Web Content Management (WCM) is the practice of creating, controlling and publishing web content using specialized tools. The specialized tools are collectively know as a Web Content Management System or WCMS. Most entities (business, municipalities, hospitals, etc) these days have some form of web presence, which is typically a dedicated website. Most people think of a website as a collection of static web pages. This was the case five or six years ago, but today most websites have functional requirements that go well beyond a simple What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) website. I have worked with several customers who still use technology that is focused on simply creating and publishing web pages. However, the customer’s needs always go well beyond simply pushing HTML pages onto the web. This post is intended to provide a checklist of features you should keep in mind, before deciding on a WCM solution.
- End User Contribution – Does the WCMS support contribution by end users (i.e. non web masters, programmer, designer types)? These days, one of the quick value adds of a WCMS is that it frees up your technical resources from updating a web page. The most basic feature of a WCMS system is to give knowledge workers the ability to update web pages.
- Approval Workflow – Does the WCMS support approval workflow? You want your end user’s to contribute directly to the website, but any edits made to the site may need to be vetted by a manager or subject matter expert first. After all, people do make mistakes.
- Security – Does the WCMS allow users to be given access only to specific sections of a website? The website editing process is typically most successful when users are given responsibility for specific pieces of a site.
- Asset Reuse – Does the WCMS allow web site assets, such as code pages to be reused across the site? When dealing with static web pages, its common to copy and paste an existing page, then make a few small changes to suite your needs. However if common code needs to be modified, that change needs to be made for every static page in the web site where it can be found. Any respectable WCMS will allow you to create and define important assets once, and reuse them multiple times. For those of you ASP.NET developers, think Master Pages.
- Publishing – Does the WCMS system allow for publishing of a site from an internal (within your company’s intranet) ‘Contribution’ instance to an external (outside the firewall ) ‘Consumption’ instance. Whenever possible, I recommend to my clients that they use two WCM systems, one for editing and the other for consumption.
- Web Application Integration – Does the WCMS integrate with or is it capable of hosting web applications? For instance, you may already have a web application that allows job applicants to submit a resume, check the resume for viruses, and pass it along to a hiring manager. How will your WCM system integrate with this existing application? The company I work for has a relatively straight forward website, but it has several web forms that have been integrated into our WCMS.
- Web Application Stack – Which web application stack does the WCMS use, Java, .NET, Cold Fusion? If you already have a significant investment in .NET web applications, then using a Java based WCM system may not be the best course of action.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it gives you a good idea of the features that should be included in any WCMS you choose.