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Elixir Technologies Pvt. Ltd. is a leading offshore software development, Web Development Rajasthan company which deals in Customized Software Development, Implementation support, Quality Assurance, Hi-tech Multimedia Designing Solutions, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Search Engine Optimization.

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Content Management System

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A content management system (CMS) is a system used to manage the content of a Web site. Typically, a CMS consists of two elements: the content management application (CMA) and the content delivery application (CDA). The CMA element allows the content manager or author, who may not know Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), to manage the creation, modification, and removal of content from a Web site without needing the expertise of a Webmaster. The CDA element uses and compiles that information to update the Web site. The features of a CMS system vary, but most include Web-based publishing, format management, revision control, and indexing, search, and retrieval.
The Web-based publishing feature allows individuals to use a template or a set of templates approved by the organization, as well as wizards and other tools to create or modify Web content. The format management feature allows documents including legacy electronic documents and scanned paper documents to be formatted into HTML or Portable Document Format (PDF) for the Web site. The revision control feature allows content to be updated to a newer version or restored to a previous version. Revision control also tracks any changes made to files by individuals. An additional feature is indexing, search, and retrieval. A CMS system indexes all data within an organization. Individuals can then search for data using keywords, which the CMS system retrieves.

A CMS system may also provide tools for one-to-one marketing. One-to-one marketing is the ability of a Web site to tailor its content and advertising to a user's specific characteristics using information provided by the user or gathered by the site (for example, a particular user's page sequence pattern). For example, if you visit a search engine and search for "digital camera," the advertising banners will advertise businesses that sell digital cameras instead of businesses that sell garden products.

Two factors must be considered before an organization decides to invest in a CMS. First, an organization's size and geographic dispersion must be considered especially if an organization is spread out over several countries. For these organizations, the transition to CMS is more difficult. Secondly, the diversity of the electronic data forms used within an organization must be considered. If an organization uses text documents, graphics, video, audio, and diagrams to convey information, the content will be more difficult to manage.

An enterprise-wide CMS will fail unless all
stakeholders are involved from the outset

Publishing

The publishing engine takes the content stored in the repository, and generates the final pages. While this may be a dynamic or batch process, the same basic requirements apply. Key requirements may include:

Stylesheets
Final appearance is controlled through the use of stylesheets. This provides flexibility and expandability.

Page templates
Overall page layout is specified via page templates. Ideally, a non-technical interface should be provided for managing this.

Extensibility
It must be simple to integrate code "snippets" (or equivalent) to provide additional publishing functionality. The CMS must support a process of "continual improvement" in interface design.

Support for multiple formats
The CMS must publish to multiple formats, such as: HTML (web), printed, PDF, hand-held (WAP), and more.

It should be possible to add support for additional formats, which will be necessary as new standards evolve.

In order to achieve high-quality in every format, it is critical that the content be separated from presentation at the time of authoring. This allows distinct stylesheets to be used for each output.

The most important part of a CMS is the content itself

Personalisation
Different information is presented based on either user profiles, or metadata in the source content. This is typically required for large "portal" websites.

Usage statistics
The CMS must allow comprehensive usage statistics to be gathered, including: most popular pages, daily usage, and search engine usage.

This information allows the success of the site to be tracked, and any usability issues identified.

Presentation

The published pages must meet certain standards if they are to be of value to your users. It is important to specify these requirements if you are asking the vendor to design the appearance and layout of the web pages.

Key requirements may include:

Usability
This covers aspects such as ease of use, learnability and efficiency. Usability can be assured by conducting tests on the prototype designs with real users.

Usability heuristics (guidelines) must also be followed.

Accessibility
The CMS must conform to standards such as the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

Cross browser support
The pages must be viewable in all major web browsers (Internet Explorer, Netscape, Opera, etc). Specify which browser versions are to be supported.

Limited client-side functionality
You may wish to limit which client-side technologies (Java, JavaScript, Flash, etc) are required to view the site. This is more important for a website than an intranet.

Speed
Page size must be limited to ensure that load times are acceptable for users. Specify the typical user access methods (LAN, modem, cable, etc).

Valid HTML
All pages must conform to the current HTML specification. This ensures maximum compatibility across browsers and platforms.

Effective navigation
Users must be provided with consistent, comprehensive and usable navigation aids.

Metadata
All pages must provide sufficient metadata to allow effective indexing and searching. This should conform to a standard such as Dublin Core.

The total cost of running a CMS includes the skills and resources needed within your business, not just the dollar values

Contract & business

Project management and business requirements must also be satisfied in a CMS project.

Key requirements may include:

Training
The vendor must list the training materials that exist for the CMS, and the training services that they can provide.

Documentation
The CMS must be supported by adequate documentation: for users, administrators and developers.

Warranty
The warranty period provided, once the software has been purchased.

Maintenance agreements
The vendor must outline their preferred support arrangements, including service level agreements and upgrade processes.

Resources required
The hardware, software and operating systems required by the CMS.

Skills required
What skills and knowledge will be required within your organisation to customise and maintain the CMS?

Cost
Both the fixed costs for the CMS, and the per-user ("per-seat") costs. The latter is generally more significant for a large organisation.

Scalability
The load levels that the CMS supports, and the additional resources (hardware & software) required for increased usage.

IT constraints
Specify any pre-existing hardware or software that the CMS must interface with, or run on. This includes specific operating systems, databases or webservers.

Reference sites
The vendor must supply a number of sites where the software has been successfully implemented. These must match the characteristics of your organisation.

Avoid jargon, as there is little common understanding of
content management terms, even amongst vendors

Some tips
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When developing your list of requirements, keep these guidelines in mind:

Understand your content
Conduct a thorough survey of the information that is to be published via the CMS. The nature of this content will influence the functionality required.

It is important not to lose sight of the content when selecting the content management system.

Relate to business needs
Every requirement must be associated with one or more business needs. This allows you to identify the reasons for the requirements, and to prioritise them.

Avoid technical details
Ensure you specify business needs, not implementation details. Vendors should be free to propose any methods or technologies that are able to meet your goals.

Avoid jargon, as there is little common understanding of
content management terms, even amongst vendors

Provide descriptions
Your challenge is to make your needs understood, despite differences in vendor backgrounds and understanding. Avoid using jargon terms, and spell out your requirements in as much detail as possible.

Use examples
Examples provide concrete situations and business needs, and are an effective way of supporting your requirements. Use wherever possible.

More not less
It is better to have too many requirements than too few. The CMS must work for your entire business for several years at least: do not be surprised if the final list of requirements is long.

Evaluating vendor products
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Once your requirements have been identified, these must be used to select from the (potentially) large list of vendors.

There are a number of approaches that may prove useful:

Formal tender

The vendors must be required to provide detailed descriptions of how each of your requirements will be met by their system.

These responses may be gathered in a variety of ways, but the most common is a formal tender process.

Using this approach ensures that the vendors are accountable for any promises or commitments they make regarding their CMS.

Demonstrations

You must ensure that vendor demonstrations are more than just a sales pitch. To be of value, they must demonstrate how the product will meet your business' needs.

The best way to achieve this is to develop scenarios. These describe common or important tasks that will be performed using the CMS.

By presenting these in a "narrative" form, considerable scope can be covered in a relatively brief description.

Provide these to vendors at least a week before the presentations, and require strict adherence. This allows direct comparison between the vendors' products.

Scoring

Whatever evaluation processes are followed, you must eventually chose a single successful vendor.

To do this in an impartial way, create a scoring system. Determine this before the vendors are contacted, and incorporate the results of any tenders or demonstrations.

Using a formal scoring system eliminates the potential for accusations of bias or corruption.

Conclusion
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Selecting an enterprise-wide CMS is often a multi-million-dollar exercise. It is therefore critical that the new system meets your current and projected needs.

The single most important activity is to identify your business goals and requirements. This process must involve all relevant stakeholders.

Only once you have a full list of requirements are you in a position to compare vendor products.

Spending time on these initial phases reduces the business risks inherent in purchasing a CMS. The project is also likely to be more successful (it will do what the users need), and development efforts will be reduced (goals are clear).

 

 
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