Web Content Management System (WCMS): Which one’s for your organisation?

By Shai Coggins, Digital Specialist | Blog

Jul 20

Web Content Management System (WCMS) is like boxing

Web Content Management System (WCMS): Are you a lightweight, medium weight, or heavyweight?

When I think of Web Content Management Systems, I think of boxing. Well, not that web content authoring has anything to do with fighting (or maybe…? :)).

Why boxing? Well, you see, I think of WCMS in three main divisions: lightweight, medium weight, and heavyweight. You choose the right WCMS by knowing which division you would most likely have the best use for your web content.

But, before we go there, let’s give the obligatory Wikipedia definition of Web Content Management System (WCMS):

“A Web Content Management System (WCMS) is a software system that provides website authoring, collaboration, and administration tools designed to allow users with little knowledge of web programming languages or markup languages to create and manage website content with relative ease. A robust WCMS provides the foundation for collaboration, offering users the ability to manage documents and output for multiple author editing and participation.”

In more simplistic terms: A WCMS is a tool that you use to create your website or blog (or both).

So, how do you know which Web Content Management System is right for you and your organisation?

Lightweight WCMS

These are some reasons to use WCMS in the lightweight division:

  • If you/your organisation never had an online presence.
  • Resources for online content platform is small.
  • You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles for your website or blog.
  • You would like to be able to update content in a simple way.

Some example of lightweight WCMS would be Tumblr and Posterous. Some people might not even call them as WCMS, as they’re really just simple tools to help you to share content (text, photos, videos, etc).

But, with their popularity for blogging or micro-blogging, they’re definitely worth considering.

Medium Weight WCMS

If you’re looking for something a bit more than just basic content authoring and sharing, but you’re not ready to make a leap in heavy duty content management, then the medium weight division is best for you. Here are some telltale signs that a platform from this division is what you need:

  • You need to be able to create both static and dynamic content on your site.
  • You have a little more than $100 in your budget for possible expenses like set-up, templates, added modules, design, etc
  • You want some opportunities to monetise your content through added modules.
  • You have more time and resources to update and to maintain your site.

Some examples of medium weight WCMS platforms are Blogger.com or WordPress.com. However, the self-hosted version of WordPress.org can probably play with some of the “heavyweights”. These tools have a bit more that you can work with by way of extensions and add-ons.

Heavyweight WCMS

The heavyweight Web Content Management Systems are usually what people refer to as “the real CMS”, as these platforms do require more by way of content management. You know you need these tools if:

  • You seek some of the requirements from the medium weight WCMS.
  • You would like the option to extend your site’s functionality with things like a subscription or membership system, a forum, e-commerce features, integration with mailing lists, etc.
  • You have a good amount of resources to allocate to design and develop your site. Most of the time, you will need a web developer, a web designer, a graphic designer, a content architect, a content editor and/or writer, and sometimes, even a user interface expert.
  • This means more budget. This can range from anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. I once had a quote for a web development project (not including site architecture and content production) in the $50,000 mark. For the record, that’s way too expensive for what the organisation needed.
  • You have the time and resources to create and to maintain all the features that you ask for.

Some examples of WCMS in this division include Joomla, Drupal and SharePoint (the latter is also an Enterprise Content Management System [ECMS]).

Often, when implementing heavyweight WCMS, organisations hire an external provider to get things set up properly. However, I would like to caution organisations about using heavyweight WCMS: Make sure that you really identify what types of content you need to create and to maintain first of all. Then, plan and prepare for that accordingly.

I have seen and heard of organisations pay thousands of dollars for websites that end up being virtually unusable because no one knows how to maintain and to use it. This is because they have chosen something that’s too heavy duty without the right strategy and resources, when maybe something simpler would have sufficed.

So, what is your organisation using as its Web Content Management System (WCMS)? Do you think you’ll need a lightweight, a medium weight, or a heavyweight WCMS for your web content management needs?


About the Author

Shai Coggins is the Manager and Chief Digital Media Specialist at Vervely, an Australia-based agency serving local and international clients. One of the company's main clients is Microsoft. Shai has been featured in a number of media due to her online work, including being named as one of Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list (2009).

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