One of the reasons that using a Content Management System (or CMS) is so powerful is that they allow people with little to no knowledge of building web pages to set up and start publishing their very own site with hardly any fuss. Back in the day when I first learned how to design basic websites it was through grubbing around finding quick and dirty fixes to html and css in order to get to roughly where I wanted to be. Anyone starting out today could create a much funkier site in far less time and with far, far less effort.

Essentially CMS opens up online publishing to those with very limited web literacy allowing them to get cracking on their content. That’s very empowering.

But there’s a catch

However, one of the repercussions of this very welcome deskilling has been the fact that we are left in the hands of the CMS providers. Without any understanding of how to create your own sleek, bandwidth friendly site you’re often left with the clunky scripts, unnecessarily large graphics and general baggage that comes with your template design.

Aptivate created a set of Guidelines to help people understand that whilst in the developed world it’s tempting to believe that bandwidth is infinite if you don’t clear out the junk (that you may not even notice) from your websites you may unintentionally be preventing those in developing nations from using your site at all.

Unfortunately, for those who are using a CMS to create their websites they are far less likely to have the know how or the confidence to get into the bowels of their site in order to make something usable for those on low bandwidth. Which means, that for this particular audience, we need to provide solutions for them, rather than attempting to train up the whole world up from scratch on how to create a low bandwidth CMS template.

I’ve long argued that something that would be a useful addendum to our guidelines would be a set of good looking and functional low-bandwidth templates for the main CMS providers. Providing a way to strip down drupal, blogger, wordpress, et al would be phenomenally useful for those without the skills to do this for themselves.

Effectively this would be a low bandwidth website in a box which even current users of these CMS’s could transfer over to without much fuss. Currently the best alternative I’ve found at my regular (blogger) blog The Daily (Maybe) is to provide a link to a loband provided version which is certainly faster but is a bit of a hastse and doesn’t allow me any real flexibility over layout.

Maneno: a blogging platform for Africa

So imagine my joy when I came across Maneno last week. A CMS blogging platform designed specifically with low bandwidth in mind and provided from servers in Africa, cutting down on slow internal connections. As the blurb says “Maneno strives to provide a communication and development platform for Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Good looking and providing all the functionality you need in a decent website, the online feedback I’ve seen so far has been universally positive, particularly around download times, which can massively increase the expense of browsing the net in the very places where this service needs to be as cheap as possible. That is really important. In the words of blogger White African “The site absolutely flies.”

Although Maneno is still in a beta version it works like a dream and looks very impressive. It seems just the ticket if you are setting up a new site with little knowledge of design and want to ensure potential readers in Africa actually get the opportunity to read what you have to say.