Ektron CMS400 – a mid-market winner?
June 22, 2007
In past three months, I have been faced with many Request for Proposals for customers looking for mid-market CMS for their second generation web-site – which they want to launch in 3 months time. Having looked at those again and again – I now in many cases end up basing our proposal on Ektron CMS400 ( alteast for Corporate internet website scenario). Heres why.
1) Innovative approach to custom meta-data: In top tier solutions, we tend to draw a neat object model depicting properties of different types of content we need ( e.g. Product Vs Press Release Vs other information etc. and possibly within product itself classifying based on types of products to be able to do navigation and filtering properly). In Ektron – its simpler. You define metadata and you associate a subset of it with whatever you want. So at the heart of it, all text content are “html content” type – which means you are free to move the content around and position it whereever you want to – and based on the content location – choose to have different metadata ( if you wish). It is much faster to configure, confuses users less and achieves the original purpose.
2) Multi-lingual capabilities: It provides multi-lingual capabilities allowing you to set up multi-language versions of the site very easily – tightly coupling content in different languages. However it could do with some better support for multi-country scenario ( where we may choose a subset of content).
3) Office and Explorer integration: Ektron offers Document management extensions as office interfaces and explorer interface which let you directly manipulate documents in Ektron repository. These are extemely efficient for managing attachments to pages ( if for a moment we forget document management capability in its own)
4) Forms builder: It has a wysiwyg forms builder which is extremely useful in scenario like surveys, feedback forms and polls. it comes with a good number of template solutions covering many populer internet and intranet scenario – Possibly closest to corporate website.
5) Calendar and events: It has an extremely ready to use Events calendar. Its UI has a few limitations like difficulty in creating multi-day event, but overall it works well out of the box.
6) Seperate content organization and site organization : It has content folders to manage content items, while a combination of taxonomy and navigation for site organization. Which means that you organize the content folders like your content production organization (e.g. company/department/product/printer ) while you do your website they way marketing wants you to ( e.g solutions/home/printer as well as products/printers/…)
7) Efficient template development : It offers slightly rigit ASP.NET components to render content. You want to use them as you want the in-context editing to work, however it appears to be slightly less flexible than the top tier CMS. However – you soon start to like it as you can get the look and feel you want and your code looks simpler.
8) Publishing options: It has instant publishing – at individual content item level – as well as site replication. It works well in both the scenario of infrequent large updates as well as frequent small updates with required governance model.
However there are certain things it can do more
a) Offer friendly URLs
b) Offer static publishing as an option, and offer ways to have a loosely coupled content delivery.
c) Auto generate google sitemaps
e) A more comrehensive multi-site model.
f) In my opinion, the interface works best if you have <10,000 content items and < 200 content items per folder in a single site. Beyond that, it might be more efficient to handle the different sites as different instance. This is good for large corporate sites, but may not be great for media companies. The plus side is that the interface is simple to use and extremely functional.
g) More solution accelerators / startup sites: Currently ektron comes with 4 starter sites – essentially targetted at Internet scenario. A couple of more sites targeted towards B2B or Intranet scenario – optimized for identified users ( not anonymous users) will be great. Sightly more complex implementations for things like “products” solutions etc. will be welcome.
h) Though the pricing/licensing is simple, its could be simpler. For instance, I find it difficult to understand whether a URL license includes country variations ( like .com/.co.uk etc) or not. Similarly the development/staging/QA licensing is not very clear – it appears to be bundled with support (i.e. you can no longer use the development/staging/qa if you dont renew the support/AMC). Or – you buy persistant license for each URL/environment. A clarification statement here will help. Also if you switch from URL license to server license , it’s pricing becomes very close to top tier CMS solutions. ( I am sure that Ektron would be willing to negociate the price down though).