:: By Paul Markun
Consumers are demanding more than ever from their online
experience. As evidenced by the overwhelming popularity of
Apple’s iPhone and the more than 800 million app downloads
to date, the user experience is what’s driving today’s interests
Today, you have to overcome certain obstacles to ensure that your website provides
optimal user experiences. Often, pre-existing technology prevents companies from
realizing their Web business goals. Many sites don’t fully support all browsers, some
aren’t user-friendly for the disabled and others are not optimized for Internet-enabled
Having the right Web content management (WCM) solution is imperative to overcoming
the hurdles to creating a successful website. The right WCM solution enables
you to rapidly respond to changing consumer needs and market conditions, and
ensures that your organization has a solid foundation from which to leverage its Web
NARROWING DOWN YOUR WCM CHOICES
With hundreds of different options available, narrow the field by making some key
decisions upfront including choosing between: open source or commercial; enterprise
content management or Web-specific; and Java or Microsoft .NET.
Open Source or Commercial
Choosing between open source and commercial options immediately reduces the
number of solutions to consider. On the surface it might seem to be simply a matter
of available resources. But there are several key differences between open source and
commercial solutions including, but not limited to cost. Organizations with little
open source experience should consider the following factors before making a final
1. Open source isn’t synonymous with free. While there are no license fees, support
fees and development and maintenance costs can be higher than with commercial
2. To choose open source you must be willing to forego commercial-grade support,
training and enhancements.
3. Open source may not deliver the performance, security, reliability and functionality
needed to sustain a high-quality, compelling customer experience.
Enterprise Content Management or Web-Specific
Many enterprise content management (ECM) solutions can deliver
basic Web publishing capabilities, but are primarily structured
around managing documents and can only create static websites.
A structured, Web-specific WCM enables non-linear navigation
and fine-grained control of individual pieces of content — all
necessary to deliver a dynamic, optimized site that enables flexibility
and scalability without the complexity of page-oriented ECMs.
The ideal WCM is a valuable marketing tool with capabilities
ECMs generally lack out of the box.
Java or Microsoft .NET
Consider whether your IT organization has standardized on Java
or Microsoft .NET or both, and evaluate your WCM needs.
Beware of WCM solutions that claim to accommodate both
Java and .NET as they often result in product deficiencies or far
greater overhead requiring you to implement both to access full
capabilities. You will want to choose a solution that caters to one
or the other technology, to keep operations streamlined and training
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A WCM
Until recently Web publishing was primarily centered on linear,
document-oriented concepts. But to support the requirements of
today’s websites focusing more on user experiences, organizations
need a WCM designed to deliver enterprise-scale flexibility, scalability,
Evaluating a WCM Solution from the Business Perspective
Business users and decision makers must realize that a WCM solution
isn’t just an IT technology of choice — it can also meet Web
business objectives. Consider the following criteria:
- Ease-of-Use: Non-technical content owners and providers
should be able to easily edit site content.
- Control: Marketing or other content owners should have website
control — branding, navigation, and other components of user
experiences — without requiring programming expertise.
- Integrated Marketing Capabilities: Online marketing capabilities
including SEO tools, website monitoring and analysis tools,
and segmentation optimize Web experiences.
- Integrated Business Applications: Insist on support and
experience that integrates all of your business applications.
- Flexibility: For dynamic user experiences, your solution should
support multiple languages and optimize for different device
types without re-rendering the site for each variation.
Evaluating a WCM Solution from the IT Perspective
Developers and IT should evaluate solutions based on the
underlying infrastructure, development tools, and capabilities.
Evaluate your solution based on the following criteria to ensure
your development staff has the right tools for your overall website
- Architecture: The WCM should take a structured content
approach and separate content from presentation — dynamically
creating each webpage by assembling each piece of data for
that page, allowing content to be displayed in different ways
- Development Tools, Controls and Capabilities: The WCM
should streamline development and maintenance with easy-to use
tools, controls and capabilities.
- Built-in Support for:
– Accessibility: supporting international accessibility standards
– Security: providing permission management and supporting external authentication and authorization systems
– Multiple sites: languages, and devices
– Navigation: providing automated functions that simplify new page, section or site creation
- Scalability and Performance: Consider IT maintenance overhead
and total cost of ownership. It’s important to support
deployment of multiple websites on a single system
ENSURING A SUCCESSFUL EVALUATION
Because of the many options for website owners and the importance
of a stable WCM, a thorough evaluation process is needed
before deciding on a solution. Make sure all angles are examined,
as oversights can lead to time-consuming and costly delays.
Consider Expert Advice
Leading analysts or specialty advisers can provide insight into
WCM vendors and implementations to understand which solutions
suit your business requirements. Specialized websites also
offer free valuable information, paid-for reports, or vendor selection
services. CMS Watch (cmswatch.com), CMSWire
(cmswire.com), and CMSmatrix.org offer news, forums and other
resources about WCM solutions.
Include Developers in the Evaluation Process
Lastly, ensure your development team is familiar with the WCM
solution. Consider the following technical evaluation steps to
ensure your developers get a clear view of the core functions:
Demonstrations: The entire team —marketing, content editors,
and developers — should participate in comprehensive demonstrations.
- Installation: Request the WCM vendor install an out-of-the-box
version of its product for your development team to evaluate
immediate ease of use.
- Test Website: Ask the vendor to build a simple website from
scratch for your development team, revealing what functionality
ships with the product.
- Vendor Training: Developers who attend vendor’s technical
training classes will gain a clearer perspective of the product’s
capabilities and shortcomings.
- Developer Community: The community, as well as vendor support,
is important in getting started and growing website capabilities
To truly understand the importance of the WCM decision, consider
the benefits your business will see by ranking higher than
competitors on Google, getting to market weeks faster when
responding to changing market conditions and converting 50 percent
or more of site visitors.
The right solution will help your website optimization efforts
from the search engines to the user experience and beyond.
About the Author: Paul Markun is VP Marketing for Sitecore, a leader in website content
management solutions. He has over 20 years of experience in marketing
for software and networking companies. Paul leads Sitecore’s initiatives
in online activities, including marketing automation, website
activity and community.