During a CMS selection project someone said that he thought the CMS systems he had seen demonstrated appeared to be the same! The reasons for this were:

  • They performed the same functions e.g. content publishing, versioning, workflow, searching etc.
  • They used similar ter`minology to refer to the products e.g. Content Server, Deliver server, modules etc.
  • The vendors presentations were performed in much the same way, e.g. complany profile, client list, product demos

I agree, that CMS demos can be a bit of  a blur especially when you have a few on the same day! Most clients want to focus on content, usability, and their audiences, and they do not want a CMS selection project to be about “technology”. CMS selection teams should consist of staff from different departments and skillsets e.g. IT, finance, Marketing, Press and Communication, and it is easy for them to become overwhelmed with the amount of information they need to make sense of.

With an estimated 4000 CMS systems in the world there is a vast amount of choice out there. CMSWatch covers around 40 products as part of their WCM report, so the evidence suggests that they are not the same! Even on a shortlist of 2 vendors they usually differ in their :

  • strengths and weaknesses
  • licenses models,
  • costs (and discounts),
  • implementation partners,
  • customers,
  • sizes and types of projects,
  • architecture etc.

So next time anyone in your team says “but they are all the same!” whack them over the head with this post!

See Also

5 Biggest Mistakes in CMS Selection


When speaking to clients and CMS vendors we have been discussing what is the most important criteria that CMS buyers are looking for when selecting a CMS. A year ot two ago I would have said it was cost or how well a CMS met requirements. However in our most recent projects usability has been as important as cost or how well the CMS met a clients’ requirements. So why is it important and why does it feature at all in CMS selection projects now and what do we mean by CMS usability?.

What is CMS usability anyway?

Usability means making sure something works well, and that a person of average ability or experience can use it for its intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated. Therefore a usable CMS will :

  1. Be easy to learn
  2. Be easy to remember (particularly for occaisional users)
  3. Have a simple content management model (content types, ‘pages’) and follow a users’ mental model
  4. Require minimal training and be easy to explain to non web savvy editors.
  5. Be fast, resilient and error proof.
  6. Provide helpful error messages and tips when things go wrong. (wishful thinking!)

Clearly these things are not always covered in a statement of requirements, and have a significant impact on a successful CMS project.

Why is usability so important?

  1. Project failure is not an option (particularly now). If a CMS has been selected based on primarily technical or value for money criteria then there is a siginificant additional risk the project will fail!
  2. If  your team does not understand the CMS they will not use it.
  3. You will have to factor in additional hidden costs of training (of existing and new staff) and support. Your team will be inundated with support requests from users who will get stuck and then your team will spend time helping them.
  4. Devolved content management will not be possible, without significant additional investment.

What do you think? Does usability feature in your CMS selection? If not why not?

Useful posts on CMS usability:

  1. 11 usability principles for CMS products (Step Two Designs)
  2. The 5 hidden costs of running a CMS (Paul Boag)