Case Study: Moving from CMS Made Simple to WordPress


I’ve been a bit disenchanted with CMS Made Simple lately. I have several client sites using it currently. Most of them are pretty basic sites so that’s one reason CMSMS was chosen. However, of late, it’s been very buggy, the upgrades are problematic to say the least, and invariably, one or more modules do not keep pace with the core upgrade. When I attempted to upgrade Idylwood a few weeks ago, it was fraught with problems. Posting in the forum wasn’t much help and the general consensus there was that my database was corrupted. So facing that prospect, I decided I’d had enough. Besides, the Twitter module had long since stopped working once Twitter updated its API. So the writing was on the wall: I was going to flip the site to WordPress. The only thing that gave me pause was that, despite all of CMS Made Simple’s recent shortcomings, its User Uploads module was the best I’d ever seen. It made uploading and displaying documents for download childsplay. I hated giving that up. So I set about finding replacements for all the site features I wanted.

The site relied on a calendar and events module to publicize and promote monthly general membership meetings and events of interest in the community. So an Events plugin was essential. CMSMS’s social media modules were lackluster at best, so finding a good social media plugin would be a no-brainer. We also needed a photo gallery, a links manager, a contact form, and an online document repository. Everything was fairly easy to hunt down except the document repository. As I said, topping the User Uploads module that CMSMS uses would be a daunting task. I came really close when I found a plugin called WP File Base.

The Home Page

The home page on the CMSMS site had a sidebar and the latest 10 posts from the News Module. I was able to repiicate that easily. The plugin that drives the news items in the WP site (which are the blog posts) is called Special Recent Posts. It can be widgetized but in this case, I created the PHP right on the Page. I decided to dispense with the sidebar on the front page since the menu had been moved to the top.



The Contact Page

The contact page was a no-brainer. We like to use Dagon Designs’ Secure Form Mailer for all our simple and complex forms.



Photo Gallery Pages

We intended to use the very popular Next Generation Gallery to power the site’s photo albums, but the latest release proved buggy and an earlier version that DID work had a conflict with the Online Documents plugin so I decided to just use the native WordPress gallery system for the site’s photo albums. I had to create a custom template for the main gallery page that lists all the albums. I am using a query to have it display the child pages on the parent page along with a featured image which acts as the album cover. I’ll blog about this and share my code next week.



The inner pages of each photo album are simply galleries from the WordPress media center. I added lightbox functionality to the albums using the Fancy Gallery Lite plugin.



The Monthly Meeting Page

There wasn’t really too much change from the old CMSMS version to the WP version. Just a simple little GoogleMaps plugin.



The Helpful Links Page

CMS Made Simple has a really nice Links Manager plugin that I had been using on our Helpful Links section. WordPress has native bookmarks built in, but strangely, it’s been disabled for quite a while and you have to add a line of code to your functions.php file in order to get the Links to appear on the dashboard sidebar. Go figure. AND there is no really easy way to get the links to display on a page. There is a widget to display the link list on your sidebar. But there are plugins that can do this for you. And of course, for those uf us who like to “roll our own code,” there is a custom page template for that. I’ll share that code next week as well.



The Newsletters Page

The newsletters in the CMSMS site were driven by that wonderful User Uploads module. It is so flexible. You can have a separate page for a particular category of documents, in this case, “Newsletters.” So once I found a plugin that seemed to do what I wanted, the wonderful WP File Base, I set up the newsletter page separately, as had been done on the CMSMS site. The only criticism I have of this plugin is that, as far as I can tell, what you upload is all the description you get.



The Online Documents Page

This was where I had the most difficulty I tried at least a half a dozen “document management” plugins before settling on WP File Base. It generally does what I want it to do, and bulk uploading is fast and smooth. There’s even a widget that lists the latest uploaded files which is quite handy.



The site isn’t large as web sites go, so it was easy to copy and paste page content. The difficulty was in replicating some of the features and the trial and error of getting just the right plugin for the job. The end result, though, is a fast site that is more interactive and captures the interest of the Idylwood residents a lot better than the previous site did. And that’s worth it.

Joni Mueller has been designing web sites for hire since 2003, when she first blew up her web host's server by insisting on running Greymatter. Since then, Joni has designed for Blogger and Movable Type, TextPattern, WordPress and CMS Made Simple. She lives with her cat and shoe collection in a bucolic old section of Houston called Idylwood. For some strange reason, Joni likes to refer to herself in the third person. When she's not working on web design, she's ordering lawyers around. And blogging about it. Or both.

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