super lightweight cms

larry ogrodnek - 20 Mar 2009

We wanted to roll something out that would allow us to update some areas of our site more easily, and make the content a little more dynamic. Specifically, the News and Announcements page and the Behind the Scenes page.

We've all had experiences with big crazy cms solutions, that do a million things, none of them all that well, and never exactly what you want.

Also, we're a really small team, so we didn't want to set something up that would require a lot of maintenance, or even require a new service or machine.

For "Behind the Scenes", we're already using twitter for company updates. I think this is a great solution for posting short news items, or links, for any site.

The next step was to integrate with Flickr for our Around the office photos. We set up a public, invite only Bizo group. Anyone at Bizo can post photos to this group, and they'll show up on our site. Flickr handles the authentication/authorization, content storage and hosting, and a decent API for getting content on the site.

For "News and Announcements", we wanted a way to be able to easily update any news or press releases, quickly, and without requiring a site release.

We ended up creating a simple blogspot blog to host the content. Blogs/RSS seemed like a pretty close fit. You already have the concept of multiple published items, with dates, titles, and content. Using the excellent rome java library, we pull the content in on the backend, do a little content parsing, then render the results.

The "content parsing" is a little hacky. We wanted slightly more structure around our entries than you get from an RSS feed. So, we expect all of the posts to be formatted like "image (optional), text, read more link". Blogger lets you set up Post Templates, so, it's actually not that bad. When you go "super lightweight", you have to expect to make some tradeoffs, and this seemed like one worth making.

The other nice thing about externalizing your content like this is that you can start pulling it into other places. Last night we launched a new version of our homepage with a flash ticker, that pulls in these news items from the same place.

So there you go: a free, lightweight, zero infrastructure CMS recipe.

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