CMS Starter Kit


Where to Find a Content Management System

A guide to sources, recommendations, and opinions on content management systems

Searching for a content management system can be an overwhelming task because there are many systems on the market that generically call themselves "content management systems," but have varying functionality. With so many choices, where do you begin your search?

This list outlines the pros and cons of several research methods so that you can decide which methods are best for your search. To be most effective, choose several sources of information to find the right content management system to fit your needs.

Getting Started  Pros              Cons

Ask colleagues at other companies. Which systems have they used? Which ones do they like or dislike? What did they use them for?

They may have implemented a system and have some knowledge of the industry; they know the ins and outs of their application. Their solution fits their business only and may not fit yours; their industry knowledge may be dated depending on how long ago they implemented a CMS.
Look for rankings of content management systems. A good way to get a list of systems to begin your search. Rankings may not be objective; find out what criteria the rankings are based on (i.e., the list may only include vendors who pay the sponsor).
Look for articles on the topics that relate to your business needs: What key points do they highlight? Who wrote them? Articles can educate you about the industry; third-party authors provide objective viewpoints; articles written by vendors show their expertise in the field. Some articles written by vendors are paid "advertorials" and are not endorsed by the publication.
Talk to industry analysts. Analysts provide expert opinions from their daily research. Make sure the analyst specializes in the content management and technical documentation space or they might point you in the wrong direction.
Look for Web sites and Web communities that deal with content management. Some sites allow you to compare CMSs; Web groups allow you to post questions to others in the field for free advice. Some sites require vendors to pay to be listed, so don't limit your search to these sites; can you trust strangers on the Web?
Attend trade shows & conferences. There is lots of information to gather; shows provide a good opportunity to meet face-to-face with vendors. There is an overload of information and lots of marketing jargon to sort through.
Join user's groups for XML or technical writing. This is the best source of peer discussion; inside information and outside opinions are available. It can cost you time and money to attend meetings.
Talk with vendors. Vendors have expertise in implementing their system and can provide industry knowledge and additional services. They only know their own product well; each vendor has their own terminology.
Talk with consultants. Consultants have vast industry knowledge; they have implemented various CMSs and know the ins and outs of each one. Their fees can be expensive; some consultants are not product-neutral and may only push their partners' products.


Narrowing Your List of Vendors:

  • Review the vendors’ Web sites in detail - Web sites are a great way to gather information at your leisure.
  • Read white papers - White papers give you a good idea of each vendor's unique approach to content management and technology development.
  • Read case studies - Does the vendor have case studies of organizations like yours? Do they address similar issues?
  • Put out a Request for Information (RFI) - Weed out vendors who don't meet your needs by requesting basic information from them prior to any demos or involved sales cycles.

When you have narrowed your list to approximately three or four vendors, then submit detailed RFPs (Requests for Proposal) and request product demonstrations to get down to the details of each system's capabilities.