploy the module without IT hours or any coding. As a result, businesses can leverage their website more effectively.

There generally isn’t any vendor support behind what amounts to ad hoc add-on modules. In contrast, the robust DNN platform comes with the features business users need today, but also has the extensibility points to continue to build out functionality which is the best way to future-proof current investments.

[Published in collaboration with DotNetNuke]

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Michael Tauscher

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Expert in Accounting, CMS, CRM, and Analytics
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