I get asked this question often by clients, colleagues and friends. My answer is always based on what your exact needs are, and most importantly how equipped you are to support a system requiring in-depth technical experience. Then of course there is the budget...

I get asked this question often by clients, colleagues and friends. My answer is always based on what your exact needs are, and most importantly how equipped you are to support a system requiring in-depth technical experience. Then of course there is the budget issue - CMS systems can range from free to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So why not just go for the free open-source option - they ask? Don't let the hype fool you, those much loved free "open-source" solutions are indeed great, but only great if you know how to program for the web. Match that with a solid understanding of good user interface design if you really want a successful outcome.

Content management should be fun. It should be easy. It should empower your organization to own its content and feel no qualms about logging in and updating that information whenever they need to, from anywhere they might be. It should be stress free, there should be no chance that the CMS will break the site or allow for inconsistencies. That makes a good content management system.

If you need a full IT team to support it, if you have to jump through hoops to get updates posted, if you have to pay thousands of dollars every time you want to add a feature or upgrade, then you don't have a good solution.

While I am biased since Fastspot has developed BigTree CMS and installs it on many of our projects, it's important to know the only reason we designed and built BigTree was because the market was so sorely lacking. There are the big enterprise level CMS solutions that you might shop for if you are a Boeing, or an IBM or The Smithsonian. And then there are little buggy CMS solutions that never work quite right, tie you to the IT developers constantly needed to make them work properly and which in my opinion lack any robustness or thought towards the user experience within the CMS itself.

There are hundreds of CMS solutions being promoted and sold, but rarely do I hear good things about them from clients actually using them. Rare occasions are from clients who already have a really impressive internal team with the technical know-how and time devoted to their daily workflow to ensure those CMSs function well. I would dare to ask the question, "What happens when your internal team gets another job?".

Conclusion? Think long and hard about what you need, who's in place to support it if it needs support and how will your organization's team be empowered to use the system once it's in place.

Have a love or hate story to share about a CMS? Feel free, it's still relatively new territory out there, with little transparency in order to compare notes.

Share on Twitter or Facebook Published November 2nd 2009