August 3, 2017

Should Your University Use Drupal, WordPress, or a Commercial Content Management System (CMS)?

Written by
Blue Coda Staff
University Websites

Governance issues make it difficult to manage content. Who has permission to access and edit what content? Do you want your work studies who write short blogs to be able to change the content on your homepage?

Beyond all of these considerations as a higher education institution, you must consider resources ranging from staff and financing. How then do you choose a content management system (CMS) that will work for your university and its unique needs while maintaining a budget? There are a few content management systems that you can consider.

Before we dive into the specific content management systems- let’s get on the same page about what a content management system is. These are the programs that enable you to share your content online— essentially the system on which you build your website.

There are two major categories of CMS that you should consider. First, there are open source options that are built by large online communities and represent a significant number of the websites online. The next type is commercial content management systems that you may consider are commercial CMS. You can learn about the differences between these type of CMS options in depth in this blog post.

These tools are the hub for managing your digital presence, and it can make your website soar or sour in the eyes of your front-end audience and back-end users/ editors.

Which Solution Should Your University Use?


Drupal

Pros

  • Flexible. As an open source software, every line of code is visible and editable allowing you to customize the platform to your needs. If you can dream it, Drupal can do it.
  • Easy to Use. Drupal's administrative interface is intuitive and highly customizable. Staff and faculty with varying levels of technology experience can be easily trained to use Drupal.
  • Scalable. Drupal makes it easy to scale your site as you grow. If you add a new department or major program you can easily get the information up on your site.
  • Advanced Workflow. Universities have many individuals across departments creating, editing, and posting content. As a result, many struggle with content governance. Who owns what content? Who approves what content? When was this content last updated? Drupal can support detailed workflow processes that make it easy to create, approve, and track content.
  • Free. Drupal is free to use, meaning your website budget goes toward design, development, and customization rather than expensive software fees.
  • Secure. Drupal is so secure that even the Department of Defense uses it on their website.
  • Over 20,000 Developers Contribute to Drupal. This means you have a team 20,000 strong looking to make security updates, creating innovative tools, and adjusting the code to be constantly better.

Cons

  • Requires Customization. While Drupal's out-of-the-box functionality is easy to use and search-engine friendly, Drupal requires custom development to be great.
  • May Need a Support Partner. Some universities may already have the staff in-house to handle support issues. However, if those resources aren't available, you'll need to find an agency partner that can offer help and support for your Drupal installation.

Wordpress

Pros:

  • Robust Feature Set. WordPress has much to offer right out of the box and can be easily extended through the installation of community plugins.   
  • Widely Used. WordPress is widely used, and the odds are high that members of your own IT staff or communications teams already have experience.
  • Speed to Launch. WordPress is much more simple than other options to install, configure and deploy.  For campaigns or initiatives where you have a very narrow window of time within which to get your website up and you don’t anticipate future growth, WordPress can be a smart choice.
  • Support of Media. Websites continue to showcase an ever-widening array of rich media, from video to audio and more.  Fortunately, systems like WordPress offer graceful handling of rich media and make it easy for administrators to manage.

Cons:

  • Security. WordPress is more vulnerable to security violations and/or attack and has been in the news in recent years for being subject to large scale botnet-type control.  
  • Less Customizable. While WordPress can be updated, if you are working from a template you will find yourself running into walls if you are trying to customize your site, especially on the backend.
  • Lower Scalability. Wordpress tends to box you in a little bit and has less flexibility to scale upwards.

Sitecore

Pros:

  • Extremely Customizable. Sitecore ranks atop the list of commercial options on the market for allowing a high degree of customization regarding features, the organization of everything that goes into a website, content and media types and so on.
  • Dynamic Content Personalization. Sitecore’s out-of-the-box feature set allows for robust, rule-based content personalization, which can be hugely helpful when dealing with a large number of user personas.  
  • Great Documentation. When it comes to the depth and quality of its documentation, Sitecore beats out most if not all other commercial products.  Having a consistently reliable, single resource to go to on a day to day basis is a big advantage.
  • Excellent Enterprise-Grade Security and Support. Organizations that put a high degree of priority on security and product support would be smart to consider Sitecore.

Cons:

  • Cost. Sitecore is one of the more expensive CMS options on the market.
  • Overkill for Smaller Organizations. The Sitecore product is geared in almost every way for enterprise organizations who can take advantage of everything it has to offer.  Outside of enterprise, the cost can be harder to justify.
  • Learning Curve. By virtue of being a robust product with a lot of features and options for configuration, Sitecore’s learning curve can be on the steeper side for both site builders and backend administrators. Getting certified in the product is highly recommended.
  • Fewer Developers. This may not seem like a relevant concern to an end user, but it is imperative! Sitecore has fewer developers than open source options, meaning updates, patches, and fixes to the CMS will happen in a less timely manner.

Picking the right CMS is crucial for the success of your website and the happiness of your staff— they are the ones that will be using the site and its backend the most. Review the pros and cons of each of the content management systems and match them with your organizational needs. If you require assistance with the process contact us.

Do you want to make the most of your next website redesign?

A website redesign is an opportunity to align your web presence with your organization's goals.

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