Let's say you want to build a new website for your company.
You're planning to hire a professional web development and design company, but once it's built you need to be able to update the content yourself. After all, you're planning to add new content just about every day.
Actually, you want other people you work with to update the content, but they're not technical. Come to think of it, neither are you. You can all write and format stuff in Microsoft Word, no doubt, but you better not have to actually code HTML.
Also, you don't want anything they write to be made public until you've had a chance to edit and approve it.
What else? Perhaps you want some of your content only available to website members. Maybe website members are people who subscribe to your magazine or are members of your organization. Whatever the reason, you want to publish some stuff that's only for them.
Hmmm, somewhere you heard that this new thing called RSS is good to have. So let's have some of that on the site. Photo galleries would be nice. And blogs and podcasts too.
So many possibilities! Maybe you are going to have hundreds or thousands of pieces of content and you want each page to show links to other related content.
And what about people that come to your site through a mobile phone? Is there any easy way to show your content to them? What if you want to have community and "Web 2.0" features?
Now that you think about it, you just know you're going to need to expand the site in the future in ways you aren't sure about today.
What you need is a web content management system.
Man, there are SO many choices out there. CMS Watch says that there are more than 1,000 products claiming to be web CMS's. How in the world are you supposed to figure out what’s right for your organization?
The honest answer is that there is no one solution that matches what everybody needs. One size does not fit all. That said, if you can identify with the scenario above, there probably is a shortlist. CMS Watch does a good job of categorizing the "most significant" 40 web CMS products.
Scale Commercial Platforms:
Includes "Enterprise" CMS platforms like RedDot, Interwoven, Vignette and Documentum
These are the CMS gorillas. Frankly, for the scenario above, they are complete overkill. And wow, are they pricey. Expect to spend roughly $250k just to get in the door. This is sort of like buying a crane to build the shed in your backyard. OK, a really nice shed with a working bathroom that the in-laws can live in, but it’s still a bit much.
Also, if I had a nickel for every time somebody told me "we use Documentum to manage our website and it’s #@(&!!!".
So, unless you're the largest of the large, these aren't a good match.
"Upper Tier" Commercial Platforms:
Includes platforms such as CoreMedia, Percussion and Tridion
OK, this is a little closer to reasonable from a functionality standpoint. These are definitely some nice tools. However, they're still pretty darned expensive - $125k - $175k according to our friends at CMS Watch. If you have lots and lots of dough, by all means take a look at these.
That said, for most organizations these are still too expensive to be reasonable.
Mainstream Commercial Platforms:
Includes products like PaperThin, Ingeniux, Ektron and Sitecore
Well, now we're just starting to maybe sacrifice some functionality for price. Not that we've entered "cheap" at this point. We're still talking $50k - $125k after all. Actually, these products tend to be easier to use than some of the more expensive ones, but that's at the cost of integration facilities.
Mid-Market "Challenger" Commercial Platforms:
Includes products like Hannon Hill, Hot Banana, and Refresh
They're trying… $15k - $60k apparently. If you are set on a commercial platform (as opposed to open source), these platforms are probably worth a close look to see if they are lagging in areas important to you.
Includes Clickability, WebSideStory, CrownPeak and others
There are definitely some advantages of hosting your CMS elsewhere. For one, you don't have to worry about the server going down. Also, you tend to get upgrades whenever the product is improved. That said, the functionality tends to be more limited and of course all of your content and data is being stored on somebody else's server (potential privacy issues?) So this isn't for everyone. Expect to spend money similar to the mid-market.
Includes Plone, Joomla!, Typo3, Alfesco, Drupal, OpenCMS
There are a handful of feature rich, highly supported, wonderful open source content management systems specifically designed to manage websites. The ones listed here are the best of the best (feature-wise they compete well with the upper and mid-tier products) and, get this, the software license fee is $0. Yes, that's right, $0.
OK, that does not mean it's free. Please don't take that from what I just wrote. Unless you are planning to download one of these products, install it on a server yourself, use the system exactly as it comes out-of-the-box (including how it looks), and don't care one second about performance, it's going to cost you money in configuration and consulting fees. Of course, that applies to every single CMS on this list, so in many cases it will be less expensive (often significantly so) to go with an open source one. Remember, your commercial software company sales guy works at least in part on commission.
That's one of the nicest things about working with an open source CMS. You get to spend your money on customization and configuration, and not just on licensing.
Also, for all of the open source platforms you have a lot of choice about whom to work with. These products are not really "owned" by anybody and can be used by anybody. Since you get all the original source code, you can customize it to do exactly what you want it to do (or, more likely, you can hire somebody to customize it). With the commercial systems, there is a significant amount of vendor lock-in you will experience, and typically you will not have the flexibility to customize commercial products the way you'd like.
Functionally, each of these open source systems (just like their commercial counterparts) has its pros and cons. However, for a large number of projects, open source solutions are a better choice for a web CMS.