Hi just curious if you were to choose a CMS and technologies for launching a local community digital only community news site, which is mobile and tablet friendly, and easy for community editors to use to publish articles, what platforms, CMS and tech would you recommend?
If you are asking me, you probably already know a little bit about my work. What you are describing is similar to what we have at Oakland Local, as well as the recently launched Young Oakland.
I personally work primarily with WordPress, but I didn’t start there, nor did I stay once I found it. I compulsively use new self-hosted software, and have used just about every FOSS CMS/blog/forum/gallery/status/repo/IM project out there. The first version of Oakland Local was in Drupal. But eventually we migrated even that site to WordPress.
The theming layer, user system, custom post-types and plugins make it a very versatile platform. I build sites for a variety of companies and individuals, and most of them I also host on a single multi-network WordPress instance, which shares users, plugins and themes, so the overhead for keeping it updated isn’t affected very much by each new site I add. This configuration is possible because the core of WordPress allows for thousands of developers to build on it, so you have 10 years of development and millions of human hours working on the design patterns to use for your site.
Okay, so of course I suggest WordPress. But there are 29,000 plugins, probably more themes, and building any site is difficult. Where does one start? Well, here are some specific suggestions on starting a local community-driven news site, at various levels of abstraction.
Edit Flow makes it easy to manage a lot of folks working on different content at the same time. I think one should probably be familiar with the WordPress post edit screen first, but even with the slight learning curve, a small team of editors can handle a lot of content easily, once they grok this plugin. A couple training sessions for editorial workflows will go far for a community site.
Pods allows drag-and-drop creation of custom post types and taxonomies. I prefer this plugin to other methods because the interface is easy to use, and allows for easy export/import, so creations can be shared without having to code. There is a learning curve to do things beyond the basics, but it is a good starting place to customizing WordPress post types. An example of using Pods is on Moon Handbooks; we use it to create the book pages, which have structured data.
Gravity Forms is a premium plugin that creates forms. It doesn’t sound too exciting, but it is amazing what you can do with it. At Young Oakland, students can submit their art work, and contributors to the RailsBridge Blog can create posts without having an account on the site (which means the bottleneck isn’t administering users on a blog). There are a lot of contact forms, but GF has a drag-and-drop interface, and other plugins that greatly increase what the forms can do, like passing data to a CRM or a custom post type.
WP-Piwik is the plugin that makes it easy for WordPress to use Piwik, a free and open source analytics project. Knowing how folks use your site can be useful, and on a community site it is one tool in creating value for its members. Piwik can be configured to respect folks’ privacy as well, and I run an open, public instance at AnalyticsX. If you would like to track your site there, get in touch.
While I don’t use them personally, BuddyPress (social networking) and bbPress (forums) are worth mentioning. I don’t use them for various reasons, the primary being I don’t have a need for those particular setups. But I keep an eye on them, because they are definitely useful to the right group.