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Jul 08, 2004: IA Criteria for CMS Selection

An interesting thread just got going on the AIfIA-members discussion list. What information architecture, usability, and other user-centered criteria should we keep in mind when selecting a content management system (CMS)? Step Two's James Robertson suggests a few:

  • "Some content management systems can only support site structures that are up to three levels deep. This may be desirable, depending on the the design, or a major limitation.
  • "Not all content management systems provide a built-in mechanism for creating and managing 'related links' which may be a key element of the site design.
  • "Accessibility for disabled users may be a major issue (often the case for public-sector organisations), and some CMS products are incapable of meeting these requirements."

These are an excellent start. I've seen the arbitrary limit of three levels wreak havoc on some major projects. The related links issue is also critical, because content models/ontologies are an incredibly underexploited aspect of bottom-up IA. Not surprisingly, both criteria touch on metadata management issues. (Advice: no more CMS RFPs; instead, your next purchase should be a Content and Metadata Management System.)

What other IA criteria do CMS vendors need to hear? (We might want to start with the CMS gripes previously collected here on Bloug.) I'm guessing that some criteria might emerge from CMS support (or lack thereof) for search.

Then again, with the market heating up, I wonder if CMS vendors will give a damn about such issues. I'm afraid that sophisticated, experienced clients who come armed with user-centered criteria don't exactly represent the CMS marketer's sweet spot.

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Comment: James Robertson (Jul 8, 2004)

"I'm afraid that sophisticated, experienced clients who come armed with user-centered criteria don't exactly represent the CMS marketer's sweet spot."

In my experience, I find the answer is both "yes and no". Yes, you can end up asking for things that are less-commonly provided by vendors.

On the other hand, I spend a lot of time talking with vendors in my role as CMS consultant, and they constantly express frustration with "clueless" purchasers creating vague, meaningless tenders that they don't know how to respond to.

In almost all cases, I've found vendors to greatly prefer an informed client with a clear idea of what they are looking for.

Cheers, James

Comment: Lou (Jul 8, 2004)

You'd think that the clueful customers and clueful vendors would be drawn to each other; have you seen this happen around a particular CMS?

Comment: Travis (Jul 9, 2004)

Iíve have experienced a small group of Clueful customers that realized that most CMS products are way to rigid for their implementations. The customers then back their implementations into an opensource or custom build architectures. Then most found the success that they were striving for.

I have experienced that the majority of CMS vendors donít give a damn about very detailed requirements of a few Clueful customers, unless the customer is going to purchase multi millions in licenses from the vendor. Only at the right ROI will most CMS vendors actually pay attention, which makes some sense for the quick profits of the vendors. However it sucks for the ClueFul customers because they have no vendor support and really sucks for the Clueless customers because they havenít hit that detailed of a requirement till after they purchased the product.

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