Monday, February 12, 2007

CMS: the good, the bad, and the ugly

I went to the ACRL tech interest group-sponsored workshop on Content Management Systems (held at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA) on Friday. Three academic institutions' implementations of content management systems were featured as "case studies" for all of us interested in possibly pursuing content management systems. There were a number of interesting notes, the most important giving me confirmation of what I knew & had been heading toward with our site:

- often, you need to standardize your site's code before converting to a CMS, in order to effectively migrate; redesigns - the design work - is often done (using CSS) before the CMS is put into place
- you often start with a client-server type system, such as the use of the Macromedia Dreamweaver/Contribute Publishing System (or FrontPage with FrontPage Server Extensions) before moving into a CMS. The use of such as system does familiarize your users with key web authoring concepts, though these systems allow the authors a lot of freedom that the move to a CMS will eliminate. So there will be power users who - when moved to a CMS - may feel too constrained by the new system.

A few other things that the seminar made me think about were:
(a) the need to get that user input/needs analysis done on the authoring side - realizing that you have levels of contributors / authors / editors and levels of technical skills that correspond. Your CMS has to meet the needs of all levels of content creators on the back-end, as well as meeting the end-user (consumer)'s needs on the front-end.
(b) Web2.0 - nowhere was Web2.0 really strongly enabled by these CMS. The two large CMS, which cost in the 40K-100K range, were designed for the enterprise-level work that they did - but they didn't seem to offer a lot of modularity. Where would you integrate a wiki or a blog? If you have to add these on to an already resource-intensive, often expensive system - is one large system like an enterprise-level CMS really a good answer for an institution like our own? I'm not saying yes or no here, of course, I'm just asking the question.

I thought it was very interesting to learn about how the two larger academics who presented handled their web presence - in one case, the web presence workers had moved out from under Communications/Marketing into IT (still having a strong relationship with their Communications dept., however); in one other case, the web office was under the Marketing department directly, which ran the CMS. In the latter case, a key need for the CMS seemed to be the ability for Marketing to control all aspects of the publicly accessible web presence of the institution (hence, they administered the CMS, approving items to be publishing, authorizing users, etc.).

The final presentation was from a slightly smaller academic using the Macromedia Contribute Publishing system. They were more heavily focused on furthering the students' education through the web (e.g., facilitating the use of web-based portfolios) than on the marketing end of things.

There are likely other points I'll post in a bit, but for now, I wanted to give you my first set of CMS presentation impressions.

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