March 25, 2017

Review of CMS Made Simple 1.6 by Sofia Hauschildt

I’ve been absorbing the most excellent book on CMS Made Simple published by Packt Publishing. Written by Sofia Hauschildt, a tutor, consultant and programmer, CMS Made Simple 1.6 is a beginners guide to learning the basics and so much more of CMS Made Simple, an open-source, content management application.

I first started using CMS Made Simple to build web sites about 5 years ago. I have also used WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, RapidWeaver and hand-coding to build websites. But CMS Made Simple is one of my favorite tools to use because you can get started with it very easily and produce a great website without knowing much about what goes on behind the scenes. Documentation has always been hard to come by though. The wiki and user forums are the best places to visit to glean information and ask questions. But the developers have clearly stated that CMS Made Simple is geared to web developers and not so much to neophytes who need a lot of hand-holding and who need relatively basic questions answered.

CMS Made Simple 1.6 is the book that neophytes need. It takes a very measured and slowly paced approach in presenting small doses of information to enable almost anyone to get the CMS installed and operating in no time at all. This is done as a ‘case study” whereby you build a CMS Made Simple website with a capable tutor by your side… Sofia Haushildt.

The methodology used in this book is straightforward and effective. You are told what you will be doing, you are guided through the process of doing it, then you are told what you just did. It is this repetition of information that facilitates the learning process, especially for block-heads like me. I learn best when I am able to observe someone doing something then doing it myself. That is exactly what this book does… it teaches you by doing. There are ample screenshots at every step of the journey to further illuminate the tasks. Furthermore, there are quizzes that test your comprehension of the material covered. If you diligently follow through in a linear fashion, you will learn all the basics and so much more of how CMS Made Simple can be used to build a great web site.

I was particularly impressed with the aplomb in which Sofia approached Smarty. Smarty is the template engine used by CMS Made Simple. Without an understanding of what Smarty is and how it works in your templates and pages, you would be at a huge disadvantage when approaching a web design project. Her treatment of the subject leaves you with a very good understanding how Smarty functions and gives you many ideas of how you can use Smarty tags to simplify site design by harnessing the power of Smarty.

As you continue through the book you are gently guided into more advanced topics and taught how to incorporate various features into your website such as form pages, inserting YouTube videos onto pages, learning how menus and sub-menus work and are displayed and so much more.

There is an excellent discussion of how just about any web template can be converted to work with CMS Made Simple and it is surprisingly easy when you apply what you learned about Smarty tags to that task. You also learn how to build a template from scratch as well as how to import templates obtained from other sources.

Many code snippets are presented in the book. Unfortunately the book does not include a CD containing code snippets by chapter. But the publishers website has all the code available for download in a zip file so that is a big help since it obviates the need to tediously type error free code from the book.

If you want to learn CMS Made Simple, get this book. It’s as simple as that. What you learn in these pages will save you hours of frustration and question asking in forums. This is arguably the best introduction to CMS Made Simple that you will find. The book is not just for beginners either. People who have been developing web sites with CMS Made Simple already may likely find valuable tips and information that they did not previously know. This book is not a reference book on CMS Made Simple however, so if you are looking for a comprehensive reference book, this will not satisfy that need. In spite of that though it actually is quite comprehensive in that it does cover every important area of using CMS Made Simple in a really well written way. Sofia writes clearly and in a very straightforward, uncomplicated way. I have shelves of computer books and this is what I would consider a top-shelf book.

I’d like to give a plug to CMS Made Simple as well. I know that WordPress is all the rage. I build many sites using WordPress myself. But if you are not building a blog-centric site, WordPress is not always the best way to approach building a page-based website. CMS Made Simple is a worthy consideration. It is very easy to learn and use. It is under continual development and has an active user forum. I like it a lot and it is so much easier to get your head around than Joomla, Drupal and other CMS’s. Check it out and see for yourself.

Now if you’ll excuse me,  I need to try and persuade Sofia Hauschildt into writing a book about Magento

Preview of CMS Made Simple 1.6 – Beginners Guide

I’ve just received the book, CMS Made Simple 1.6 – Beginners Guide and will be doing a full review of it soon. In the meantime I just wanted to give a brief overview of the book, of which I have high expectations. I’ve been using CMS Made Simple to make web sites for over 4 years. It is very competent CMS but there has been a real lack of documentation. Even the CMS Made Simple website lacks complete documentation so I was very happy to hear that a beginner’s guide had recently been published.

The book takes a “case study” approach which is actually a very good way to present the information you would need to build a site using CMS Made Simple. I’ve only skimmed through the book but have already gained a fairly good appreciation for the approach the author takes.

Stay tuned for my complete review that will be forthcoming.

You may also visit the Packt Publishing website to see more of this book including a sample chapter.