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Web Content Management Software

Content management systems

Choosing content management software :

When you're looking for web content management software, it can be difficult to work out exactly which product to buy. It sounds obvious, but the best way of ensuring that you choose the right software is to be very clear about your requirements and resources before you start. Your needs are shaped by what you need to create and what you already have to allow you to create it.


Skills of IT staff

If you have a good technical support department, it isn't as important to look for training and support as a feature of your software package. However, your IT department might not have the time and resources to deal with any problems that might arise when staff use your web content management software. If that is the case, you will need to look for a package that offers technical support. For example, Vignette offers round-the-clock telephone support as well as online technical support, while Zope offers consultancy and support. Be clear about the support involved before you sign the contract. Ask:

  • Is technical support included in the price of the software?
  • If so, are there any aspects of technical support for which you must pay extra?
  • Is support restricted to certain hours?
  • Is support face-to-face, online or telephone-based?

If your company has good IT development staff in-house, you could experiment with open-source software - that is, software whose source code is freely obtainable. If the license of a piece of open-source software allows you to modify it, that means that your development staff can tailor it to your needs. (Be aware that open-source software isn't necessarily free in the financial sense.) In some companies, the person responsible for choosing web content management software is not part of the IT department and may not even have much IT training. If that sounds like you, it is vital to involve computer professionals in the decision-making process. Consult your development staff before obtaining the content management software you want them to develop - it will save a lot of worry in the long run if you keep them involved. For example, you might purchase a product with its own application server, thinking that this saves you hassle, but then find out from the development staff that they have already invested in a different application server and don't want the work involved in supporting two products.

Skills of other staff

Of course, it won't just be IT staff who use your content management software. Most companies have content writers to produce the material for the site. You may also have editors to check that all content is in your house style before it is uploaded, and a content manager to handle the flow of information in and out of the site. You need to ask yourself:

  • Do the writers have HTML skills? If not, you will need to find content management software that converts pages into HTML. Many do this with an interface resembling that of a word-processing program.
  • Do you have the resources to design each page individually? If not, you will need to look for content management software with a templating feature. This means that all uploaded pages will conform to a pre-designed format.
  • Does your content manager have time to keep a constant eye on the site and take down old content? If not, you should look for software with web life-cycle management. This means the ability to time out content by giving it a "sell-by date" when you upload it.

Your budget

Of course, your choice of content management software is constrained by how much money you have to spend as well as by what you want the system to do. Costs vary greatly, from a few hundred pounds to hundreds of thousands. A good way of assessing value for money is to design a spreadsheet with all the features you want in a content management system written across the top. You could divide these into "essential" and "desirable" categories if you like. Then devise a formula - perhaps essential features could have two points and desirable features could have one point. Then work out the number of points per dollar. The higher the number, the better the value of the software. This kind of exercise helps to crystallize your thoughts as well as providing at-a-glance evidence that supports your choice to the finance department.