Website Builders

As many of you know, I built a web-based CMS. While my product is aimed mostly at people with an existing site, I recently did some research on web-based site builders, aimed at new sites, and wanted to share my findings with the Brainfuel faithful. I found 4 products and they all look great, especially for those occasions when you need to whip a site up quickly.

1) Squarespace
Squarespace
This is my favorite of the bunch. It’s not free. Pricing starts at $8 per month. That’s what a lot of us pay for shared hosting, so it’s pretty reasonable. This system is very user friendly and the menus and dialogs are very Applesque. One of their claims to fame is that Kevin Rose uses it. They also feature some really nice designs.

2) Brightegg

Brightegg is also a paid service (they do offer a free package) with pricing starting at $19 per month. If you happen to be a designer, they have a program where you can make money by submitting your designs. Another great thing about Brightegg is that they have a private label service.

3) Weebly

This site builder is totally free and features some nice designs. They offer a developer API that allows some extended functionality.

4) Synthasite

Finally we have Synthasite, a completely free site builder that offers (like the others) a design, hosting, and custom domains (custom domains cost money).

These are all great products and for canned websites, they have some very impressive designs and features. For free or for the cost of hosting, you can slap nice site together in minutes.

What Makes a Blog a Blog?

I have been trying to figure what technically makes a blog a blog and I hoped the BrainFuel faithful would help me out. So far I have these attributes as the minimum requirements to be considered a blog:

  • A list of posts sorted from newest to oldest
  • Permalinks for stories
  • Syndication (RSS/Atom)
  • Comments

So here’s the question: does a blog have to have all of these attributes to be classified as a blog? What am I missing?

So Good, It’s Forgotten

Recently I was doing some work with logos (business cards, desktop backgrounds, etc) for my product. As I was working away, I would periodically save the files to my DropBox. For those who aren’t familiar with Dropbox, it’s an online storage/syncing utility that will make your life much easier (you can thank me later).

You see, I’ve been saving files to my DropBox for a few months now. It’s become such and integral part of my daily computing experience that I don’t think about it. The reason I don’t think about it is because it’s a trouble-free product and the experience is totally natural.

I think this is probably the high-point of any product or service; the ultimate benchmark for quality and usefulness. When something is so good you totally take it for granted an forget about it. That’s when something is truly valuable.

Another example of this phenomena is with my hosting company. I really put a lot of time into researching what host to use for my product, but no matter how great the deals were at competitors, no matter how good the reviews where, I still had to deal with a nagging truth in the back of my mind. I have never had to think about my current host. I don’t think about them because they are so good that I forget about them. Because of that, I stuck with them and I’m glad I did.

I’m not sure what this means, but it seams like there’s a pattern here. While not every product is best forgotten, there are some things in life you just don’t want to think about (like web hosts and file syncing) and when you don’t have to think about them, you probably found a good one. What do you think?

A New CMS and Why

  
As some of you may know, I launched a new, simple cms system yesterday called Clover Content. I thought you might be interested in understanding why I spent the last year developing yet another cms.

There’s a real problem with content management systems. I’m not talking about the big enterprise platforms. I’m talking about the basic content management software that simple web sites need and use. They often do too much. That’s right. Modern content management software does too much.

For example, I have a friend with a pretty average technical acumen. This friend needed a simple website for an organization that he had started and I, being a web nerd, decided to help him set up a site. So we did the usual. I went to Godaddy and bought a suitable domain along with a basic Linux hosting account, while he stared over my shoulder in wonder. I found a template for his site and we paid a fair price for a nice pre-made design. So the next step was to get him up and running with a cms so he could manage all of his content without needing any further assistance from me.

My first instinct was to go with Drupal. I have tooled around with Drupal in the past and it has a good reputation among the web-savvy. So I installed Drupal, started configuring the site and I soon realized, this is way more functionality and configuration than my friend needs. Not to mention, it’s way more than he can handle. A little time with Joomla presented the same dilemma. These systems have too much complexity; too much functionality; too much configuration. Not only that, but working with the template frameworks of these systems was going to be a nightmare. Remember, I already spent some money on a pre-made template for this site. I was going to have to make the template fit the cms. Not fun.

So, with all these issues before me, I realized why so many developers end up rolling their own cms system. It’s because what’s out there is more than a simple site needs. A simple website needs a simple cms. Don’t get me wrong, Drupal, Joomla, Worpress and the like are all great systems and they have their markets, but often they are more complex than necessary for small sites. Another major issue with the standard content management system is the need to have a database running on your server and the need to install software. It’s always a problem to have to patch your cms because of some update, or deal with setting up a database to run your cms.

Just like software is moving more and more from the desktop to the cloud, it seems advantageous that server based systems might do the same. Instead of installing 10 versions of WordPress on the sites of 10 of your clients, on 10 different servers (all separate, all requiring maintenance), why not host your content in a central location? This way all of your client’s content is in one place and there are no software installations or databases to maintain. Centralizing content makes good sense. Using a CMS as a services makes good sense.

I realize there are lots (thousands) of content management systems out there and there’s no one system that’s right for everyone, but I think that Clover Content is right for most small sites and for people who manage a lot of sites for clients. Anyway, that’s why I boostrapped this startup and entered the arena. Let me know what you think.