James Maconochie

Identifying & Selecting the right Content Management System for your website (part 1 of 2)

A critical element of many web development engagements is the selection of a Web Content Management System (CMS).  However, the large number of products and rapid rate of change in the web CMS market, when combined with a customer’s budget and schedule requirements lend themselves to pursuing a two phased approach: i) Candidate Identification; and  ii) Candidate Evaluation.  The remainder of this post will address the Candidate Identification phase by outlining some of the critical considerations to help identify promising CMS candidates.  Part 2, which will address the evaluation process, will be posted next week. The goal of the Candidate Identification phase is simple – to quickly narrow the field of web CMS products to a manageable number of candidates that are most consistent with the customer and project at hand, in order that they can be thoroughly reviewed and compared during the Candidate Evaluation phase.  To narrow the field, the evaluating entity must consider a variety of factors that should, at a minimum include:

  • Scale of the proposed site, i.e., number and variety of pages and content types, number of visitors, number of languages/localized sites;
  • Nature of the client’s organization, where does it sit on the conservative to progressive spectrum (which may influence whether Open Source products are good candidates, or newer products that have shorter histories and/or utilize the newest of technologies/architectures
  • Budget, i.e., some of the web CMS products available Today have very substantial license fees
  • Schedule, i.e., some of the CMS products are more modular in nature and/or have large libraries of widgets, controls and modules built by others and made available for purchase or in some cases for free, which can reduce development time, whereas others are more ‘blank slate’ in nature
  • Functional and technical requirements Today, i.e., CMS products will vary to the extent that they meet requirements ‘out-of-the-box’
  • Likely/potential functional and technical requirements in the future, i.e., if there is, as there is in many cases, a reasonable expectation that the solution will expand over time, then it is important to consider which CMS products are best suited to support the types of extensions that are likely
  • Existing and target technical environment, i.e., if a client’s environment is exclusively Windows and .NET, then CMS that are not available on this platform should be excluded immediately

In addition to these factors, the evaluating entity should consider other inputs to help narrow the candidate list further including:

  • The evaluating entity’s employee knowledge of and experience with different web CMS products can and should factor into the candidate identification process, as well as the input and experience of friends, peers, and even other clients
  • The results obtained by scanning recent reviews and comparisons of web CMS products.  For example, Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management is published annually and provides an assessment of CMS products, as well as useful background about changes in the market including acquisitions, new players and insight into publishers strategy and vision
  • Client input – in some cases, the client may have knowledge of and even experience with different CMS products, or they may have an existing relationship with a vendor that also offers a web CMS.  In such cases, it is perfectly legitimate to accommodate this input, provided the product characteristics are reasonably consistent with the factors identified above, and provided the evaluating entity identifies other good candidates to put alongside the client suggestion for purposes of the candidate evaluation phase

Ultimately, and depending on the circumstances, the output of the identification phase is between three and five candidate web CMS, as well as a clear rationale for their selection based upon the factors and other inputs identified above.  In closing this post, I’ll pose the following questions for your consideration:

  1. What other considerations would you add to the mix in order to develop a shortlist of web CMS products?
  2. How would you weight the various factors and considerations identified above, are there any that you consider to be more or less significant?