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Build or Buy a Content Management System (CMS)

by: Andy Farrell

Creating a content management system either from scratch, or using pre-existing building blocks, may sound like the ultimate way to get the exact solution you require.

However, careful analyses often reveals dangerous pitfalls and serious short comings with many custom built content management systems.

In comparison to today's mature, tested and carefully designed products, most home-grown systems are quirky, poorly thought-out, and difficult to maintain.

However, even now many will seriously consider custom development. Like any IT custom development project, you could be taking on serious risk when it comes to delivering your project on time and budget, not to mention the downside of expensive support and the lack of upgrades in the future.

Two main reasons organisations choose to build

Perceived Flexibility

The decision to build rather than buy is frequently based on the assertion that no off-the-shelf product could possibly meet the specific business needs of the organisation.

For many developers, customisation efforts quickly mean abandoning consistent architectures, or processes, in favour of meeting seemingly complex requirements. Such an approach is short-sighted, paying no respect to the need for change, and a consistent model to ensure scalability, security and true-flexibility.

In reality, the information management and publishing requirements of a broad range of possible applications can be successfully contained in a well thought out system. If requirements are found that do not fit the system, instead of developing at a tangent to meet some specific unusual need (and thereby creating an island of development investment), we rather prefer to adjust the system, so the need can be met predictably again and again.

With that in mind:

  • A good CMS should offer a dynamic Information Store that allows any conceivable structure of content to be created. Any number of meta-data fields can be defined and complex database record structures can be configured, enabling structured data to be managed with the same ease as free-form articles. All this without any custom programming, and in a consistent interface for managing information.
  • The template system must truly separate presentation and content, and eliminates the need for any programming in order to create flexible page functionality. This may be made possible through a system of Skins (the HTML) and Views (the rules that bind information to presentation), and some form of rendering or mark-up language.
    The end result is a template building system with extraordinary flexibility, enabling complex web applications including online catalogue based shops, portals and directories to be deployed rapidly, with no custom-ASP programming.


Image Mentor specializes in enhancing and adding to your Documentum ApplicationXtender document management system.
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