A select few web CMS solutions are available that focus specifically on solving the unique problems faced by colleges and universities today. The key is to find a CMS that is designed to meet your specific needs — a system that is used by thousands of like-minded users, administrators, and developers who have helped pave the way in web content management for higher education. Choosing a System That Fits Your Needs So what are your institution’s web CMS needs? What problems are you currently facing that need fixing? You’ll want to conduct a needs assessment that identifies all the requirements of your institution. Then you can evaluate web CMS solutions based on how they meet those requirements. This is necessary to avoid overspending. Needs Assessment Evaluate your needs by building and prioritizing your requirements. This includes looking at institutional requirements, site requirements, staffing requirements, technical requirements, and implementation requirements. Each of these areas contains questions that will guide your evaluators to certain features and ultimately the best solution.
- How much content really needs to be updated and how often? It’s important to evaluate not only what’s currently being updated, but what really must be updated in order to achieve the goals of the institution.
- How many content contributors need to use the system? Content contributors are the authors and editors of the content. Because a web CMS can empower non-technical contributors (e.g., staff, faculty, and even students) across all departments, they should be considered foremost.
- Will the content contributors’ changes require approval before posting to the website? A multiple-level authorization process might be necessary for an institution to consider different types of approval for editorial, design, and administrative changes. The approval sequence should allow for intermediary work and revision on the part of those in the approval chain. Alternatively, the submitted page would be disapproved and returned to the originator or prior reviewer, with the process starting again in a recursive manner.
- What is budgeted? It’s important to consider up-front costs and how much is budgeted over the lifespan of the product.
- Does the system need to be incorporated into a new site design? Does it need to fit in with existing site architecture or a legacy cache of static pages?
- To what extent can/must the existing site be altered? Some solutions require major modifications to existing site designs or migration to a proprietary database backend that can be both difficult and expensive to migrate into and out of in the future.
- If the institution is currently redesigning the website, will the web CMS fit with your desired new architecture? Or will the CMS require your structure to fit into its preferred structure? 4. For how many separate websites (physical or virtual) is the system needed? This is important to determine the up-front costs associated with most web CMS solutions.
- Who are the content contributors responsible for the site content? It is likely these people won’t have a high level of web editing expertise. The system should work for the lowest level of technical knowledge.
- How much staff training time and expense can be afforded? The costs and time of training can be significant with a complex system. If people aren’t properly trained, then the system will not be used.
- Does the existing staff have the expertise and the time available to implement and maintain the solution? This is critical when evaluating a web CMS that is offered as a software solution deployed and maintained on the institution’s servers. Some systems require a great deal of ongoing technical support from the institution.
- How much support is provided by the CMS vendor that could lighten the load of existing staff? It’s important for vendors to provide support and services that can save you time and money in getting your new system up and running, as well as help maintain the CMS over the long haul.
- Does the solution need to be hosted on an internal server or can it be in the cloud? There are a variety of web CMS solutions available that must be hosted on an institution’s servers, and then there are some that can be procured via the cloud or hosted on the vendor’s SaaS servers. There also are a few that can be deployed either way. The next three questions are tied together:
- Will the solution service multiple locations and multiple servers?
- Does it need to be non-proprietary or platform independent?
- With which operating systems does the solution need to work? These questions are most important when evaluating a CMS that is hosted on your institution’s servers. A cloud application often minimizes these technical requirements.
1. Is the solution needed for a departmental or campus-wide implementation? If departmental, will the solution need to migrate to include the entire campus down the road?
- How quickly do you want the CMS to be deployed? Some systems can be implemented in weeks while others take several months or longer. The more changes required to your site and system, the longer the implementation. Also, the longer the training period, the longer it will take to be up and running. Typical Areas of Overspending Institutions that don’t do their homework often find themselves spending tens of thousands of dollars on unexpected expenses after their purchase of a web CMS. These hidden costs are most typically found in additional training, site re-architecture, web servers, consulting, unnecessary features, and implementation and integration cost overruns.
Because most web CMS solutions promise ease of use, training costs are often assumed to be minimal or completely overlooked. Avoid overspending by ensuring your CMS purchase includes comprehensive training and that non-technical content contributors give feedback on the training time required. Have them sit in on a demonstration or participate in hands-on testing of the product to see how comfortable they will be with the new system from web design company Singapore.
Site re-architecture necessities
Be aware of the potential for a required site re-architecture. Many web CMS solutions require substantial redesigns to the underlying data architecture, while others adapt and lend themselves to the website as it exists today. It can be quite costly, both short term and long term, to allow the CMS to drive the architecture of your website away from open standards and non-proprietary best practices.
Web server impact
Many CMS solutions integrate into the production website server, effectively taking over the job of content management and content serving. These solutions carry with them a hidden hardware cost in the form of required build-out of the institution’s primary website server infrastructure. Look for “decoupled” or “push” style CMS solutions to avoid these hidden costs.
CMS solutions that require substantial re-architecture to the website also generally require substantial consulting services. Additionally, content migration (if required by the chosen system) can be a substantial cost if it’s something that must be done by an outside group. Ideally, content migration should be provided to you by the CMS vendor. Buying more than you actually need. Avoid purchasing unnecessary bells and whistles. One of the most costly mistakes institutions make is putting together a list of features and functionalities driven by the most technical administrators (or outside consultants who might know more about the technology than your users’ actual needs), then sending the list out for bid. When this happens, the winning bid is often bloated with unnecessary or unusable features.
Implementation and integration
The cost of implementation and integration with your current systems should not be overlooked. Choosing a system that embraces open standards and “fits in” with your existing legacy content as much as possible is ideal. Also, keep in mind that a solution deployed via the cloud can avoid many implementation and integration costs by effectively outsourcing a large chunk of this process