University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Hey all,

My name is Tyrel Jennings. I am a web content analyst from Memorial University of Newfoundland. This is my first post on uwebd. Other Memorial web members that are apart of uwebd are Paul Whittle (our CMS project leader), Dan Hyde, and Vicki Barbour.

For the last month or so we have been researching various CMS products here. We currently use a homegrown CMS but we feel after several years of use that we have outgrown it. We purchased the 2009 CMS Watch Report and have done several product demos, and are starting to now practice with some trial software. We have narrowed down our original list of 30 CMS products down to 7. We are looking for any comments regarding the usability of the products and your past experiences with the products.

Our number one concern with picking a CMS is usability, a simple system with an intuitive interface is key. Here is our shortlist:

EMC Documentum WCM
eZ Systems: eZ Publish
Hannon Hill: Cascade Server
OmniUpdate: OU Campus
Ingeniux: Content Management System
FatWire: Content Server
Drupal (Acquia Drupal version specifically)

Any comments regarding those CMS products would be helpful. Thanks.

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We are looking down a similar road as we simply cannot provide the support to our custom CMS that other vendors offer. In our case we've looked solely at OSS for our new site and after a lot of testing with various products we found that Drupal tended to confuse more users than we would like and that although there was some help out there for someone trying to enter their content, most search results tended to lean more towards developers rather than end users of the system.
We have been reviewing Drupal as well and got a similar impression. Drupal seemed like it would require alot of internal development. We are looking for something a little more out-of-the-box. We are hoping that Acquia's version of Drupal is more out-of-the-box, but there are still usability concerns with it. Thank you for your response.
We just had an Acquia Drupal demonstration ... and I have to say not impressed. A LOT of internal development would be required ... they don't provide any theme development or data migration assistance - you're supposed hire on of their "partners" for that. For a large scale implementation - it leaves a lot to be desired.
Here at Ohio University, we use CommonSpot by PaperThin. Out of the box, it gives you tremendous capabilities. What is great for us, is that we can build custom elements to integrate into it. It's runs in ColdFusion and works with Oracle, SQL Server or mySQL (I believe) for the database backend. We've received very good customer support from PaperThin, and they've been very supportive of the "off the wall" stuff we try to do at times. Plus they listen to suggestions for features and enhancements. We've been a customer since about 2003. I think you'll be hard pressed to find anything that gives you more for the money. Hope this helps.
We briefly looked at PaperThin but we were concerned with the ColdFusion aspect of it. Not many of our developers are well experienced with ColdFusion and the ones that are don't really like it. I think we are looking for something more PHP or Java based. Thanks for your feedback though.
We looked at Typo but we were concerned with having to learn the TypoScript language. We are concerned with buying a product that would 'trap us in', or having to become too reliant on the product and making it difficult to switch to another product if we ever choosed to in the future.

I never heard of ExpressionEngine. I will have to check it out. Thanks for your reply.
You should take a lot at our one: TERMINALFOUR Site Manager. We built it from the ground up for higher education :)
http://www.terminalfour.com/wcm-for-highered/
I will make sure to take a look at it. Thanks for the reply.
Oh, also I'll be doing a vendor independent talk about this at Eduweb in Chicago on the Tuesday (21st) called: Running an Efficient HE Web Content Management Evaluation Process

Abstract:

Running a procurement and evaluation process for a Web CMS project can be resource intensive and stressful. On top of that, you need to successfully roll out the solution, usually with limited resources, to lots of people with high expectations. All eyes are on you! Based on lessons learned from over 350 evaluation processes and HE web content management projects, this very practical, vendor neutral session will provide hands on tips, insider knowledge and advice to make your life easier and select a Web CMS that most matches your needs and implement it successfully. Running Web Content Management System evaluations can be inefficient and difficult to manage. At worst, your evaluation process, no matter how well intentioned and planed, may offer very little value to the selection process compared to just picking a system at random. This unique session will provide you with the hands on tips and advice to conduct an efficient & effective web content management selection process and roll the chosen solution out successfully (even if it’s your first one!).

Piero
Tyrel,

Southern Wesleyan University went down this road nearly two years ago. The site was a combination of Dreamweaver/Contribute-maintained sections along with some custom database-driven php applications for keeping directories and a mixture of other products.

In 2007 we chose Cascade Server from Hannon Hill as our content management system. We went live in summer '08 with our site rebuild, driven by Cascade Server. Cascade Server does have some neat, powerful features, such as workflows, scheduled publishing and the ability to roll back to earlier versions of web pages. The Hannon Hill staff are always very professional, helpful and respond quickly to my requests and questions -- which is a big plus.

The downside I would say is that there is a steep learning curve for most of our system users. Since we had to create and modify a lot of features for our use, I would have liked more out-of-the box features that could run with minimal configuration. Cost might be an issue as well, with the basic 10-user package running about $20k, with a 20% annual maintenance fee. An unlimited license costs $40k, with that 20% annual fee to take into account.

Bottom line is, I would look for a system that has the features you know you need, is user-friendly for site contributors, has great support, and flexible pricing. Also take into account the ease or difficulty of customizing it to your needs.
Thanks for this reply. Cascade Server has been one of the ones we have been most interested in. We were aware of its high costs but not particularly aware of its steep learning curve for developers. We are in the process of setting up some trial software of Cascade Server on our servers so hopefully that will give us a better understanding of its learning curve.
By System Users - are you referring to content managers -- or your developers? We had a Hannon Hill demo this week -- and the template-system seemed extremely straight forward.

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