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University Web Developers

Looking for some opinions out there on Content Management Systems. Our institution is looking to replace our current CMS since it is not user friendly and does not offer much.

One CMS I came across was Ektron: http://www.ektron.com/ - Backed by a CMS400.NET API I have found this product to be powerful and offer many tools such as Social Networking & Community Platforms and Document Management Functionality.

Any info would be appreciated...

Thanks

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Comment by Mark Van Tilburg on February 19, 2010 at 3:26pm
Here's what my young and very talented web developer/web creative director blogged about the new CMS I found for us and we're just implementing now:


Three years ago I honestly didn't know what CMS was. I just came out of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a Bachelors Degree in Interactive Media Design after a failed attempt at Animation. I was a Dreamweaver hard coder who snubbed my nose at design view and laughed at those who used it. "How could they possibly have the control I have with CSS and coded HTML!?"

I was introduced to the term CMS as a solution to the 2000 pages we had running our University Web Site. A lot of which had become dormant and untouched but still discoverable in their 10 year existence. Yikes. Pages that were multicolored, .gif animation infested, and outdated were linked right off of our home page. Our homepage landed 10 million views a year! My worst nightmare was being named the new web developer on campus that was suppose to consolidate all these pages, redesign them, and put the content into the hands of the colleges and departments that ran them. All using a CMS that I had no idea how to use.

I will be brutally honest and say our first solution (that will remain unnamed) only fixed the last part of my duty, putting the content contributors in charge of their content, and that ticked me off. It was a holed filled system. To create a site I needed to design a template in Dreamweaver, import it into their system and add areas of code so that it could communicate with their platform. Once that was done the design was untouchable. Nothing could be changed without going back into the template and recreating (not updating, RECREATING) all of the pages I already created. That included reinserting all the content. It was a one shot design CMS. Not to mention training on campus was a nightmare because of its back end system. The steps between uploading, linking and posting were several. And for 'Web Design for Dummies' book candidate, two steps is already one too many.

A change in Directors in our department led to the introduction of a new CMS, ContentM by AllofE Solutions. "Oh boy, another CMS! This means taking all the work I've done and recoding it to work in this system. There goes the last two years of my work!", I thought.

ContentM wasn't like that though. It was my first experience with a fluid layout. Panels boxes that held content that can be moved shifting the design around them. Boxes with prebuilt scripts like rotating images, video, and calendar functions. Can this be real? Still template based, but once changed the entire site would follow with a click. Now I am in love. Adding pages is as simple as adding a menu item, the system automatically creates a new page, the links, and allows you to choose which template design you want.

For a University it is absolutely vital that your design is parallel across the site. Your user experience is #1 when it comes to selling an investment as important as education. ContentM has allowed us to achieve that conformity. Currently we are in the process of redesigning the entire site in ContentM. I will be the first to tell you the experience has exceeded my expectations. The team at AllofE Solutions has taken recommendations of mine and turned them into system settings. It is not just a Content Management System for me, it is My Content Management System. I am in love, not only with the CMS but the idea that I can now get back to what is fun about design, I have fallen back into care free mode when it comes to coding because I don't have to do it. I have more control over the look and creating a great user experience rooted with rich media. I hope that all the designers out there who may still be present in my nightmare of yesteryear can find that love again. For me it took finding the RIGHT CMS, not just a CMS.
Comment by Gregg Soltesz on October 21, 2009 at 12:07pm
Also wanted to say thanks to you all who took the time to comment on this post. We have not upgraded our CMS as of yet due to other projects but hopefully within a years time. The company I mentioned about "Day" I was very impressed by. I also attended a seminar in NYC hosted by them. Take a walk through their website and let me know you think.
Comment by Gregg Soltesz on October 21, 2009 at 12:02pm
Has anyone head of Day "http://www.day.com/day/en.html"?
Comment by Maria Carmen Tamma on June 4, 2009 at 8:51pm
what is the best CMS? actually, im also looking for the free CMS for the alumni community for St. Paul University Philippines..which appears the course and year graduated, their current job and location. And there is one administrator which can only approved their posted issues and topics... do you have guys have a recommendation for my needs? thanks
Comment by JP on February 13, 2009 at 5:47pm
FYI, I forgot to mention what school/university - it is Rice University - Jones Graduate School of Business, The University also has an IT group that creates most of their sites in the same CMS.
Comment by JP on February 13, 2009 at 5:43pm
We are in the process of revamping our MBA school site from the ground up using Ektron CMS.NET 7.6... From what I have experienced so far most of the set up is fairly easy and creating dynamic pages is just a matter of placing a component on the page and tweaking its properties (via VS2005/2008), it even has the ability to work within Dreamweaver. The School itself only has 2 people (myself and a Coordinator) to do all of the web sites, so I feel your pain when it comse to a small group asking to do it all. The good thing is that it is an easy product to catch on with, and that is all so important when you are trying to get the academics to contribute and edit their info. Technically Ektron has 80+ .NET components out fo the box, drag and drop - and they are adding an ecommerce feature (beta2 now) and in V.8 a revamped calendar system. The draw for us was the web 2.0 components, blogs, forums, rss, etc... As for RedDot and PaperThin, we have looked at both, and they are nice products but very pricey RedDot being th emost expensive. plus finding .NET developers to consult with are much easier to find than a CF one.
Comment by Karl Horak on February 13, 2009 at 2:38pm
I'm picking up this thread 3 months after it went cold. My question is, what decision did the University of New Haven eventually make? Have you begun the migration to a new CMS? If not, is this question still pending?
Comment by Amr on November 16, 2008 at 2:34pm
I think that Drupal has alot of great features over other CMSs.

cms
Comment by Gregg Soltesz on October 29, 2008 at 9:54am
That was my conclusion as well.... Ektron was not looking cheap. Same as you, I came aboard here with a CMS already in the works and wasn't able to look into other options. Our current CMS is very 'clunky' and the admin interface is not very user friendly and the functionality is not robust enough making it difficult for content authors. However, many content authors are not all that HTML/Web savvy either. But that's the point of having a CMS - so that users can maintain their pages/sections without having to rely on someone else... namely me or my dept.

A good point you made about not using the CMS to it's full advantage is again something we've been discussing in this blog... not have the development staff in house to enhance it. This would be the case regardless of which CMS has been implemented. But there are some that outrank the majority. I'm hoping to hear some info on RedDot. That one looks very promising also.
Comment by Kyle James on October 28, 2008 at 8:56pm
We use Ektron and just to throw numbers out there it cost $20,000+ upfront and has a $8,000/yr service contract so yeah... not cheap. Also to be open we have the 400.net version w/ an unlimited license so they do come cheaper. Can it do anything? Yeah pretty much as long as you have the creativity to come up with it and time to implement.

The advice Lance gives is so vital to making a decision on any CMS. There is SO much more that goes into the equation than just buying a system. If you are just getting into a CMS from a static site then you probably also need to hire a 3rd party who is an expert on that specific product and knows the ends and outs of it so that you can fully take advantage of the functionality right from the start. We have had Ektron for well over two years and I know we don't use 50% of the functionality.

I could talk on this subject all day, but it is so important to decide on your user experience and which functionality are vital to your site then choose a product that does that and meets your budget. If I were going down this path right now would I choose Ektron, probably not, but then again I didn't choose it to start with I came onboard halfway through the implementation process and had to do the best with what I was given.

I'd probably give it a 80%. It does many things very well and the newest version of the editor does work on Mac along with multiple browsers. Probably my biggest complaint with it is I honestly prefer php to .net and it does write very heavy, sometimes unclean code. It's also a little difficult to setup properly for SEO.

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