Selecting a Web Content Management Product

So you want to take a look at a real Web Content Management (WCM) product. How do you go about evaluating all the different products and vendors? What should you be looking for in a WCM package? Is it better to build your own, buy or use Open Source?

The best way to answer this question is to compare the products on an apples to apples basis. You can do this objectively by building a product evaluation matrix based upon your specific needs. The first column can list out the functionality categories (e.g. Security). The second column can be the specific needs (e.g. integrates with Active Directory for roles and authorization) under each of the categories. The next columns would be your products, one per column for each product you want to consider. For each product then you would give a rating (1 to 10 scale) on each specific need.

You can then add a column for weighting each specific need, or do this at the topic level. For example, flexible workflow may be much more important to you than your ability to customize the presentation. You can then add some more columns to calculate the weighting against the rating to arrive at a realistic assessment number for each product on each of your organization's specific needs. Sum these all up per product to arrive at a total product assessment score.

Of course, you can't forget to check customer references, or if it's an open source product, go dig around some sites which are using the tool already.

Below is a list of some topics/specific needs which may apply for you. At a minimum, these should provoke some thought on your part as far as what you are looking for in a WCM product and give you a good start on your product evaluation matrix.


  • Support for multiple workflow models?
  • Complex workflows (parallel and serial)?
  • Role/Group integration with flows?
  • Ability to create workflow templates for re-use with different content types?


  • Will the product integrate with your security architecture?
  • Do you require security for content submission?
  • Do you require security for content consumption?
  • Is there support for roles and groups?
  • How is this implemented and managed in the product?

Content submission

  • What are the creation/submission vehicles e.g., via an Office application, HTML/File upload, WYSIWYG, etc.
  • Are there templates to force content managers to adhere to a common content structure (e.g. all posts must have a title, sub-title, body, and who to contact fields)

Presentation customization

  • Extensive presentation customization capabilities?
  • Extensive support for CSS integration?
  • Ability to create presentation templates which can then be re-used for different content types?
  • End-user creation of presentation templates or does it require a developer?

Integration with search

  • Does the product provide its own search engine?
  • Or, will it effectively integrate with your current (or planned search engine)?
  • Security integration with search (i.e. a user can only see search results for what he/she has access to view)

Common document management functionality

  • Versioning
  • Expiration
  • Metadata
  • Check-in/Check-out
  • Collaborative authoring
  • Content history tracking


  • If your organization uses Web Services or has an established Service Oriented Architecture, you may demand the product can expose content through Web Services so other applications can present content.
  • Portal integration (e.g., JSR168 support, WSRP support, etc.)
  • Open and documented API available?


  • Acquisition
  • Maintenance
  • Technical staffing to support (check with customer references)

Administration interface

  • Robust yet easy to use?
  • Complete control of all content in the lifecycle?
  • Role/group management

About the author
Bryan Mjaanes is the creator/editor of a community-based forum for Intranet Portal professionals.

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