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How to choose? - BrainDump

A Content Management System (CMS) provides a straightforward way to maintain a web site, allowing site owners to include interactive features such as article publishing, file uploads and sharing, forums and blogs with a minimum of coding. And a good CMS will also allow extensive customization to the site’s layout and appearance, so it doesn’t end up looking like thousands of other sites built on top of the same code base. Keep reading to find out how you can get a good one without spending a fortune.

  1. Choosing an Open-Source Content Management System
  2. How to choose?
  3. Which system?
  4. More Systems
By: Bruce Coker
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December 15, 2008

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Before discussing the merits of various specific systems, it's important to understand the various factors on which the choice of a CMS should be based. Some of these factors are technological while others are to do with business.


The first consideration is the purpose which the CMS will be required to serve. This involves answering questions such as:

  • Will the CMS be required to serve an Intranet, the Internet, or both?
  • Will it replace an existing publishing system? This will have implications for the migration of existing data to the new system, and compatibility with pre-existing requirements.
  • What type of material will be published? This could include things like simple text pages, complex pages containing graphics and with particular layout requirements, dynamically generated content, and so forth.
  • What volume of data will the CMS be required to handle?

When choosing the CMS, the information gained from this assessment can be matched against the capabilities and strengths of the various systems to ensure the winner will meet the requirements.


Once the basic purpose has been determined, it is a good idea to prioritize the features that will be most valuable in the selected CMS. Make a list of required features and arrange them in order of greatest to least importance. The feature list will probably include things like:

  • Multi-author support: Does your system need to support and manage multiple authors by, for example, protecting documents from unauthorized change and allowing multiple ownership?

  • "Out of the box" capabilities: How necessary is it that the CMS does most or all of what you need without having to source or build additional modules?

  • Authoring tools: If your content is the heart of your CMS, then your authors are its heartbeat. It's worth ensuring that the CMS provides suitable tools that your authors will enjoy working with.

  • Metadata management: The CMS should provide adequate metadata management tools to ensure that your site meets your needs for searchability, multi-platform distribution, content re-usability, linking, and so forth.

  • Add-on modules: You may wish to add functionality to your site at a later date. The availability of appropriate modules will be critical to your ability to expand.

  • Ease of use: The maintenance and operation of the CMS must be within the technical capabilities of its users and support staff. There's no point in implementing a highly technical solution without having the knowledge required to work with it or keep it running.

  • Template structure and flexibility: The system's templates are the key to modifying the site's look and feel. Depending on your requirements in this area, you may want to pay particular attention to the templates, to ensure they allow you to make alterations easily and quickly and without too steep a learning curve.


A major consideration when choosing a CMS is the technology on which it is built and the third-party technologies on which it depends. This decision will have implications for the management, maintenance and support of the CMS itself, as well as the hardware and software environments within which it will run.

Open-source content management systems are typically built on one or more of PHP, Java, Perl or XML, with by far the majority being PHP-based and a small minority using other technologies such as Perl and Python. Therefore the choice will be widest if PHP systems are considered, but the presence of infrastructure - whether hardware, software or human - that can better support one of the alternatives may be a significant factor in the final decision.


Depending on the size and nature of the organization, various business aspects may need to be considered such as cost, training requirements, guarantees, support and maintenance arrangements, scalability and technical constraints.

>>> More BrainDump Articles          >>> More By Bruce Coker

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