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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.
In addition to hosted and open-source solutions, you have content management systems that are either closed systems or available through licensing fees. These are often called proprietary systems, and just like other CMS solutions, there is a huge number of choices available and a wide range of types and options. In fact, in the early days of web- based content management, the overwhelming majority of systems were proprietary. Now the debate between whether open- source or proprietary solutions are better has been raging for years now, and I seriously doubt that I'm going to add anything new to the discussion.
Instead, I want to simply outline the perceived benefits and shortcomings of proprietary systems, so that you can make up your own mind. Now first, many proprietary systems are architected by a single company who is solely responsible for updating the software and providing support. Proponents of this approach point out that this gives you a working partner that's dedicated to making the CMS the best it can be. In larger implementations, this allows you to engage the vendor throughout the entire process, from needs assessment to systems integration and asset training.
Now critics of this approach point out that most license agreements are restrictive in terms of what you can do with the software, that migrating to another system in the future is much harder from closed systems, and that the maturity of the open-source market has created a marketplace of vendors who can offer the same set of services while building on open-source, non-license- restricted platforms. Critics are also quick to point out that while even the largest of the proprietary vendors might only have like a dozen or so developers working on the system at any one time, open-source solutions have literally hundreds of developers within the community contributing continually to the process.
Now, proprietary proponents are also fond of pointing out that the true cost of implementing open-source systems is often actually higher than their end systems due to the lack of documentation and support and the cost of customizing open source system to integrate with existing business systems. Well, with all those points of view in mind, let's take a brief look at the proprietary marketplace. I want to start by exploring some of the enterprise-level proprietary systems. These systems are often the choice of larger corporations, organizations, and governmental agencies, and the range of product offerings and services is staggering.
Since the proper vendor in this space usually depends on your individual focus, and not really out-of-the-box features, I'm going to give you a list of some of the larger vendors out there, so that you can research them on your own to see if they meet your needs. First, I want to mention OpenText. OpenText is a huge vendor that has a wide array of products focusing on publishing, content management, and business services. Over the years, they've acquired many web-based content management systems, and are one of the industry leaders in building management platforms that integrate into existing corporate business logic.
Check them out at opentext.com. Next up, I want to list a few more of the enterprise-level CMS vendors. Now these vendors offer solutions based on various platforms and focus- driven feature sets, so you'll really need to dig into them a little bit more to see if they offer solution that's right for you. Most of these don't offer direct pricing on their sites, but will create a quote based on your organizational needs. Also, be sure to take advantage of the fact that almost all of them offer a free demo. This allows you to try out the system before making a purchase.
I recommend taking a look at Atex web CMS; Ingeniux CMS, which supports many higher education sites; Ektron's .NET-based web CMS; Sitecore CMS, which can integrate with their online marketing suite and e-commerce solutions; Telerik's Sitefinity CMS, which is another .NET-based solution; Amaxus CMS, which is built on PHP and features an open-source license; and eZ CMS, which looks at first glance like one of the smaller open- source systems, but it's actually a powerful CMS framework in its own right that includes really cool features like built-in HTML 5 video support.
As you can imagine, I haven't even begun to list all of the different enterprise-level proprietary CMSs available. As I have mentioned before, be sure to dig into the market yourself and compare those systems closely. You just might find what you're looking for. Now in addition to the large-scale, call-us-for-a-quote type of CMS, there is also a number of medium-size vendors that offer powerful platforms that are available in a range of options, from tiered licensing plans, to one-time fees, to even allowing you to download and install open-source versions of their platforms.
ExpressionEngine is one of the leading web-based CMSs on the market today. It has a range of license fees that stretch from freelancer all the way to commercial. Each of these plans has its own licensing agreement, usage restrictions, and feature sets. ExpressionEngine is based on PHP and boasts a robust feature set and a large ecosystem of developers and community members. You can learn more at expressionengine.com. MovableType is another extremely popular CMS. It started as a blogging platform, and much like WordPress, maintains a lot of that focus.
There are tiered licensing and usage plans with the developer edition being free and open source. As you can imagine, this option is designed for people who want to get in and get their hands dirty and dive in to getting it set up and working themselves. Other fee-based plans offer solutions for bloggers, businesses, and enterprise-level clients. You can learn more at movabletype.com. DotNetNuke, another .NET CMS, is similar to MovableType, and there is a free open-source version available to developers and tiered license editions available to purchase.
It's worth noting that the community edition is only recommended for people who have strong .NET skills, and it lacks many of the features found in other editions. Learn more about it at dotnetnuke.com. Finally, I want to mention two options that are on the other end of the scale. Small design firms, individuals that are creating their first sites, and freelancers wanting to speed up workflow often don't need the complexity or the cost of the previously mentioned systems. There is a growing marketplace of content management systems that target this audience, and I want to talk about two of them here.
Perch is a really cool little CMS, and its low-cost one-time fee allows you to associate it with any site you'd like. Perch is really easy to use, and it doesn't require any extensive technical skills. You simply mark the content that you want to be editable, and then Perch allows you to log in and edit the content. It is brilliantly simple, and allows you to hand off web sites to clients with the confidence that they're going to be able to manage their sites on their own. Check it out at grabaperch.com. Now one solution that almost never gets mentioned in the CMS discussion is Apple's iWeb.
Now iWeb is a low-cost web design and management tool that allows anyone to build a site visually, plug in their content, and then manage the site. Now professionals might not have quite the toolset that they're looking for, but individuals or small businesses will often find that iWeb allows them to build exactly what they're looking in a short amount of time--and without a tremendous amount of cost. Learn more about it at apple.com/ilife/iweb. Well, I hope you've enjoyed our brief tour of proprietary solutions.
In the end, I recommend keeping an open mind and exploring all options regarding CMS solutions. Focus on your own specific needs, do extensive research, and try out as many options as you can before making a decision.
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