Monday, June 18, 2007

Content management requirements and vendor sales jobs

A lot has been written about Content management System (CMS) requirements and working out the best CMS for your organisation. I don't waat to rehash any of that stuff.

What I want to highlight and rant about right now are issues with vendors and the salesmanship of solutions.

My organisation is in a position to work with a local vendor for a CMS which provides the tool to a number of large organisations of similar type and is now supplying their CMS internationally.

In theory working closely with a CMS vendor means you can get functionality built into upgrades and hopefully get bugs and other issues resolved painlessly. In practice I'd take an out of box solution that has been fully tested, anytime. Or open source when at least you can understand when things don't work.

Things to consider when talking or working with vendors about CMS solutions (so you don't have to deal with it after the fact) :

  • Just because they say 'Yes it can do that' does not mean 'Yes it can do that' :)
  • Remember vendors are software salespeople and software developers. They are not web content people, or intranet mangers etc etc. A very important point to keep in mind.
  • Focus on key functionality and not get distracted by the whizz bang in their Marketing material.
  • Be concerned if your vendor thinks making big Flash applications increase'Accessibility'. They need to understand basic Accessibility issues and the increasing comliance issues arising in many countries.
  • Don't specify it can handle HTML in your requirements and/or RFP. All CMS's can handle 'some' HTML. Specify a standard of HTML or XHTML. i.e. must meet HTML 4.0 validated standard. This'll keep you away from dreaded proprietary tags and a situation where basic HTML tags do not work or are rendered incorrectly.
  • No matter what they say you are likely not to need 'a dynamic enterprise 2.0 collaborative Flash Application development environment' before getting an edit function that works.
  • Be concerned that they test/and or develop in Firefox but fundamental functionality doesn't work in Firefox...
  • Check Accessibility and Usability- not just of the output but of the tool itself. My vendor just tried to sneak a Flash based tool bar into the application. For no reason whatsover except they are on a Flash 'bender' at the moment.
  • 10 steps to get to page editing is TOO much. Make it a single click from an actual page or a 3 step process max. anything else will suck time from your authors. if they can't do this find something taht does. There are many.
  • Beware of 'Search Engine Marketing' functionality. My vendor is selling an SEO tool (as part of an updrade) to manage meta keywords across a site. Problem is Google does not use meta keywrods for anything thus the tool is useless. Simply write good serach engine content (see forthcomiung post on good SEO.)
  • If you want your vendor to do real fixes you'll likely have them more money. Like builders pay them AFTER they've done it properly.
  • Don't let IT manage the process. It is a tool for Content authoring and content management.
  • Make sure end-users are the key focus of any developent or RFP.
  • You have lot's of choice. Don't get blinded by technology preferences or some sort of misguided jingoistic worldview.
  • Be concerned if the vendor keeps ignoring basic user requirements and help and keeps developing uneeded new functionality. Tell them to fix what they've already created first.

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