At OSS Watch, we regularly get asked to recommend a Content Management System (CMS). Unfortunately, we often don't know enough about either the organisation itself or the CMSs concerned to recommend one over another. What we can do is provide guidelines for how to go about choosing a CMS.
Think about what you want the CMS to do
People look to CMSs for a wide variety of things including:
- Coordinating distributed teams
- Storing published documents
- Access management - fine grained control and recording over how has access to what
- Managing plain text, proprietary document formats, images, audio, video, etc
- Transparently migrating paper documents (mail, faxes, etc) to electronics documents and visa versa.
- "Getting the word out" with mailing lists and RSS feeds
- Writing documents collaboratively
- Maintaining a branded organisational web presence
- Social inclusion - enabling target groups to participate in an organisation
- Web based storage of documents
- Work completely out of the box
- Handle confidential and/or personal information
- Be internal facing
- Be external facing
- Encapsulate form models of document management
All of these are possible with a CMS, but not all of these are necessarily easy and some represent direct tradeoffs. Knowing what you're looking for and your priorities is the first step.
Look at what your peers are using
The users with needs most similar to you are your peers, talking to them about their experiences, good, bad and indifferent is a valuable resource of experience.
Internal or external?
Many projects don't have the technical or financial resources to host their own CMS. Frequently the development, customisation, install and hosting is done by an organisations hosting organisation (if they have one), a peer organisation or even a commercial ISP. Think about whether these apply to you.
Look at the possible contenders
There are a number of open source CMSs that people seem to be talking about and using, these include (in no particular order):
Drupal a PHP based CMS http://drupal.org/
Plone a zope / python base CMS http://plone.org/
Mambo a PHP based CMS http://www.mamboserver.com/
Joomla a development of Mambo http://www.joomla.org/
Moodle a course oriented, PHP based CMS http://moodle.org/
[Feel free to add more here]
Look at comparisons
There are a number of CMS comparisons and reviews, including: