I am not going to patronize you by telling you what a CMS is. You know that already which is why you landed on this page. The challenge (often) is finding a good one for your business. By now you are trolling the internet in search for answers and guidance on where to start with a good CMS. Yes, you guessed it. It ain’t easy.
The first thing you need to think about is getting a wish list together. My list spawned through R&D and experience with bespoke CMS builds I conceived. By all means, please do your own research and come up with your own list, although this one is not a bad one to start with.
Web CMS features wish list
- Content access rights
- Content approval
- Content templates
- Technical transparency
- Content ownership
- Content accessibility
- Content creation
- Content management
- Content publishing
- Content scheduling
- Time sensitive opportunities
- Logs of user access
- Audit trials
- Version control
- Presentation consistency
- Brand integrity
- Workflow processes
- Web standards management (accessibility)
- Auto site map generation
- XML sitemap generation
- Calendar of events
- Rich text editor with HTML support
- Spell checker link checker
- SEO compliant
- XML integration
- XSL transformations
- Cascading Stylesheets
- Microsoft word integration and content cleanup
- Media library with ”alt” text options
- Form creation
- Search and advanced search
- Site map generation
- User reporting
- User management
- Access rights
- Multi server publishing
- Multiple publishing formats
- Wizard based content management
- Affiliate marketing management
- Advertising management
- Ad hoc modifications
- Banner management
- Public forums
- Drag n Drop content
- Image resizing
- UI levels
- Standard contend and keywords bank
- Content syndication (RSS)
- URL rewriting
- Multiple level user membership areas
- Ease of deployment
- Minimal training
- Managing multiple websites from a single licence
- Documented information architecture
- Template creation
- Content migration tools
- Developer forums
OK, my wish list was massive. Your requirements may be similar, less or even more. A lot of CMS platforms have all of the above functionality out of the box. Others may need plugins or custom builds. As you can probably ascertain, I was looking for an enterprise CMS solution. These tend to be the most expensive types of CMS.
If like me, you were looking for an enterprise CMS, a very important consideration is your license cost. An evaluation of the following items should be considered necessary:
- Multiple hosting servers (authoring, publishing, backup, database, additional web farms)
- Should cover multiple websites on the same host including sub domains / microsites
- Should cover unlimited number of articles or web pages published
- Should cover multiple processors on the hosting machines.
- Should cover multiple database connections.
- Should cover a sufficient amount of editors for the CMS
- Should include multiple installations of the software.
I cannot emphasize enough on the need for putting time and effort into researching and identifying the right CMS for your needs. Your chosen CMS will eventually become an important part of your business operations. You need to make a good choice. I use the word “good” in the context that not every decision is the best one. Business needs change constantly, hence the need for better more robust tools in a constantly changing environment.
Doing the research
OK, enough of the theatrics. Let’s get down to how you will find the information you need. You will find in your research that search engines will render results for both closed source and open source CMS almost equally. My perception is that the big players in the web world have established authority via closed source platform applications, hence glorifying closed source software suppliers. Open source solutions are also in abundance, partly because everyone and anyone can easily get their hands on them but mostly because they are free. In Web 2.0 context, this is known as the long tail.
A good resource in my opinion to get an overview of the products on the market is cmswatch.com and more specifically their vendor list. They do ask you to pay a whopping $975 for one of their reports that gives you a low down on all of the 42 Web CMS providers they cover, but I reckon, with a combination of common sense and Google, you should be able to find answers to all your questions.
Another resource is cmswire.com. It is more of a blog than anything but the content is up the date and right on the money most of the time. You may however find it tiresome to go over all their posts to find answers to your specific queries (if you have any).
If all else fails and you are still in a dilemma about which CMS is right for your business, float an RFP (request for proposal) document to your shortlist of suppliers. Let them do the hard work to try to win your business, you call the shots. I came across a good presentation on building an RFP that you may find useful. There is another tedious excersize of evaluating all the proposals you recieve by doing an evaluation matrix. A good overview of how to contruct your evaluation matrix can be found at positive-way.com.
I’d like to take this opportunity to list down a few of my favourite content management systems:
Established market players:
Open source players:
I would be foolish to assume that my readers are from small, mediocre or large organizations with similar requirements for their CMS. In reality, every business has its unique requirements for its web strategy, which inadvertently does impact decisions. You will find in certain circumstances that even a free CMS fulfils all your needs. This very blog is created on WordPress which is an open source blogging application that a lot of people have customized to work as a fully fledged Web CMS. You can be certain that all the hard work and time you put into indentifying a CMS that ticks all the boxes will be a worthwhile investment.0