Reviewed: New Book on Selecting an Open Source CMS
People who are new to content management systems find it a little overwhelming as they try to figure out which CMS is right for them. Packt Publishing (news, site) has released a book that hopes to help people make some sense out of so many choices.

The book is "Choosing an Open Source CMS," by Nirav Mehta.

A Project-Oriented Approach

Choosing an Open Source CMS begins with a project-oriented approach. As the reader, you're introduced to a small business owner with a problem. She's got a friend who handles her website for her but has to chase him down to get even the smallest things done.

In discussing the problems, the friend recommends a free, open source CMS since her needs are fairly common and she doesn't have the budget to have something written from scratch, or to purchase a commercial one.

A Selection Process

After getting into the benefits of open source and the typical features of a content management system, the book moves on to a process that might be worth the price of admission to many newbies to the scene:

  1. Break open source content management systems down into rough categories.
  2. Describe the core features you can expect from each category.
  3. Describe some possible uses for this category of CMS.
  4. List a variety of existing sites that currently use CMS's from that category.
  5. List the most popular open source content management systems in that category.

From there, Mehta continues with his example, walking through how to set your expectations for your site from the large scale of what you expect to get from it to issues such as projected traffic and resources, and more.

By the time you reach Chapter 4, the example user has a good idea of their requirements and at least which type of CMS she wants -- you've worked through the process with her. Then you learn how to try out a variety of options without ever having to install your own.

Learning Opportunities

Overall Impressions

I should warn you right here that I am very fussy when I do computer book reviews. It likely comes from being a computer book author and editor myself. Overall, this book is useful, written in an accessible way and imparts a lot of information.

Better Organization

However, this book would have benefited from a stronger organizational hand. Sticking more strictly with the project-based approach would have helped. Instead, while the project does continue, one moment you're test-driving live demos of the major content management systems and then in the middle of that suddenly you're designing navigational structure in Joomla, then you're installing WordPress, leaving me feeling like in a book about choosing a CMS I hadn't actually chosen anything.

After covering adding content to the site and managing it using Joomla for the platform, then choosing, adding, customizing templates and plug-ins, Mehta changes gears and starts going more in depth into the more specialized CMS's (for example, blog CMS's), whether you need self-hosted or not, tips on hosting your site, how to get involved in the community, and working with a specialist. All of that seems to me like it belongs before getting into any installation or configuration technical details.

A Useful Resource for Selecting a CMS

Overall, the strength of this book is in its core purpose, choosing an open source CMS. While reorganization and refocus would make it stronger, it's still quite useful as it is. If I had a friend who was confused on what to choose, this would be one resource I would point them to.

But what really matters is what you think. If you check out the book for yourself, let us know!