Seven Criteria for Evaluating Open-Source Content Management Systems
Ignored in the past, compliance with the Web standards set out by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and other standards bodies is an important requirement for any software that generates content for the Web. Many open-source CMSes are committed to Web standards. But you don't have to take their word for it. With a quick visit to W3C's Markup Validation Service you can check for yourself if the CMS you are evaluating generates valid HTML or XHTML.
The W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has published Web Accessibility Guidelines to ensure that Web content is accessible to people with disabilities. Also, according to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1998, Web sites of organizations that receive US federal funding must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Check if the CMS you are considering implementing these guidelines. Although a complete Web accessibility assessment should be conducted by an expert, you can conduct a preliminary assessment using an on-line accessibility validator such as the Cynthia Says portal, which checks a Web site's pages against both Section 508 and the WAI guidelines.
List the features you need and how critical these features are to ensuring that your content management project meets its goals. Then, try to gauge if the CMSes you are evaluating meet the project requirements in part or in full. Also, how easily can it be adapted or customized to fulfill project objectives?
CMS-based Web sites can be complex to use. Web usability is defined as the quality that makes a Web site easy to use. Assessing and improving Web site usability is a task for usability experts, but you can conduct a informal usability assessment by gaining familiarity with the CMS you are evaluating. Open-source CMSes make this convenient because you can download and try them out without any restrictions. The Web site Open Source CMS make this even easier by providing complete installations of over a hundred open-source CMSes that you can try out (see Resources).
If you choose wisely, an open-source CMS can provide a stable, flexible and cost-effective system that is well-suited for your content management needs. More importantly, open-source CMSes give you the freedom to stay in control of your content management solution.
Free Software Foundation: various licenses and comments about them.
Free Software Foundation: the GNU general public license.
"Column 100", Reuven Lerner, Linux Journal, April 2004.
"Shining a Light on the Open Source Stack", Neil McAllister, Infoworld, April 4, 2005.
Open Source Initiative, the approved licenses.
"Content Management", Reuven Lerner, Linux Journal, April 2003.