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University Web Developers

We are thinking of moving from a more coimplex CMS to Adobe Contribute. Is anyone else using Contribute and if so what are your opinions of it?

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We use Contribute on many of our mission-critical sites and we are very pleased with it. If your goal is to allow end users to update their content, Contribute works well. It's very inexpensive, easy to set up, and training is simple.

That being said, If you need workflow and want to syndicate content, Contribute will not be the best option.

We are using it on about 20 sites, all in a LAMP environment. Pages are created with a series of server side includes which prevents navigation and other page elements to be changed by the end user. They have access to a limited style sheet which prevents them from doing anything crazy with fonts. We allow them to only update the content on existing html pages. This has been a tremendous time saver for us.
I remember discussing this on the mailing list a while back. The long and short of it is, it's not a good tool, in my opinion. Actually, I hate it, and can't wait till later this year when we cut free. Lucky for you, I blogged my reasoning:
We use Contribute on our Campus. It has some pluses and minuses.

Easy to integrate with existing systems (as long as it's not a CMS). For instance we have users who edit PHP, ASP, and ASP.NET web pages.
Training is fairly simple and straight forward as long as someone understands some general concepts about the Internet.
Integrates well if your web developers use Dreamweaver exclusively (this can also be a minus).
Relatively Inexpensive.

I find that some people who are not "power users" end up having to call the training department anytime they need to make an update (so at that point they mind as well have had someone else do it).
The work flow that is part of Contribute does not work terribly well and requires anyone else in the work flow to possess the program.
We've been contemplating a CMS and in the meantime I've found Contribute to be a reasonable solution. We don't have the staff time to keep up with the frequent content requests by the users we work with, so this allows them access to the site with enough controls in place to prevent a site calamity. For instance, you can lock them down so that they can't do the bold red text our users seem to love so much. I'm hoping that this will free up my time to do more meaningful work... such as finding a CMS solution!
A great advantage of Contribute is unlike many CMS, you can dip only a toe in the water. Generally, a CMS is a large scale implementation that cannot be reversed or done granularly (e.g some departments on it some not) and may carry a large licensing cost as well. Contribute can be integrated very easily and in a very granular way so that you pay as you go -- not pay for a solution that then takes months to implement.

I understand the perceived drawbacks when it comes to workflow, but you have to be realistic about your organization. Workflow tools are great, but are they really used or used the way they are intended?

I think Contribute on its own is a useful tool. Integrated with Dreamweaver, it is an excellent solution at the right price.
As I said previously, we use Contribute on about 20 sites. This is out of the 70+ sites my office maintains. On the other sites, we use either WordPress or a homegrown system. We've taken the approach to try to fit the CMS to the needs of the individual departments we support.
We just started using it. It just works, and faculty is pleased at its ease of use. . Keep in mind that it is a copy editor more than a CMS system, but it does give you some nice controls as an administrator. Really a no brainier for us.

The Enterprise CMS solutions that I have been involved in the past are full of bloat and features that no one uses.
I have a sort of love-hate relationship with Contribute. There are only 2 of us in the Web office who actively develop the website, and with a site containing ~8,000 pages, we use Contribute out necessity. Departments are now responsible for the content on their sites.

As others have said, its basically a copy editor. You can add images and links, and that's about it. Anything remotely advanced, like adding a field to a form, must be done by by developers. So we still get a lot of requests to make changes they can't do in Contribute.

But that's the way I want it, at least for now. So few of our faculty and staff are Web savvy that they would probably get lost in a CMS environment. Training them for Contribute is fairly simple, you can manage access and roles centrally (especially with Contribute Publishing Server), send access keys by email, and since we use Dreamweaver we can lock down specific files that we don't want them to edit.

One significant downside is that Contribute relies on FTP access to edit files. Our IT guys don't like it because of the potential security risks as opposed to a Web-based CMS login. I can understand that, but properly managed, Contribute is a cheap solution to keeping text on your pages updated.
The major advantage that I see using Contribute is that it is non-obtrusive to the actual web site. You do not need to wrap an entire web site and its structure around it. This leaves designer\developers the freedom to create strong structural foundations to the design interface and adhere to good web practices, SEO and so forth. I agree that most faculties would get lost using a CMS environment, especially areas that content rarely needs to be changed out. Even as simple as Contribute is to use, I found a few staff members who have been a bit challenged by it. I used the online video training resource from for the initial training sessions. The video training for Contribute CS3 is quite good. Depending on their needs, we only have to view 3 or 4 of the video sessions to get a staff member up to speed.
As someone who deals with a lot of information security issues, I would the question the concern about Contribute being a greater security issue as opposed to a Web based login CMS. Contribute does support sfttp, which encrypts login credentials and data. Also by using Contribute keys, you can distribute login credentials without the end user ever knowing those credentials. This is a very nice control to have. Lastly, you note on the Contribute side, that people cannot do things like add a field to the form. That's a very good thing. Otherwise it implies that the receiving action will process any input sent to it, which actually is a pretty common vulnerability of many Web based CMS.

Flipping things around a little bit, the fact that users cannot get at the underlying source of something through Contribute means that a clever work-study student can't try something like adding this to some PHP source:
include "/etc/passwd";

The above isn't the vulnerability it once was because operating systems no longer hand over things like user names and passwords so easily. However, Web based CMS tend to have all its critical data stored in the same database that drives the content. This is why many CMS have injection vulnerabilities, where just a little knowledge of sql can help any user pull out every username and password on the system. And what are these usernames usually? The user's email or network login. And what do users choose as a password usually? The same thing they choose for all their passwords. A CMS can literally have the keys to the kingdom.

Having been both the IT guy and the Web guy, I understand the paranoia of the IT guys. The problem is they don't understand the Web world enough to realize they often put all their resources at guarding the front door when the back door is completely open or even missing. Sorry to digress a little bit but when looking at a CMS, many organizations devote 50 percent of their attention to aesthetics, 40 percent to price concerns, maybe 9 percent to ease of implementation, and maybe 1 percent to security. Myself on the other hand, I spend 90 percent of the time making sweeping, unsupported generalizations :]
As was mentioned in an earlier post, one other thing to keep in mind with using Contribute is that it is an Adobe product meant to work seamless with Adobe Dreamweaver. It is built around the concept of using Dreamweaver templates and is most useful in this regard. As an administrator, you just need to keep your check-in\check-out and site synchronization process in order.
The Business School just moved from a very complex CMS (MOSS) to Dreamweaver/Contribute and so far I am nothing but pleased. Its nice as the main developer that I can have control over the entire process. Global changes have been extraordinarily easy. Using templates and library items have given me the ability to have reusable pieces from page to page. I really like the fact that it isn't database driven and easier to control. Our site's accessibility standards are much more easily maintained and the code is much leaner and cleaner.

I'm also taken with the fact that as new products/tools come to market, we will be able to use them without worrying that it will conflict with the CMS. I'm coming to believe that static pages are the way to go unless there is an excellent reason to deliver them dynamically.

For us its been extraordinary how much better our site is, how much easier it is to maintain and how much more interaction we are getting with users.



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