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In CMS Fundamentals, James Williamson defines content management systems (CMSs) and explains their role in web site development. The course demonstrates the different CMS solutions available today, including WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla; reviews CMS terminology and best practices; and shows how to develop a content management strategy. Guidelines are also included for evaluating a potential CMS, whether hosted or self-hosted, open source or proprietary, and choosing a CMS based on a specific need or focus.
Just as I did with designers, I want to focus for a moment on the specific needs of organizations when choosing a CMS. Obviously, as I mentioned earlier, start by looking at systems that share your focus. If you're a university, look for a CMS that is either integrated with a learning management system or includes tools that allows you to build curriculums. If you're a large corporation, look for a CMS that has built-in business logic, or one that can integrate into your existing systems. Reviewing your current workflow is critical for the success of CMS implementations within organizations.
Not only will it highlight current problems, but it will also give you templates to use when comparing systems. Now, for example, if your content needs to go through an editorial and legal review before it's published, you need a system with robust groups, permissions, and notifications as part of the publishing process. You also have a better idea of the team members that are going to be involved in using the CMS and what type of time commitment that will take. At some point you'll making a decision to either use an open source CMS or hire a vendor to implement a CMS for you.
Now, often cost is the deciding factor for many organizations, so I want to give you a few things to think about when making such a decision. First, don't assume that an open-source CMS is cheaper. Now sure, free seems to be cheaper, but the truth is for larger organizations you're still likely to need to hire an outside developer to customize and integrate the CMS for your system. On the flip side, don't assume that a proprietary CMS is better just because it's expensive. Often, the exact same features can be found in an open-source CMS and then customized for less money.
In the end, I recommend making decision based on which CMS is going to meet your needs the best and letting cost drive the decision when all the other factors are equal. When an organization engages outside vendors and contractors, you're likely to draft a request for proposal or other document that's going to outline your needs. Make sure that you've properly reviewed your needs prior to drafting this, and you want to use clear concise language. Don't just ask if the CMS supports a publishing workflow; be specific about your workflow and what you expect from the CMS.
If you need to repurpose content, don't just ask if you can share content; frame the request based on your specific needs, such as, can you repurpose add content using multiple delivery methods? Ask the vendors to detail how their system will perform the tasks you need, and request a demo of that functionality. Also, make sure that any vendor or contractor is a good fit culturally. Whatever system you choose is likely to need to integrate with other systems within your organization. Make sure that the code base is going to allow this and that the vendor or contractor you choose communicates well with both you and your IT department.
You need to think of the vendor as an extension of your team. If you wouldn't add them to your team, don't add their CMS to your organization. Make sure also that you pay attention to things that might matter to your organization but are really easy to overlook. For example, do you need multilingual support? If the answer is yes, does the CMS need to automate the process of generating multiple versions of your site, or are you going to do that manually for a targeted audience? Don't just assume that if a CMS says it has multilingual support that it's going to do what you need it to do.
Look deeper into the features and see how they work. Finally, make sure that the CMS can scale the way you need it to. If you are a large organization and are going to have thousands, if not millions, of individual pieces of content, you need to make sure the CMS you choose can handle that. A CMS might look fast demoing a small dataset and then actually turn out to be really sluggish once you plug all your content into it. The same goes for the amount of visitors that you're expecting. High-traffic web sites need more robust capabilities from their systems, so make sure you choose a CMS that can scale to the limits that you need.
The needs of an organization are vastly different from the needs of an individual. Make sure you properly assess your organization, your workflow, and your technical needs, so that you can choose a CMS that satisfies all of those areas.
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