With hundreds of Content Management Systems on the market selecting the right one for your business can be a daunting task. One that should be a long term decision based on a variety of factors, for example;
- Your budget
- Your technical skills
- Security requirements
- Functional requirements
- Integration with other systems
- Growth of your business
Understanding the types of CMS
To simplify, the CMS industry can be typically be split into three main areas:
- Open Source – Meaning the CMS has been created by a worldwide volunteer developer community for free
- Open Framework – Meaning the CMS has been built to a standard by a commercial organization at a cost
- Proprietary – Meaning the CMS has been built by one company / agency and is more of a bespoke solution
Each type of CMS fulfils a need in the market and within each area there are both good and bad content management systems. There are no one size fits all I’m afraid.
Open source CMS’ such a WordPress and Drupal currently command the largest share of the market and are often used by both ‘one man bands’ through to large organisations around the world.
On the face of it, open source has a lot going for it. It’s ‘free’ or has ‘no initial cost’. There are lots of free plugins that allow us to add new functionality, complete portability to move the site to another agency or move in house and they have a large community of developers.
That sounds good, but what are the negatives? Let’s start with ‘free’. It doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper in the long run as many of these CMS’ can be difficult to use and as such often take longer to administer the content. They often require a higher degree of technical support and training which can quickly incur high levels of cost.
What about the functionality / plugins? Yes, depending on the CMS, there are thousands of plugins that quickly add some amazing functionality to your website. A word of caution here, as these have been built by a community they generally will not have undergone any real quality control or testing. This can cause problems with compatibility with other functionality / plugins, site security, site speed and bugs. They can also be difficult to customize to you exact requirements.
Quality control and bugs. Often there are issues with the quality of the code. By its very nature, open source is built by a large community of volunteer developers, all of whom will code in different ways, rather than to any particular standard. The code is often excessive or not particularly streamlined which can make the website slower to load and prone to bugs.
What about support? This is dependent on the type of CMS you choose and the support network available. Often the agency delivering the CMS won’t have built many of its components, and so will rely on a volunteer support network to obtain solutions to problems.
Ease of use. Open source CMS’ tend to be written by developers for developer minded users, which is not great if the majority of your users are marketing people.
Productivity & training. Following on from the point above, often a large amount of user training is required to teach non-technical staff how to manage web content. Also user’s productivity should be considered when selecting the CMS. It can be hard to be productive if the CMS is not easy to use or intuitive.
Security – This often one of the biggest concerns, by their very nature they are more open which makes them much more susceptible to be hacked or security breaches, which can be particularly damaging for an organisation holding sensitive information. For example, the BBC have recently reported that up to 12 millions websites on the open source CMS called Drupal have been compromised or hacked. Please read the full article here.
Open framework CMS
An open framework CMS is a content management system that is built by an organisation to a standard with a controlled development and testing process. Open framework CMS’ such as Sitefinity or Kentico combine many of the benefits of a completely open source CMS without too many negatives.
It costs – This is probably the biggest negative when it comes to an Open Framework CMS. Prices will vary depending on the CMS and the level of functionality required. Also similar to the Microsoft Word model, if you wish to upgrade to the latest and greatest version you are likely to incur an additional charge.
Portability – A common misconception is that you are tied to the agency that built your website. CMS’ such as Sitefinity, Kentico and Sitecore have hundreds of approved agencies allowing you to move your site to another provider or in-house at any time.
Functionality – Generally these CMS’ come with an enormous array of functionality as standard, whilst providing flexibility to develop tailor-made functionality and a user experience to meet the needs of every individual client.
Security & support – As these CMS’ are generally built to very high commercial standards and undergo intensive product testing, the level of bugs, security vulnerabilities and technical support required is often considerably lower than open source CMS’.
Usability – As they are built by commercial organization they undergo significant user testing that often makes them more intuitive, more productive and requiring less training than some open source CMS’.
The early days of the internet were a wash with propriety CMS’, agencies tended to build their own bespoke CMS for a client’s individual requirements.
Propriety CMS has seen a significant drop in the marketing place because they often require you to be tied to one agency for life.
Where propriety CMS’ can still survive is if the client requirement needs a solution that is particularly bespoke or complex which none of the other systems can deliver.
The above are considerations and some generalizations when considering a new CMS. For example some Open Source CMS are much more intuitive than others. It is important to prioritise your long term goals and objectives of your website and then cross reference these against the variety of options available.