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Part 2: Selecting a website CMS for a non-profit organization

So, here I had this list of CMSes…now what? I started by developing a matrix that identified all of our criteria (in an Excel spreadsheet). This would allow me to compare and contrast systems, which proved to be useful. To see the list of features/criteria that were important to us, please view our Website CMS Requirements Table.

Sales Demos 

Then, I proceeded to set up appointments with each company to begin the demo process. Some vendors were more responsive than others. If a vendor didn’t get back to me, then I didn’t demo their system. I figured that if I didn’t get a response from sales, I likely wouldn’t receive the best customer service after purchasing the product either.

I found that most vendors will not tell you the price of the product right away. They prefer that you go through the sales demo before they provide this information. This was a bit bothersome to me, as our budget was firm. Nonetheless, through this process I did get a better grasp of the differences between the systems.

All of the demos followed the same sort of pattern. Basically, each vendor established a demo website backed by the CMS that allowed them to showcase a fair number of the systems’ functionalities. What I found lacking in all of the demos were explanations as to how you establish the site in order to add and edit content, etc. With each demo I found myself asking: How easy is it to implement the various functionalities available out-of-the-box? What tweaking is required? How much programming experience is required? What programming experience is required? Though it is clear that these systems are good tools, if you don’t have programming skills or access to a programmer who is familiar with the system, you’ll need to find one! Once implemented, the systems are easy to use, but a fairly extensive development process is required before you get to that stage. So, you need to be prepared to add web design services/programming services on to the cost of the system.

Personal Demos 

After conducting the initial demos, I asked for a login and password to explore the systems that met the majority of our criteria and were within our budget. These were readily provided by each vendor, which was nice. I would be concerned if a vendor wasn’t willing to share this information. I then proceeded to explore each myself. Be prepared to allocate a fair bit of time to this exercise; there are a lot of features that you’ll need to check and conversations that you’ll need to have with the vendor to understand the system. If something seems or feels odd, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Throughout this process, I kept filling up my spreadsheet with my findings.

Compare, contrast and choose

After engaging in this, making the final decision was fairly easy. We ended up choosing the Ektron CMS400.NET. It had most of what we were looking for, the company is growing and consistently upgrading its product, and the customer service was excellent. Also, the product fit within our budget and has received good reviews in published literature.

One more thing…

No system is going to do it all, but some will come pretty close. If you find yourself struggling when making your final decision, go with your gut feeling. If you’ve done your research and have a good handle on the product and its functionalities, then your gut will likely be a safe place to go to direct that final step.


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