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Which Content Management System (CMS) should I use?

I've been tasked with redesigning a website for a small academic library. While only in charge of the site for 6 months, we've been maintaining static html pages edited in Dreamweaver for years. Last count of our total pages is around 400. Our university is going with an enterprise level solution called Sitefinity, although we maintain our own domain and are responsible to maintain our own presense.

Some background-my library has a couple Microsoft IIS servers on which this static html site has been running. I'm advocating for the implementation of a CMS while doing this redesign. The problem is I'm basically the lone webmaster so I have no one to agree or disagree with my choice. There are also only 1-2 content editors right know for the site but a CMS could change that factor.

I would like to use the functionality of having servers that run .NET and MS SQL but am more experience setting up and maintaining open source software like Wordpress or Drupal on web hosts. My main concern is choosing a CMS that will be easy to update / maintain / deal with upgrades (i.e., support) in case I'm not there in the future.

So I'm wondering how to factor in the open source CMS vs. a relatively inexpensive commercial CMS decision and whether choosing PHP/MySQL vs. ASP.net framework for development environment will play into my decision.

Thanks for any input that can be offered based on the details I've given.




3 Answers 3


There are actually a couple of decent open source .net CMS's available that would work within your current infrastructure, meet your needs for open source and are scalable enough for you to run your 400+ document site. If you decided to go down the PHP route, I would advise you to consider a few things (which are also relevant to the above and any CMS choice):

Decide if a Page based CMS is for you, or an Item based CMS

The main difference is that with page based CMS's you pretty much deal with the content on a page by page basis, and can be represented like your desktop OS in a folder/tree hierarchy. Item based CMS's treat the information as "items" of data which are defined through their attributes, via tagging and so forth.

Page based CMS's are decent in that if you're confident the content won't really be replicated again, they're quick to edit and setup. Item based CMS's are good for when you want to reuse stubs of content throughout the site.


Firstly, you should checkout Umbraco (item). It's a .net CMS, uses limited amounts of XSLT and as you can tell by their marketing, a good solid solution used commercially too. The interface hides it power and complexity. I should add that Microsoft has been pushing this CMS for a while and has a good community around it.

Second on my list is Graffitti CMS (page), whilst I haven't used it directly myself, it does seem to be a decent piece of software.


Drupal (item), whilst fairly large, is a very powerful system.The items are referred to as "Nodes" within Drupal. There is a lot of documentation, lots of modules and a huge community behind it. The learning curve is steep, but ultimately rewarding. The sheer amount of sites based on Drupal says a lot about its power.

Symphony CMS (item) is my personal favourite, it uses XSLT (like umbraco) has a small but dedicated community and is nice to work with if you're willing to spend time with your project. It allows you to define your own data model, like Drupal 7 and is versatile in that you're not just restricted to creating websites, because you're in control of the markup. documentation is a little light, but the community is very helpful

Modx (page) Modx is quick to grasp, and is page based, so you can easily visualise your site structure. It has a decent community behind it and plugin modules ready to go.

Ultimately, it's down to what skillset you have, what your infrastructure is likely to be and how much time you can dedicate to learning the quirks of each CMS. No one CMS is a silver bullet, no matter what anyone says but I hope this gives you an idea of your options.

  • Whilst I focused on open source, there are commercial options such as Expression engine (php), Sitecore (.net). Having said that the open source CMS's are so powerful nowadays I find it hard to justify buying a commercial license.
    – 0xDonut
    Commented Feb 5, 2011 at 23:34
  • Thanks, Fazal. Especially for explaining the clarification between item-based vs. page-based CMS solutions. Sitefinity, the CMS my university is going to use, is item-based and it drove me crazy trying to figure out what constitutes an item in their eyes.
    – jkneip
    Commented Feb 6, 2011 at 16:38
  • 1
    Also, there's wordpress (a php cms), it's more of a blogging engine, but you can do anything with it if you want to.
    – dkuntz2
    Commented Feb 6, 2011 at 19:42
  • +1 for Drupal - it can also use MS SQL as it's database with an additional module (according to the requirements page: drupal.org/requirements) if you'd like to keep your setup simple.
    – Jacob Hume
    Commented Feb 6, 2011 at 20:44
  • It's worth noting that efficient software procurement is a very complex and demanding task that, in large organizations, often demands its own job title (IT Procurement Manager or Purchasing Manager). It's not always just down to picking the solution with the lowest pricetag. Upfront costs are generally outweighed by maintenance/operational and training costs. And it's up to each procurement manager to evaluate the specific needs of their organization and how each solution meets those needs. In some cases, closed source could very well be cheaper than FOSS. Commented Feb 6, 2011 at 21:08

If you're more comfortable with Drupal/WordPress, you can look to something like Microsoft's Web Platform Installer. It allows you to install PHP and necessary other functions to run things like Drupal or WordPress on an IIS 7 / MSSQL Server.

If you don't want to do something like that, Sitefinity and Kentico and decent commercial applications. The top dog from .NET open-source CMS software is DotNetNuke.

  • ...or a similar solution like that one, but getting automatically installed and configured MySQL and Apache instead of MSSQL and IIS 7 would be using Bitnami's installers ( bitnami.org ) for both Wordpress and Drupal.
    – S.gfx
    Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 10:32

+1 MODX due to the fact that there's no "theming" framework to work within like many CMSs. The learning curve for integrating full custom design is not steep at all and the community is SUPER friendly and helpful.

This is all coming from a designer/front end developer type. I'm no PHP whizz by any stretch of the imagination... and you don't have to be with MODX. But you CAN be and do pretty much anything with it. It is loved dearly by designers and developers alike which isn't easy to find in a CMS in my opinion.

All this being said, there's other great CMSs out there as well. I'll list a few that I'm also interested in learning more about and how to integrate: WordPress, Drupal, Silverlight and a new kid on the block, ProcessWire.

I hope this is helpful. Cheers!

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